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Insurgent ••1/2

Insurgent_posterStarring: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Theo James
Director: Robert Schwentke
Screenplay: Brian Duffield, Akiva Goldsman
Adventure/Sci-Fi/Thriller, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 119 minutes
Release Date: March 20, 2015


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(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, I’ve got the urge to review Insurgent. It stars the talented and omnipresent Shailene Woodley.

Woodley reprises her role from in Divergent which I found slightly regurgitant. Let’s recap.

Amidst the rubble of the defeated Abnegation faction, Eric Coulter (Jai Courtney) finds a box containing symbols of all the factions. He brings the box to the leader of the Erudite faction, Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet). Jeanine learns that the box contains a message from the Founders and may hold the key to eliminating the Divergent problem. After discovering that only a Divergent can open the box, she orders all Divergents to be captured.

Triss (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) are holed up in Amity (the nourishment faction of the walled-in world) when the Dauntless (under control of Jeanine and the Erudite) attack and attempt to capture all the divergents. Triss, Four and her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) escape to the Factionless where we meet Four’s mother, Evelyn (Naomi Watts). She has a plan to kill Jeanine (the leader of the Erudite). Meanwhile, Jeanine is mercilessly torturing all divergents by putting them through simulations (sim-trials) that will open the box. But the trials kill the divergents. Jeanine redoubles her effort looking for the one, single, 100% divergent who has what it takes to open the box and reveal the message from the elders who built the city.

Greg, as the second installment in the Divergent series, Insurgent delivers the goods in some ways but also misplaces those goods in some key areas. First, the good stuff: we have a terrific all-female hero-villain pairing in Triss and Jeanine. Shailene Woodley is excellent as Triss Prior, a kick-ass hero who embodies every one of the Great Eight attributes of heroes. Specifically, Triss is smart, strong, caring, reliable, resilient, charismatic, selfless, and inspirational.

Jeanine, moreover, possesses seven of the Evil Eight characteristics of villains. Jeanine is smart, resilient, violent, greedy, immoral, egotistical, and vengeful. I’m unsure whether she has the eighth characteristic, which is some form of grandiose or narcissistic personality disorder. But seven out of eight isn’t bad. Triss is joined by Four, portrayed admirably by Theo James, and the two enjoy a nice chemistry that reflects a blend of romantic and dramatic tension. I’ll get to the bad stuff later; first, let’s hear your opinion of this flick, Greg.

I didn’t enjoy this movie as much as you apparently did, Scott. This was the second chance the Divergent series had to present a strong female hero, and they missed the mark. Triss follows Four everywhere, never leads. When they leave the Amity, Four leads the way with the only gun. When Triss is losing a fight on the train with the Factionless, Four bails her out. Even in the tensest moment of the movie, when Triss needs access to the simulation room, it’s Four who works the controls to get her in, while Triss stands guard. The writers of this film have used Triss as a damsel in distress in her best moments, and a mere payload in its worst. I was truly, deeply disappointed in this film.

I think you’re overlooking several key scenes in which Triss extricates herself from dangerous situations using both her brawn and her wits. I’m not saying Four doesn’t help her out at times; he certainly does. But Triss is her own person, fiercely strong and independent. My main problem with Insurgent is its reliance on the tired, old, dystopian future formula. We’ve seen it in The Giver, all the Hunger Games films, Ender’s Game, plus Divergent and this film. To all screenplay writers out there: We get it. Adults are ruining the world and subjugating our youth. Please give us a new story, or at least tell this story in a different way.

The supporting cast in Insurgent is adequate for the task. Four is a solid love interest and sidekick to Triss. Jeanine is a formidable foe and delegates the dirty work nicely to her henchman Eric, played in great evil fashion by Jai Courtney. Caleb is a rather dull character, as are many of the others who support our heroes and villains. Everyone does a pretty capable job but there are no grand slam home runs hit here.

Scott, let me add on to the list of tired plot devices we saw in Insurgent: that of the division of society into factions. We see it here in Insurgent where there are 5 factions. In Harry Potter where the sorting hat divides the students into four houses. The Hunger Games and its 12 districts. The Giver and their 5 emotions. It’s as if Young Adult literature and movies have a list of requirements that must be met and “dystopian future” and “societal cliques” are at the top.

I think you covered the supporting cast pretty well, Scott. I’d like to add to the list the ineffectual leader (Johanna of Amity and Kang of Candor). As well as a wide variety of minions (the Factionless, the Amity, the Candor, the Dauntless) – characters who are essentially nameless and faceless followers of the hero or villain. Four was too strong a character and occasionally acted in the hero role. (There is a disturbing scene where Four kills a man in cold blood. It makes me cringe to think of him as heroic).

For me, Insurgent was an enjoyable way to spend two hours of my time. Shailene Woodley is a joy to watch, and Kate Winslet’s villainous Jeanine character was a bad-ass whom I loved to hate. I had some problems with this film, such as its reliance on a clichéd dystopian theme and the fact that for a supposed “Erudite”, Jeanine really isn’t all that bright a person. I also found the film’s ending to be unsatisfying and, in a way, quite baffling. I’ll be generous and award Insurgent 3 Reels out of 5.

I admired our hero Triss more than you did, Greg. Her journey pushed her to the limits and forced her to grow and evolve in meaningful ways. This truly is a journey of self-discovery, not just in the sense of discovering who she is, but in valuing and honoring who she is. Not only are Divergents viewed as the ultimate creation by the Founders, but Triss turns out to be the most Divergent of them all. This story catapults Triss from the basement of society to the penthouse. I award Triss 4 Heroes out of 5.

The supporting cast is adequate, and perhaps that’s all that needs to be said. Caleb and Evelyn occupy much screen time but are largely forgettable characters. Eric was perhaps the strongest supporting character, showing plenty of charisma and spark in his role as a psychopathic henchman. Overall, I give the supporting cast a rating of 2 out of 5.

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I found Insurgent to be a boring movie with a near total lack of plot. Triss merely trips from one Faction to the next without any goals to motivate her. This is more an opportunity to explore Triss’s world, rather than tell a compelling story. I can give Insurgent only 2 Reels out of 5.

Triss is a complete disappointment as a hero. Her only saving grace comes in the final scene that was reminiscent of Captain Kirk battling himself in The Enemy Within – only with a cuter hero and better CGI. Until then, she is a victim, a payload to be delivered, and a damsel to be rescued. I can only muster 2 Heroes out of 5 for her.

The supporting cast was somewhat interesting. With so many Factions, there were leader characters a-plenty with followers galore. But alas, the interest stops there as all the leaders were bland and ineffectual and the followers were nameless/faceless minions. I have to agree that only 2 out of 5 cast points are appropriate.

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