Hamilton Herald Masthead


Front Page - Friday, March 27, 2015

The Critic's Corner

Good ‘Insurgent’ ending too little, too late

About 30 minutes into “Insurgent,” a young woman in the movie says, in exasperation, “Will someone please tell me what’s going on?”

I was right there with her.

I had no clue what was going on. People were running around, hiding, and chasing each other, but I didn’t know why. It would have helped if I’d watched “Divergent” before seeing the sequel.

“Divergent” and “Insurgent” are movies based on a trilogy of young adult books. “Insurgent” is the second film and the topic of this column – my tenth or so negative review this year.

The setting for both films is a dystopian future in which the human race has presumably been wiped out with the exception of a growing enclave trapped by towering walls in a greatly dilapidated Chicago. The only nice part of the city is the government building, which is meant to show the disparity of wealth and power in this society. Apparently, in the future, metaphors are delivered with the striking blow of a hammer rather than the whisper of subtlety.

Anyway, this arrangement must be working out well for the majority of the people, who are happily divided into five groups based on their genetics. Erudites are intelligent and value logic over fisticuffs, Dauntless are brave, Amity value peace and harmony, and so on. These five groups supposedly create the balance mankind needs to live in peace and prosperity.

Not everyone is easily categorized, though. A small number of people called Divergents genetically belong to more than one group. The leader of the Erudites, a fascist named Jeanine, believes them to be a threat, and sets out to find and eradicate them.

Enter Tris, a Divergent who contains characteristics of all five groups. She emerges as the heroine of the series.

I apologize, but that’s all the background I’m going to provide. Rather than summarize the end of the first film so I can then explain the muddled plot of the second film, I’d rather just either warn you off “Insurgent,” or encourage you to watch the first film before diving into part two.

The thing that bothered me the most about “Insurgent” wasn’t the lack of context I experienced for the first hour or so; rather, it was the dull go-here, then go-there plot. The film opens with Tris and her boyfriend, Theo, staying with a group of Amity in a makeshift compound just outside Chicago. Jeanine dispatches her thugs to find a Divergent that can open an 200-year old box by passing five virtual reality simulations – one based on each societal group. She believes the founders of the commune placed a message inside of the box that will affirm her hostile stance on Divergents, and orders her security force to kill any Divergent who doesn’t match the criteria.

There are some issues with logic here. Since Jeanine controls the city, and with concerted effort could wipe out the Divergents, why is the box important to her? And why does it send her on a murderous rampage? Opening a 200-year-old email seems like weak motivation for slaughtering dozens of innocent people.

In any case, Tris and Theo go from the Amity compound to a train filled with Factionless (people who aren’t a part any group and live on the outskirts of society). These ne’er-do-wells take them to a complex run by Theo’s mother, who was presumed dead.

That’s not the end of Tris and Theo’s travels, though. There’s a lot more going here, then going there before the final 30 minutes of the movie, when things finally get interesting. Visually, the film perks up with some nice visual effects as Jeanine forces Tris to undertake the simulations, and there’s a nice emotional peak as she faces an aggressive version of herself in one.

Logic issue continue to abound, though. For example, why does Tris go back to complete the final simulation after Theo rescues her? That seemed a bit ungrateful: “Hey, thanks for saving me from Jeanine, but I think I’m going to go back and finish the last sim anyway. Try not to get killed while I make you wait.”

I know I’m being snarky, but I don’t see the point of this series. Thematically, I like the notion of boiling mankind down to five characteristics necessary for his survival and then pitting the factions against each other. But the storylines, at least as they were translated to film, seem banal and aimless. The last book in the trilogy, “Allegiant,” is being divided into two movies, which I hope gives the filmmakers time to find firmer footing in the story.

Don’t our youth deserve better stories than this? Is there a conspiracy to dumb them down by spoon feeding them literary claptrap? Will someone please tell me what’s going on?

Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, sensuality, thematic elements, and brief language. David Laprad is the assistant editor of the Hamilton County Herald and an award-winning columnist and photographer. Contact him at dlaprad@hamiltoncountyherald.com.