Saturday, July 18, 2015

A Cool Plot Twist Can't Save 'Insurgent' from Being as Mediocre as Expected

Insurgent (its full, more boring name is The Divergent Series: Insurgent) is the sequel to last year’s Divergent, a movie about a dystopian society set in post-apocalyptic Chicago wherein people are divided into five factions depending on their inherent traits and personalities.  To be honest, I’m already tired of movie adaptations of YA novels that are mere attempts to replicate the success of Twilight (being the worst kind) or The Hunger Games (being the best kind), and I actually intended to skip watching this movie.  But I recently found myself having nothing better to do or watch, and since I saw the first Divergent movie, the nerd completist in me felt obligated to watch this second installment.

The first Divergent movie had a few entertaining moments, and there was something interesting about its premise.  However, it’s such a forgettable and unexciting story overall that I have literally forgotten what the story of Divergent was.  I have flashes of memories of some scenes and a basic grasp of the general plot, but I seriously can’t remember large chunks of what happened in the first movie.  Heck, I even forgot the faces of the characters out of Shailene Woodley, Maggie Q, and Kate Winslet.  That’s why I was surprised to see Miles Teller in this movie – “Oh, he was that d-bag guy?”  There’s no way I would re-watch it for the sake of prepping for Insurgent.  It’s definitely going to be a tedious chore, if ever.  Hence, it took me a while to catch the plot transition of Divergent to Insurgent.

As to be expected, Insurgent is full of boring clichés and dumb conveniences that I found it so hard to get invested in the movie.  It basically has the same tone and personality – or lack thereof – as the previous movie.  There are moments when it felt it was going into something interesting but failed to follow it up.  “Hey, that looks cool.  I wonder where thi – Oh wait.  It’s over?  That’s it?”

I also found it so hard to root for the main character, Tris.  She’s pretty bland.  When she cuts her hair at the beginning of the movie without any sensible explanation given aside from “I wanted something different”, I knew that I won’t ever like this character.  Moreover, though a fine actress, Shailene Woodley has no appeal.  Everyone is saying that she is the next Jennifer Lawrence, but I’ve always find nothing of that whenever I see her on screen.

I probably would have liked it more if the story focused on Maggie Q (I’m obviously a fan) or on Miles Teller.  Teller’s character, like the rest of them, never made an impact in me the first movie (again, I even forget Teller was in it).  To be fair, I had only taken notice of Miles Teller for the first time in Whiplash, so he’s a more familiar actor to me now than when I watched Divergent.  Still, I kind of like his character, Peter Hayes; he definitely has the best characterization and character development among the lot, and Miles Teller played Hayes’ d-bag, self-centered persona to winning perfection.  Too bad Miles Teller and Maggie Q are just third-tier characters in this movie.  

Also worth mentioning: Though the characters they portrayed are one-dimensional, Naomi Watts and Kate Winslet, delivered good performances.  But that is to be expected from an Oscar nominee and an Oscar winner.

The climax and big twist in the end are actually pretty cool.  But I was worn out at that point, and had long given up on the movie.  Wading through an hour and a half of bad material to get to 15 minutes or so of good stuff isn’t worth it.

Insurgent is a mediocre, barely watchable movie at best.  The only good thing I can say about it is that, due to its emphatic ending, I will no longer have the difficulty of connecting the story of this move to next year’s installment, Allegiant Part 1 – ugh, another gratuitous two-parter franchise finale – that is, of course, if I’m ever led to watch it.

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