By Mark Alakas (Canada)
Divergent; 2014’s young adult, wanna be Hunger Games film, was a financial success for eOne Studios, having a gross of just over two hundred million dollars. So in typical Hollywood fashion, the second novel’s adaption was put into production. As financially successful as Divergent was, it lacked in acting and plot but was also visually appealing, which somewhat made up for the movie’s downfalls. Insurgent will hopefully be much better, as the cast has expanded to include Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer, as well as bringing in a new director and writers, which would hopefully mean that the plot would drastically improve. Lastly, the first trailer had a large focus on visual effects, which most likely means that this film will be a visual fiasco.
Insurgent starts off shortly after the events of Divergent, with Tris, played by Shailene Woodley, and her pack of fugitives in hiding as Jeanine, played by Kate Winslet, and her Dauntless recruits frantically hunt down and murder all divergents. When an ancient artifact that contains a message from the city’s founders is uncovered within the now destroyed Abnegation Faction, Tris and her fellow fugitive’s lives are thrust into chaos as they narrowly avoid the Dauntless recruits and attempt to bring an end to Jeanine’s tyrant rule.
Going in to the theater, I was half expecting a Hunger Games/Harry Potter rip off that would result in multiple trips to the bathroom so I could browse my twitter feed. However that was not the case, the plot was much more entertaining and enlightening than Insurgent’s predecessor (mind you, I haven’t read any book in the Divergent Series), there was less of a focus on romance and more of a focus on the actual story being told and the action sequences that were featured within. Bravo Robert Schwentke, Bravo.
However, as entertaining as the plot was I felt as though Naomi Watts’ character, Evelyn was thrust down audiences throats. She is revealed to be the thought-to-be deceased mother of Four, who faked her death because her husband was incredibly abusive towards her and her son; once that subplot is introduced it disappears as suddenly as it came, neither Four or Evelyn bring mention to it again; in fact I don’t think it evens upsets any of the characters in the film. As well as Four’s supposedly traumatic back story being introduced along with Evelyn, Evelyn’s own back story starts to unravel, except for an explanation on her supposed personal hatred towards Jeanine, Evelyn just sort of hates her for no reason whatsoever except that she’s “unpredictable”. In conclusion, it’s best fitting to say Insurgent’s plot is a massive improvement compared to Divergent but is in parts rushed and unsatisfying and leaves more questions than it does answers.
Despite there being a massive improvement in the plot, the acting in Insurgent is almost worse than Divergent. In particular, Theo James and Kate Winslet. Throughout most of the film, I felt that Theo James’ onscreen presence was only there to give Tris something to fight for. James’ character does practically nothing except maybe kick some ass in a few fight scenes. During most of his scenes, James gives off the impression that he is only doing the role for the pay check attached to it. In a similar fashion, Kate Winslet’s underwhelming portrayal of Jeanine leaves a metaphorical bad taste in the mouth. I swear every single scene this woman appears in is monotone and just flat out boring.
However, as lacking as the acting is, Miss Shailene Woodley truly shines. Woodley has put her whole heart and mind into her portrayal of Tris Prior, which results in her acting being one of the main highlights of the film and one of few things that I look forward to in the future installments of Allegiant Part 1 and 2. It’s best to say that Shailene Woodley is the only person trying among a cast of unmemorable actors and actresses that had full potential to give a strong performance. Lastly, Theo James and Kate Winslet need to seriously start stepping up their game if they intend to make two more installments in the Divergent franchise.
Tangled between the entertaining plot and unmemorable characters lies the visual effects. For the most part the visuals were average, a few exceptions would be the opening titles being pixels inside a hologram presentation of Jeanine, the simulation scenes when characters dissolved into the background or decomposed in front of audiences eyes being examples of when the effects were, in my opinion, above average. Oh, and who could forget the audience watching a dystopian Chicago dissolve before their eyes as Tris battles a simulation of herself in one of the most visually pleasing scenes 2015 has had to offer (even though it’s only March).
With most of the visual effects being average or just above average, there is one scene that sticks out in my mind as disappointing. This scene would be the advertised “money-shot” of Tris floating through the sky in a burning house, which was featured in most trailers. This scene is incredibly brief and in my opinion shouldn’t have been one of the main focuses of the advertising for the film. Also, I was fortunate enough to be able to see this film in 3D; probably one of the biggest wastes of my money I’ve spent at a theater. There were no scenes where 3D was required, the only use it might have had was the floating house scene but even then it was underused and when it was used it was to the point that it was unnecessary. Note to all who are planning on viewing this film in theatres, don’t see it in 3D, it’s a waste of your money.
Insurgent is a decent movie and a good effort at trying to continue the franchise by featuring an entertaining plot; even though it’s littered with terrible performances and average visual effects. Out of ten I would give this film a 7.3 for its effort to turn the franchise around.