Going into the Matrix with Insurgent, A Movie Review

26 Mar

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

Insurgent-officialposter2Newcomers to the Divergent series are best advised to see the first film before going to see Insurgent, the sequel of a four-part movie series. Although this young adult series is technically a trilogy, Summit Entertainment (one of the production companies involved) decided to split the last book up. The question of whether that’s just another money grab or not will depend on how well audiences are willing to put up with this constant separation of a final book into two films. This idea is wearing thin and I’m one person who is really tired of it.

With this latest entry, Shailene Woodley is back as Tris, a young lady who demonstrates the qualities of five different factions. This abnormality sets her apart from other people because she represents the best of different worlds — Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Amity and Candor — and these traits are important because in this film, Jeanine (Kate Winslet) needs an individual to accomplish the challenges set upon a person who might become a fully recognized Grail knight. There’s a part of the story that feels like a chapter out of King Arthur and the Quest for the Holy Grail. Previous warriors have failed to open a mysterious box that was found in the opening moments of the movie. Very little information is revealed to indicate that Tris’ mom was protecting the container from falling into wrong hands. She died protecting it.

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Only days have passed since Tris, Four (Theo James), Peter (Miles Teller) and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) escaped from the clutches of Jeanine. They are in hiding until the heat has cooled off, but the chances of that is slim. This movie feels better off understood if there was no wait between movies. Once a book series gets optioned to film, to produce each part back to back makes more sense so any details from one film can be carried over to the next without experiencing any lull. There’s a lot more meat to this second chapter and a lot of character development to pay attention to.

Peter proves to be quite the betrayer in this story, and Teller certainly sells the role very well. This character is the type I really wanted to hate, and I was more glued to following the story to find out if this Judas will ever redeem himself.

The first act did not have a lot of steam. Although it helped set up the next course of events for the overall story, there was no motion until the action came rolling in like distant thunder. Once the plot became more focussed on the mysterious box, I wanted to learn more about the virtual worlds it would jack its victims into. A big question had to be asked. How did Janine manage to figure out how it works? In a strange way, this technological device reminded me of Lemarchand’s Box from the Hellraiser films. The pleasures offered is information about this planet’s past. The pain is in revealing that the factions were formed out of separating certain rebel rousers from gaining true power. The question of creating a world run by different factions is hardly raised, but the ideology of turning Tris as a Joan of Arc figure gets pushed a lot more. That must mean she is going to eventually die after being put to court.

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I haven’t read the books to know what the final outcome is, but as for keeping me glued, the final act did the job with its Matrix style special effects and nightmarish neural projections (holograms) into Tris’ mind as she demonstrate the virtues needed to unlock the message in the bottle that this box represents. To see the wires dangling off her made me think that she is being manipulated by even greater forces that are not revealed yet for this world. Although the control bar is hidden, someone must be operating it. In the part of the film where she’s being held captive by Jeanine, that was her. But in the act prior, I thought Johanna, the leader of the Amity faction, was keeping some other information to herself. Even Evelyn (Naomi Watts) knew stuff that was not being revealed to Tris’ group.

Although this film puts forth the idea that life can be better under one rule, just who will wear the ring needs to be asked. Lord of the Rings this film is not. It’s not fascinating enough to watch all the way to the end. Dystopian literature is only interesting when there’s a unique twist to the concept. 1984 and Logan’s Run are shining examples, and all director Robert Schwentke does is to only reiterate the tropes, like the symbology of freedom with the black birds, that make this genre good. To feature young adults as the heroes just does not do it well enough.

At least the collectible posters being pumped out by this studio’s marketing department are nice to look at.

3 Stars out of 5

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