March 22, 2015

Movie Reviews: Divergent/Insurgent

It was just about a year ago that a little movie called Divergent hit the screens. At the time I took a pass on it, as it looked a lot like all the other young adult adaptations that have been hitting the screen. Frankly, I just was not interested as they all seem to pale in comparison to The Hunger Games, which seems to have nailed to format in a worthy and entertaining fashion. I felt vindicated in my decision to skip it when I faltered and saw The Maze Runner, which attempted to hide narrative deficiency in fast moving action. The the trailer for Insurgent arrived, and I felt my resolve slip.

For some reason, the clips I saw for Insurgent (the rhyming sequel to Divergent) looked somewhat interesting. I should have known the movie wouldn't be, but I was suckered in. On top of that, considering I had not seen the first, I went to the double feature at the local theater. Why not see them both in a row? Well, the flip side to that is that they are not good movies. They have a slick Hollywood sheen and move pretty quickly, but they are just poorly made features, marketing themselves on the back of a built in audience. Not unlike so many remakes. No, I am not one to immediately write them off, but when they prove to be bad, well, the math becomes easy.

Both Insurgent and Divergent have a nicely designed look. No, they do not particularly stand out in a crowd, but they do not embarrass themselves either. The problem is with the writing. Now, I have spoken with someone who has seen the first movie and read the books. She likes the book and she liked the first movie, with the caveat that she understood it better because she knows the book. There's the problem. If you need to know the book to get the movie, that is just bad writing. If you just watch the movie with no knowledge of the book, you will wonder just how stupid a world are you looking at. If you ignore the lack of world building, you will have a better time.

The movie is set 200 years after some manner of world wide apocalyptic war, in Chicago. Society is structured in a caste system. There are five factions filling the general roles needed for society to function. Everything is peaceful and boring. The one thing the ruling class seem to fear are "divergents," or people who do not fit into one of the five factions. Those in charge do not like what these free thinkers could mean to the co trolled society. That is all covered in the first film, as our protagonist Beatrice, or Tris (Shailene Woodley), finds herself lost in a rapidly changing world.

Insurgent picks up right where Divergent left off, Tris is in the run, hunted by those who fear what she represents. The sequel follows this battle as Tris learns more about herself and matures as she takes the battle back to the city. It is all rather generic as it builds to a closing moment that, spoiler alert, changes everything. It comes just in time for the credits to roll and get you ready for the inevitable third film.

All of the science fiction trappings just serve to distract from the ho hum layer underneath. If you set aside poorly explained and conceived world, you get a common metaphor for puberty, the awkward teen discovering new feelings and having new thoughts, not knowing where she belongs. I have seen this done better. If the world was designed better the movie would be better.

The world of these movies is distractingly bad. It does not make sense, the logistics are just not there. It is a series I would have been all right with skipping. I blame the decent trailer and my weak will. The hallucination tests that play with reality are interesting, but not enough to overtake the overwhelming blandness of the thing as a whole. At least I got it all over with in one day.

Not Recommended.

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