Movie Review: Insurgent takes the Divergent series deeper into Virtual Reality

Movie Review: Insurgent takes the Divergent series deeper into Virtual Reality
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Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen is a journalism graduate from Sheridan College. He specializes in Arts & Entertainment reporting, feature writing and film reviews. Twitter: @ChiefcoOne

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There seems to be a demand for dystopian science fiction steeped with heroic, merciless female characters. The Divergent series — based on the popular YA novels by Veronica Roth — returns to kick off the spring movie season.

The Divergent Series: Insurgent


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Overall Rating:
Opens: March 20, 2015
Running time: 119 minutes
Genre: Action/Science Fiction

Insurgent tones down the world building, exposition and character development found in the first installment, beginning with a high intensity chase through the woods.

Main heroine, Tris (Shailene Woodley), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and heartthrob hero Four (Theo James) are on the run and take refuge within the Amity division.

Divergent introduced us to the strangely simplistic, yet confusing idea of a post-apocalyptic society divided into five factions. Once a person turns sixteen, they must take a personality test to reveal what group will best suit their virtues and aptitude. In the end, they choose their own destiny.

Photo: Red Wagon Entertainment, Summit Entertainment

Photo: Red Wagon Entertainment, Summit Entertainment

The mechanism used to divide and conquer remains the same: Dauntless (brave, militarized) Erudite (intelligent, potentially very evil) Abnegation (Selfless, meek) Candor (honest, adopting a freaky black and white mentality that can only be found in a twisted utopia) and Amity, a peaceful clan of futuristic hippies who dislike confrontation of any kind.

Jeanine — played by MVP cast member, Kate Winslet — is back on Tris’ tail with an army of Erudite and rogue Dauntless soldiers. Tris is revealed to be 100% Divergent, meaning she’s the specimen Erudite needs to open a mystery box, aka a lazy plot device disguised as the tool Jeanine requires to secure her power and continue an obvious plan to eradicate the illusion of a peaceful utopia, fancying a total dictatorship.

Insurgent fleshes out factions that were previously in the background. Tris and her renegades team up with Candor and the “factionless” in assorted key scenes. The factionlesss are introduced as a gang of revolutionaries, stirring up new drama as their leader is revealed to be Four’s estranged mother, Evelyn (Naomi Watts). Four doesn’t trust her; reasonably, as Watts turns in an honest yet sinister performance that forebodes an evil plot, one to rival the already doomy Jeanine situation.

Photo: Red Wagon Entertainment, Summit Entertainment

Photo: Red Wagon Entertainment, Summit Entertainment

Although its core narrative is almost twin-like when compared to the wildly popular Hunger Games series, Insurgent manages to please with its cast of badass girls — from the young heroine to the ruthless high heeled, calculating villain. Unfortunately we’re stuck in a mundane digitized city torn down by silly ideas and an even worse soundtrack.

A string of Virtual Reality simulations that Tris must complete takes events into Wachowski Brothers territory. Trapped in her own imagination, suspended by machines, she desperately attempts to augment the five virtues — if successful, Tris’ divergence will unlock a critical message left by the city’s founders.  Woodley’s performance is reminiscent of Neo in the Matrix trilogy.

She’s the one.

This is solid YA near-future fun. Director Robert Schwentke and his team of returning actors help pull this derivative mess out of boring gloom and make it an exciting ride.

Insurgent opened last night and is showing locally at Film.ca.

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