Insurgent: Nothing More Than a Means to an End

Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are on the run from Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet), who needs a Divergent to open a message box from their society’s founders. Along the way, Tris fights her inner demons while Four encounters his mother, Evelyn (Naomi Watts), who was presumed dead and now gathers an army of factionless to overthrow Erudite and the faction system.

I’m having trouble writing about Insurgent because there’s not much to say. The movie is boring, goes absolutely nowhere for two hours, and falls into the dreaded “means to an end” sequel category—that is, it’s only real purpose is to connect the story from the first film to the story in the pending third film. I mean, Divergent wasn’t great either, but at least the characters and setting drastically changed from beginning to end (as they should). Insurgent just sat there.

The plot consists of Tris and Four running around, recapping the events of the first film, and talking about what they plan to do next. Not exactly grueling material, nor is it developing the story to come in the third film. It just feels like filler. Sure, we finally find out that the society in which they live is nothing more than an experiment created by the people outside their walls, but did we really need to watch the characters move from Point A to Point B for two hours just to reach an ending that feels less like a cliffhanger and more like a series conclusion? To make matters worse, there wasn’t even good action to distract from the lackluster storyline (or add excitement).

Even the new additions to the cast—Amity leader Johanna (Octavia Spencer), Four’s mother Evelyn (Naomi Watts), and Candor leader Jack Kang (Daniel Dae Kim)—were little more than living, breathing plot points. With Watt’s Evelyn in particular, this is disappointing, as her underutilization meant Four’s story couldn’t progress, leaving Theo James to continue his whole stoic, one-dimensional acting.

And what about furthering the relationship between Tris and Four? A hinted-at sex scene and confession of love à la truth serum doesn’t really count. Or how about Tris and her brother, Caleb, who betrays her by returning to Erudite? You’d think that would open the door for some serious tension, but it leads us to a conversation that, like the movie’s story and characters, goes nowhere. Guys, seriously. Where is the development here? When the best character is Peter (Miles Teller), who’s out for himself and a total dick to Tris, that’s saying something (Okay, it mostly says Teller is more charming than all of the blah actors in this franchise. But the point stands).

Arguably, most of the issues with this film (and franchise as a whole) stem from the books written by Veronica Roth. A crumbling society with power-hungry leaders and factions divided by values is interesting, but an entire plot that centers around a girl who defies that society simply because she has more than one personality trait is asinine. It doesn’t help that the story gets progressively dumber as the books go on either. And boy does that start to show in Insurgent. I mean, there’s not even any tension because Roth basically wrote Tris and Four out of every corner. An example? When they’re captured at Candor and about to be handed over to Erudite, they ask to be subjected to “truth serum” so Candor can know they’re not lying (I wonder if that truth serum was called deus ex machina).

Fans of the books will probably still enjoy Insurgent, but I can’t. It’s movies like this that tell me production companies are just pumping out mediocre franchises (and sequels and reboots and goddamnit this sucks) with no effort because they’ll make money regardless.

Overall, Insurgent was a boring mess that wasted my time. I get tired of repeating this same point over and over again on my blog, but I’ll keep saying it until somebody listens. A good sequel develops the characters we know and love beyond who they were in prior films while also upping the tension of the overall story and providing action that’s bigger and better. Insurgent did none of those things.

Insurgent: C-

For my radio review of Insurgent on “Pat & JT in the Morning,” visit this link (starts around the 26:44 mark).

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