Sunday, March 22, 2015

Theatrical Review: Insurgent

Date: Sunday, March 22, 2015
Location: Pocono Movieplex
Time: 1:15pm
Party: 3 (my mom & aunt who introduced us to the trilogy)

Director: Robert Schwentke

Duration: 119 minutes (+ 4 trailers)

Tris Prior- Shailene Woodley
Four/Tobias Eaton- Theo James

Caleb Prior- Ansel Elgort
Peter- Miles Teller
Jeanine- Kate Winslet

Evelyn Eaton- Naomi Watts
Joanna, leader of Amity- Octavia Spencer
Jack Kang, leader of Candor- Daniel Dae Kim

Eric- Jai Courtney
Tori- Maggie Q
Uriah- Keiynan Lonsdale

Christina- Zoe Kravitz
Marcus Eaton- Ray Stevenson

Opening Comments and Previews:

The theater was almost empty when we arrived. By the time the movie started, more people were still coming in. Among them were a family with half a dozen kids... even then, it boggles my mind that people can still be late to the beginning of a movie.

At this point, I expected an "Avengers" trailer... no such luck... but I'll still wait for it to come to me before I go deliberately searching for it. [I want that shock & awe to be genuine].

1) Tomorrowland
- a more in-depth trailer than we got the previous time ["Into the Woods"]. And it would seem George will get a lot of screen time, playing a character very different than his usual. We also caught a few glimpses of Hugh Laurie [who may/may not be the villain]. The special effects scenery does look pretty amazing, although it looked a little too much like The Capitol from "The Hunger Games"... or one of the cities shown in "Guardians of the Galaxy".. either way, everyone seems to think the future looks the same.

...still waiting on those flying cars, guys!

2) Pixels
-supposedly the time capsule we projected into space in the 80's where we professed peace... it was misinterpreted... and aliens have sent down giant replicas of vintage video game characters to destroy us. We're talking Pac-Man, Galaga, Centipede, Donkey Kong, etc. Even though it stars Adam Sandler and Kevin James, not known for making the best movies, I can only think "Let the Nerdgasm Commence!" It looked amazing! :P

3) Paper Towns
- I swear, this was trending on Twitter not even a day ago... supposedly the trailer had just been released. And what a better place for John Green's next book-to-movie adaption than during a Shailene Woodley movie. [It did wonders for "The Fault in Our Stars," which she was amazing in, by the way]. It looks like such a great young adult story based on the trailer, but I've got a bad feeling I won't be able to find the book on a shelf for a while.

4) Mockingjay: Part 2
- It was practically the same teaser trailer they showed for the previous two films... they just did more with the Mockingjay logo and added more dialogue... November is just too long a wait, especially with the previous ending. [I should stop here before my mind starts spewing more ill will towards Peeta... NOT his biggest fan in that book]


[I started my "Divergent" review the same way]

As of writing this review, Insurgent has earned $54 million in its opening weekend. ["Divergent" made $56M]Unlike my previous book-to-movie entries, I won't be going too much into how good the adaptation was. Even though I read this book only a year ago, I have very little memory of it. So I was practically like any movie-goer who hadn't read the source material...

Save for the fact I already knew the characters, of course.
[I will also continue on assuming the audience is already familiar with this series, either from reading the books or seeing the previous movie]

There be Spoilers Afoot...
The movie starts out very disorienting... as can be expected given the circumstances.

The faction of Abnegation has been decimated by Jeanine's covert operation with the leaders of Dauntless. Only now, the operation is rumored to be the work of Divergents, rebels and their sympathizers. We also learn that the attack of Abnegation wasn't just about uncovering their supposed corruption... it was about locating an object...
This box becomes a major piece of this film's plot. Within in it is a message from the Founders of the city and only a Divergent who can pass the simulations from all five factions will be able to open it.

When we last left our heroes, Tris Prior and Four, they were on the run, along with her brother Caleb and fellow Dauntless, Peter. They are currently lying low in the faction of Amity, which promotes peace and kindness. Tensions are still high between Tris and Peter, so obviously, not all goes according to plan.

The disorientation comes in from multiple factors.
Firstly, in the first scene with Tris, it starts out like a rather normal introduction. But it quickly accelerates when the blood on her hands becomes visible. When I saw Christina and Will [her parents came later], I knew then that it couldn't be real. Several dream sequences follow... or should I just call them Tris's nightmares?
Secondly because the heroes spend a lot of this movie on the run from Jeanine's forces to the various other factions. Out of nowhere, there'd be explosions or shots fired. Nowhere appears to be safe... with the exception of the bunker where the Factionless stay. Nothing even came there, but there were still plenty of fireworks.
Thirdly... we have more simulations [something that was a big part of Tris's Dauntless initiation in the previous film]...

I wouldn't go as far to say the disorientation is a bad thing. I'm sure some people might find it a little off-putting that things are so unstable. That there really isn't a concrete storyline for a good portion of the film. But it does keep you on your toes. Among all the YA book-to-movie adaptations, "Insurgent" is easily the best example of an action film I'd ever seen.

Some people might also find it off-putting that the movie relies a little much on special effects to sell itself. Anyone's entitled to that opinion. That being said, the effects are AMAZING. Even more impressive than in "Divergent." You can easily see why a 3D version was also released in theaters. I'm just not sure if I'd recommend it because the realism is far too believable. There was a point in a simulation where Tris fell thousands of feet and I felt my stomach drop like I was on that rollercoaster myself. I also had a couple moments where I cried out in shock or surprise because things were happening so fast. But that's part of the thrill.

It should also be important to note that the movie has a lot of heart to it as well. The chemistry between Tris and Four doesn't get nearly as much screen time, given the circumstances. But we get to see her grow even more as a person through these circumstances. She's still, understandably, dealing with the loss of her parents and blaming herself for the things that went wrong.
Octavia Spencer doesn't get a lot of screen time as Joanna- the leader of Amity- but she has some thoughtful advice for Tris. About not blaming herself for what happened and trying to forgive herself. A nice warm spot in a film that has a lot of darkness.
Another highlight, easily, is Daniel Dae Kim as Jack Kang- leader of Candor. It took me a little while to recognize him [I only saw a couple episodes of "Lost" and spent the reminder of its run wanting it to end badly... and I got my wish... seriously, you can only drag that kind of series out for so long].
I don't know what it was, but I liked his screen presence. His character commanded a lot of respect without coming off ridiculously intimidating. He was fair and honest... although maybe not as fair to Tris when she had to endure the truth serum.

Whenever Shailene Woodley breaks down and cries, it's gut-wrenching. She does it so naturally and so well. Here, she was forced to come clean about Will's death and how she caused it. It bordered on excruciating [not to the point where it was unwatchable, mind you] because she had so much regret and also didn't want to lose Christina's friendship over it.
...that was one of the book's negatives for me. Christina spent so much time mad at her even though it was done out of self-defense. Thankfully, the film didn't prolong it quite as much.

We get a little more back story for Four when we find out that his mother is still alive, leading the Factionless. The tension is definitely there and very convincing coming from Theo James. But there's still much more to learn about Four that hasn't been explored yet (there's a book dedicated to him, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet).

I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a violent person, but I had moments throughout this movie when I was cheering for the villains getting their comeuppance.
I do take it seriously when certain characters get on my nerves [in TV and movies], to the point where I hope for ill-will and groan when it takes AGES for it materialize. I was grateful to be in a world where evil would get its just reward.

When Eric finally got killed, by Four no less... I wasn't the only person in the theater cheering. [Maybe one or two other people sitting rows behind us].
Then the moments where Peter was getting a taste of his own medicine... he is such a despicable character that Miles Teller plays SO well [he's one of those up and coming young actors, so I can't help but take notice... I'm also thinking that I'll have to hunt down "The Spectacular Now" where he and Shailene Woodley have a more amiable relationship]. Ultimately, Peter does what's best for himself. And there are moments where Tris gets the better of him that I either laughed or cheered for.

One small nit-pick I have is that they introduced a couple of other characters, but never gave their names.
Like the leader of Factionless. Had they kept his part of the movie in the theatrical release [opposed to the DVD extras], we'd have known it was Edward... the #1 initiate at Dauntless before Peter cut his eye out in the middle of the night... but the guy with the Mohawk couldn't have been Edward because he had both eyes.
Uriah, I recognized right away... he comes on the roof and chats with Tris before Candor falls under attack... they didn't even mention him by name... so people not familiar with the books wouldn't know any better. In however little screen time he had with her in that scene, I found his presence comforting. I can't quite say why.

But those are simply minor details. Certainly not enough to keep this movie from succeeding.

The big second half of the film unfold when Tris surrenders herself to Jeanine.
During the raid on Candor, it was discovered that Tris was 100% Divergent and everyone had devices attached to them. These devices would allow Jeanine to control their movements. This becomes clear when Christina and two other Dauntless attempt to jump to their deaths [one doesn't make it], chanting to hand over Tris or more will die.
Tris sees no choice, despite Four's protests, but to give herself over to Jeanine.

Months ago, I cried foul at the teaser trailer of this movie because it looked nothing like the book... apparently, the scene they used was a simulation... which explains SO MUCH.

First is Dauntless, where Tris has to chase after a floating burning building to save her mom. All kinds of craziness that could only happen in a movie... there's just no way.
Next was Candor, where she told her mom the truth about her feelings about everything rattling her brain... considering all the action in this movie and how unsettling some of it is, it was a relief that this simulation wasn't particularly difficult. Plus, it was good catharsis for Tris.
Then there was Erudite... a point where I thought we were out of the simulation, but not quite... I believed it so easily [with the explosion that began it... it was hard not to... I screamed then because it was so sudden and loud]. The dead giveaway was Four repeating something Tris never said to him, but to someone else.
Abnegation apparently came about because Tris chose not to shoot Peter.
[One previous pay-off I forgot to mention... Tris giving Peter physical hell when he was alone with her in the simulation room... that was just fun to watch :P]

The only unfortunate part about this part of the movie was what happened with Caleb. The degree of betrayal that went down on his part... looking back to the books, I never quite forgave him for it, but I wouldn't necessarily call it a grudge.

There were plenty of surprises over the last 15 minutes of the movie that I won't go into too much detail about... except that I remembered that part of the book literally as it was happening... and it made the scene all the more enjoyable.

The box does open and the message from the Founders was revealed and later spread throughout the city.
And the movie ends on a great note. Not just Jeanine getting what's coming to her, but also the ending credits where the symbols of the factions disintegrating... a nice touch.

Grade: A (for the target audience), A- (for those not fond of excessive special effects)

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