2015-03-21

Insurgent – Attribute: Mediocre-ent

by Yo Snyder

This review really isn’t fair. It isn’t fair because I
haven’t even seen the first film in the Divergent series, nor have I read the
books. So clearly I may be missing some elements and context that might
otherwise sway my opinions. So, with that disclaimer out of the way, let me
just say that after seeing Insurgent,
I really don’t have any desire to either go back and catch up on the first
movie or delve into the books. I’m assuming 
they can’t be nearly as shallow, simplistic, silly and melodramatic as Insurgent is as a movie. After all, the
books were popular enough to lead to a movie series, and I’ve heard that the
first film is actually pretty good overall. Still, all of that is hard to
believe after seeing Insurgent, which
pretty much hits and epitomizes every silly cliché that often plagues movies
and books tagged with the “Young Adult” genre tag. In
short, this just isn’t a very good movie.

First, let me just say this is one of the most conveniently
coincidental movies I’ve seen in quite some time. Now granted, every story has
some points that rely on convenient coincidences, but I lost track of how many
times Insurgent’s story relied on
someone being in just the right place at just the right time, or just the right
thing happening at just the right time, or someone showing up suddenly at just
the right time. This story almost couldn’t progress without all of its
convenient coincidences. In fact, it seems like the function of the armies on
both sides of this conflict consists of nothing more than showing up at just
the right time to either save some main character or conveniently provide the
catalyst to push the plot to its next point, of which it would never do on its
own momentum. One thing’s for sure, for all the sweeping shots that show just
how large this city is, and how much of it is in ruin, people certainly seem to
be able to get around pretty darn quickly, despite almost exclusively being on
foot.

Another problem that I had was with the main character, Tris.
I just couldn’t buy into this character, partly because Shailene Woodley looks
so young. I get that this is supposed to be a late high school, perhaps early
college age person, or at least that’s what most of the rest of her cohorts
appear to be, but Shailene looks like she’s barely out of mid-school, or at the
most is probably a freshmen. Plus, so much of the material involves her being
scared, crying, worrying and so forth that she just comes across very much as a
little girl. So when she’s required to do something more adult – like kick some
tail, or have some sex – it’s tough to take seriously. And as for the sex
aspect, even though I know she isn’t, she just looks way too young to be
randomly having sex, so that was just uncomfortable (not to mention pointless
and silly).

In all fairness, however, the film is not without its merits.
There are some interesting elements in this world where humanity is divided
along the lines of prominent attributes. Questions about which attribute is the
strongest and what makes us the most human linger in the background, but are
never fully explored. For the most part, the final act of the film is actually
pretty good. It’s the most visually interesting, tickles the more interesting
ideas, and has the most interesting plot developments. Unfortunately, all the
time and silliness it took to get there meant I had mostly lost interest by the
time things started to get marginally good.

Although it wasn’t very subtle or thoughtful about it, the
film also touches on the importance of forgiveness and the power that can have.
Tris carries around a lot of guilt for things that have happened to and around
her, but in order to do what she wants most – protect the ones she loves –
she’ll first have to forgive herself for previous failures. During a final
confrontation, an accuser tosses this taunt at her, “No one will forgive you
for what you’ve done.” To which Tris responds, “One will…” That one, of course,
is herself. There’s a lot of truth in that scene. We all face a dark accuser
who would tell us that we cannot, will not be forgiven for all the awful,
secret things we’ve done. It’s a powerful lie, and a destructive one. However,
there is indeed One who will always forgive us, and it isn’t ourselves
(although that is important). Odd as it may seem, but many people just aren’t
aware of one important truth: God is not mad at you, God loves you. There is
nothing you can do to change that. Yes, he despises sin, but he absolutely
loves us and always stands ready to forgive us (2 Peter 3:9). No matter what
you’ve done, God is the One who always stands ready to forgive, to wipe away
the past, and to give you a bright new beginning. All you have to do is let
him.

To summarize,
Insurgent
just isn’t all that good of a movie. It’s too simplistic, it’s
too dumbed down (I was really annoyed that characters had to keep telling me
what happened. I know! I just saw it!), it’s too cheesy and melodramatic and
sappy, and it tries too hard to be something it’s not (this is NOT epic sci-fi
action). The most interesting part of the film was what the ending set up for
the next film (which I probably won’t see). Oh, I should also mentioned that 3D
adds nothing to the experience. Still, as I said, I have not read the books, I
didn’t see the first movie, so maybe all of this criticism is a bit unfair.
Maybe. But I think not. After all, if this was good, I would be intrigued
enough to go back and find out what I missed. Instead, I’m pretty sure I didn’t
miss anything and have no desire to see the first film, see the next sequel, or
even read the books. That’s not a good sign.

Score: 3 of 7 – I
know I’m not the intended audience, but good stories can transcend their genre
and that intended audience. This isn’t one of those. In fact, even if I was the
intended audience, I’d be a bit offended and just how much things are dumbed
down in order to make sure I could follow what was happening. Through in a
pointless sex scene, decent but unexceptional action scenes, and a whole lot of
very convenient coincidences, and you have the makings of a not so great film.