Dissecting The Divergent Series: Insurgent

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Lauren:  As the story of The Divergent Series scales out in the sequel, Insurgent, problems begin rearing their ugly faces as a bigger story is crammed into 2 hours of film.  I’m not saying I finally agree with Zac’s hatred levels when it comes to these movies, but I am starting to see his side of things more and more.

Zac: This movie is terrible.

**Warning: this discussion contains spoilers. You’ve been warned!**

Lauren: Following the events of Divergent, Insurgent picks up with Tris hiding out in the ever-friendly Amity for a few awkwardly edited and paced scenes as she and Four, her brother, and Peter are on the run.  Four’s father is also in there somewhere, but the movie brushes him aside quite early on in the story.  Jeanine, the leader of Erudite and self-proclaimed invisible crown-wearer of the entire city of Chicago, has marked this group traitors to the system, passing the blame of her Abnegation massacre to these fugitives.  As Jeanine continues to hunt down the Divergent menace, the catalyst spurring this story on is a magical box that holds some secret knowledge that Jeanine will do anything to obtain.

Even though going in I honestly couldn’t remember the majority of the plot of Insurgent seeing as I have the memory of a goldfish when it comes to books, it doesn’t take a genius to feel like something was off in the adaptation.  I began to pick up on a lot of changes, a large part due to the pace of the film, and the more I think about it the more I am disappointed in what the filmmakers created.  But before I get into all that I’ll let Zac give his two cents as someone who hasn’t read the books first.

Zac: Quick fun fact, a scene early on in Amity has Tris sitting at a table with her three male counterparts, and all of them have taken Shailene Woodley’s virginity on film (Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, The Spectacular Now). I don’t know if I’ve seen any other actress in a scene with three people she’s had sex with on screen, let alone all three of them being first-timers. OK, trivia tip over.

Lauren:

Zac: I didn’t like Divergent at all. I found it a laughable mess of a movie, with plot holes way too big to ignore. The film was actively making dumb decisions as characters were always acting out of need for plot, as opposed to what seems like the choice the character would actually make. Insurgent is no different, other than it is prettier to look at. The only compliments I can pay this film are towards the decent effects driven set pieces surrounding the opening of the box, which are inspired and visually interesting both inside and outside of the simulations, and the work by Miles Teller, who seems to be the only one having fun or knows what kind of movie he is in.

Lauren: The movie ended with a good song playing over the action.  That’s a compliment the film deserves too!  Seemed like they calmed down on the Ellie Goulding fandom this time around.  I’ll also say some of the visuals were pretty cool, and I got a lot of enjoyment out of the puppetry outside of the simulations being run to open the box.

But here’s the thing, I’m pretty sure this whole box thing was made up for the film.  Like I said before, my memory for books sucks, but I don’t think it’s that horrible.  Though the message from the founders is an important factor in the original story, I have absolutely no recollection of any box, and I’ve got to say a lot of these technological advances made for the purposes of the film really stand out as negatives for me.

The basis of the book’s story is still there with Jeanine hunting down the Divergent hidden within society, but I remember more experimentation and torture for the purpose of science and knowledge, as opposed to being driven by some magical box that just seems out of place in this dystopian society.  I also don’t remember any contraption held up to faces that could read a person to the percent of how Divergent they are.  Convenient much?  Almost as convenient as having a tattoo artist who also understands how to safely remove a device that wraps itself around your nerves and is instructed to blow up upon removal.

Zac: It was the closest major artery! That thing was super smart.

Lauren: Well, it did wrap itself around a pen, so it can’t be that smart…

Now back to it! I completely agree with Zac’s complaint about characters acting out of need for plot.  Nothing is given any room to breathe once the ball starts rolling when the police come to Amity, and the character driven development just doesn’t exist.  Take Tris’ relationship with Christina: in the book Tris is haunted by the death of Will and how this will change her relationships with her friends if the truth gets out.  They do incorporate this into the movie somewhat with nightmares (I’ll let Zac talk about his love of Woodley’s performance when under the Truth Serum), but the aftermath just doesn’t play out.  In a need for the story to move on Christina’s role is edited down (same could be said for Four’s father), and once the reveal happens Christina forgives Tris rather quickly, making the buildup hardly worth it.

Zac: I don’t even remember Tris and Christina making up. Was it after Tris saves her from zombie walking off a ledge?

Lauren: No, it wasn’t then.  I assumed it was implied by the look Christina gave Tris through the window when they rescued her from Euridite.  Granted now that I think about it, was that part of the simulated rescue?  Or was that during the actual rescue? I can’t remember.

Zac: I honestly don’t know either. The look through the window I can remember was before the truth serum. It was a visual reminder to not forget Tris shot her bae.

Lauren: Ew gross, bae. Can we make that not a thing anymore? Every time I hear it I’m just going to replace it with shart.

You’d think that with the manipulation of the story to rid itself of “unnecessary” peripheral characters the film would have far more time to breathe and develop those they do include, but really the film just slacks all around.  I want more time between Four and Tris that will make their relationship stronger and worth caring for, I want more time between Tris and her brother for reasons that I will not reveal, I want more world development on the whole considering how weak all the faction leaders are portrayed.  I just want more.  No, scratch that, I want better.

Which we won’t get in the next film, because the third book was the worst in the trilogy.  Yay…

Zac: You mean next two films.

Lauren: The third book is being made into two movies!? Noooo! Stop doing this to us Hollywood!

Zac: Yeah… Something that got to me was the brutality; when you think about it, it is actually pretty appalling, especially since it is passing for a PG-13 movie. The film is a perfect example of the flaws of that rating. Multiple people are executed in grisly fashion, but no blood so it is OK. Yet when Woodley takes her shirt off it’s all cut to black. Nudity and sex, bad, violence, OK.  The scene in Amity where they invade the building and shoot everyone in the place with guns was incredibly violent, and then it turns out all this mass murder was OK because we simply attached a do-hicky to everyone’s nerves and arteries and no one was hurt by a MASS SHOOTING IN THE MIDDLE OF THIS MOVIE.

Lauren:  Considering the massacre of an entire faction at the end of the first film, a few tranq darts are hardly that grisly.

Zac: I know what they are, but the movie doesn’t want you to think that or let you know that for a beat. It wants you to think all of these people are slaughtered. Then it takes it away by saying, oh, look, it is just a dart. We can mow down as many people as we want now. I just don’t like it. You can’t have it both ways.

Lauren:  You’re only in the dark for maybe a minute!  As soon as Tris pops up the illusion dissipates.

Zac:  I still don’t like it.  Plus that scene ends with probably the biggest WTF in the whole movie when Tris is caught as one of the only people awake because she is a divergent, Eric murders a dude execution style, then is about to execute a young girl before Tris saves the day. Only to get scanned and be 100% divergent. What does that even mean? How are there different levels? I don’t know, but we haven’t even gotten to the worst part: the room is full of bad guys, Max says lets get her out of here, then all of a sudden Four and an army of good guys takes over the room without a shot fired. What the hell happened? Worse yet, Max somehow got out of there in the .5 milliseconds it took everyone to show up. And then, instead of turning the other cheek and being better than your enemy, Four straight up executes Eric. WTF!? Sure, Four was abused, but does that make him a killer? Some dangerous implications there.

Lauren: Considering how he agrees with the need to kill Jeanine early on in the film I wasn’t surprised by this, but It was definitely a little rash.  You’d think there would have been a trial considering they’re in Candor, but ain’t nobody got time for that!  Regardless, I’ll say I think you’re reading too much into it.

Zac: The film also does a horrible job of playing by, or hell, even setting its rules, and it lets things flow with whatever is needed for the story. Some of the drugs work on Tris when they need to, sometimes they don’t. “No, we shouldn’t shoot them,” when it’s someone they have met before (when Tris is making the decisions, anyway), then they are blindly letting out clips on all the lackeys sent to stop them. Side note, the bad guys in these movies might be the absolute worst shots in the history of movie making. They couldn’t kill a major actor in a million years.

But back to the rules, I didn’t know Four wasn’t divergent until the truth serum scene in this movie.

Lauren:  Wait, he isn’t Divergent?

Zac:  All I know is in the first film when he moved his hand to touch Tris’ I thought he was a divergent and faking it, but apparently not. Tris apparently brought him out of his trance, so now divergents have special wizard powers that can reverse the effects of the stims they are controlling people with? None of it makes any goddamn sense.

Lauren:  I thought when he mentioned Tris bringing him out of it he was referring to what happened once Jeanine got her hands on the two of them.  Remember when Four and Tris fought each other in the computer room?  That bit.  Not the first part you’re thinking of.

Zac:  Who knows… But back to the aforementioned truth serum scene: wow. Woodley’s performance in this sequence was the worst acting I’ve ever seen from her. It doesn’t help that the film doesn’t let you know that she is in pain until the last minute of the scene, but her shoulders and face are so over the top and laughably bad at emoting whatever she is going for, I feel that scene/shot is going to be immortalized as a gif/meme sooner rather than later.

It’s like good actresses come to The Divergent Series to turn into horrible actresses. Winslet has never been worse. Why is she even in these movies? You can say the same for Watts and Woodley as this is easily some of their worst stuff. Octavia Spencer was horrible before this though; she can’t use this as an excuse (your yearly reminder that they gave this woman an Oscar for making a shit pie joke for over half of the runtime of a Civil Rights minded film).

I had some other horrible things to mention about this movie, but it is eluding me now. Lauren, do you want to defend any of my trashing, or are you piling on.

Lauren: Octavia Spencer is a gem!  I’m not saying I would have given her the Oscar that year over Melissa McCarthy or Jessica Chastain, but come on now.  Granted I was more mesmerized by the scars on her face in Insurgent so who knows how good of an acting job she really did.  One of them gave off the appearance of a mustache and I just couldn’t figure out if it was makeup, a shadow, or what.

Now that I think about it, there were a lot of tricks like this to pull focus.  This mustache, Watts’ eye makeup, Tris’ ever changing hair styling.

Zac: The hair… they spent two scenes talking about her fucking hair cut. Five minutes of the damn movie was about her hair!

Lauren: Hair is a big deal! Maybe that’s why she was so upset during the truth serum scene; she couldn’t decide what to do with her hair now that she chopped it off and it was eating her up inside.  While we’re on it, you read bad acting, I read discomfort and inner struggle.  It was still definitely awkward, but I got what she was doing.

Zac: Nope.  The other bit that killed me was the Dauntless group Tris and Four were looking for were supposed to be hiding out at Candor and when they show up all 100+ of them are sitting outside on the steps waiting to go jump off some trains. You are in hiding! Hide! Everyone in this film are the worst hiders ever. Tris and Four just walk down the middle of the streets, running straight at guys who want to kill them. It is crazy!

Lauren: As many problems as the film presents, most stemming from the pacing and its push to start the very destructive domino effect on the rest of the film, I still have bigger problems with the story overall (why does Jeanine hate Divergence but she’s fine with the factionless?), and these things are going to get worse with the next film (what were the founders thinking?  The world is at war.  What causes war?  Differences.  Let’s create a society structured solely on large differences between people!  What could go wrong?  Eventually this structure will produce Divergent people, AKA normal people as far as I can tell, and these normal people will somehow save the rest of the world full of other normal people.).  I am really not looking forward to what comes next.  But hey, they’ve already made plenty of changes in their adapting process, maybe they’ll actually do something good with what is to come!

Zac: The whole series is just a cliche filled sci-fi dystopia. Nothing original or interesting is to be found here, other than making the Jesus/chosen one a woman for a change. They really hit the resurrection stuff home in this movie; they put her in a Shroud of Turin and everything before she comes back from the dead.

And what was up with the story of the brother? He just goes to the bad guy trying to kill his sister? There was little explanation and no motivation there. Same goes for Teller switching sides, again, at the end of the film. Everything is happening over plot necessity.

Lauren: The way I see it is that Caleb was going back to the world he knows because it makes more sense and is easier than choosing revolution, but I’m sure they’ll dig deeper into this in the next film. He was always super frustrating in the books and the family turmoil played out for a while. Another super frustrating character? Peter. He is the one character that I would have loved to get into the mind of because understanding his choices was never an attainable goal. As it is, I just read it as he’s just always out for himself, but I’d prefer a little more emotional complexity because even that shallow explanation falls apart when you think about possible consequences of his actions.

It all falls apart, really, and I don’t want to think about it anymore. I came out of the theater having been entertained, but this movie fails the test of scrutiny as there is just so much to complain about. Darn it, Zac! You won me over! It may have only taken a slight nudge with this sequel, but I blame you for my waning happiness regardless. And for global warming.  Just cuz.

Zac: Well, let’s just close the pentagonal box and imagine none of this ever even happened.

At least until the next two movies. Gahhhhhhhhh!

  • jperk

    Zac, I wish I would’ve read this review before my kid drug me into the theater to see this poo pile. I could’ve played sick and watched cops instead.