Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Review: Insurgent

World of Blackout Film Review

Insurgent Poster

Insurgent (3D)
Cert: 12A / 119 mins / Dir. Robert Schwentke / Trailer
WoB Rating: 4/7

It should really go without saying (but I'll say it anyway), that Insurgent*1 is a sequel to Divergent in a very real and direct sense, picking up swiftly from its predecessor with very little in the way of catch-up. And I do have to admire the film for this; Insurgent knows its audience, and plays to them and them alone*2.

That said, of course, aside from a switch of director and a haircut*3 we're largely on the same turf as last time, with the film carrying on the modus operandi of two hours of teenage petulance and foot-stamping, while Shailene Woodley's squeaky voice sends the residents of the nearest dogs home into absolute meltdown. The haircut, incidentally, is self-administered at the top of the film's first act, to give Tris a more practical look and stop press articles using promo shots from the first film. Actually, characters in films seem suspiciously adept at cutting their own hair (cf Blue Ruin), especially when they're going from a style that's clearly taken years to grow, into a short bob or a crop. I only mention this because there's a lady in my office who regularly cuts her own fringe, yet more often than not it looks like she's done it in the dark. Ah, well.

Insurgent is certainly a more focussed film than the first one*4, necessitated by the urgency of the plot, but I still found the protagonists too annoying to want them to succeed. Which is a pretty major obstacle when you're trying to like a film. In addition to this, the villains are every bit as moustache-twirlingly overblown as they were before, with perhaps the most embarrassing being Jai Courtney's scenes as he chews every last bit of scenery he can get his jaws on. It seems sad the think that Die Hard 5 can be the highlight of anyone's CV as Jai hams things up almost as much as Kate Winslet, who's convinced that she's the villain in an animated Disney movie. But at least it looks like Kate's enjoying herself.

And then, just when my mind was really starting to wander, the film's third-act is interesting. Nicely structured, boldly actualised and really interesting. Tris undergoes a series of simulation-trials based around the traits of the five factions*5, and it's like we're watching a different film. Okay, the sequence certainly needs the film-and-a-half beforehand to set it up, and it's faintly reminiscent of the Resident Evil movies, and the ending seems to share a lot with the ending The Maze Runner pulled with only one film, but - most importantly - it's left me wanting to see the next movie. And I'm fairly certain that's the point.

A hesitant step for the Divergent series, Insurgent is a step forward nonetheless. The film knows its strengths, but can't seem to let go of the things weighing it down. I can't say it had much of an impact on me (again), but I don't think the '41yr old men' presentation took up much time at the Summit Entertainment's demographic meetings. I look forward to 'Newsagent' if only because at this pace, I'll be able to rate it "pretty good".*6

…and I can't be the only one who was waiting for hooks and chains to spring out of the box, can I?

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
If you're an existing fan, yes.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
If you're not bolting out the door to the cinema then you can probably wait for this to be on cable/Netflix. If anything, it'd be ideal to watch back-to-back with the first film.

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
In no way, shape or form.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
Oh, probably.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Not really.

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't, yet there are plenty of shots of people falling off things. MUST. TRY. HARDER..

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
Insurgent's pantomime-villain Kate Winslet performed voice-acting in 2006's Flushed Away as did Andy Serkis, he of the as-yet-unspecified role in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 And it's all very well Summit Entertainment registering the film as the standalone 'Insurgent' at the BBFC, but most cinema chains appear to be promoting it with the cumbersome moniker 'The Divergent Series: Insurgent', in a move that either has little-to-no faith in the strength of the brand, or little-to-no faith in the intelligence of the audience. They may as well have tagged it 'The Divergent Series: Insurgent - you know, the one with Thingy Woodley in it from last time. Like a knock-off Hunger Games with slightly less to say about society, but more jumping off things. You quite liked it, remember? She was in that film where her and the other one had the cancer and went to Anne Franks's house, as well. Yes her.'

*2 Although speaking of 'audience', demographically targeted advertising is all well and good, but Insurgent features an ad for Facebook before the film. Yeah, y'know. That Facebook. As if there's a single fucking person in the auditorium to watch a Divergent film who's thinking "Oh, that's what Facebook is… well I think I'll check that out then! Eeeh, whatever next?".

*3 And while I'm on with the superficiality of it all, this post-apocalyptic dystopia has quite a lot of make-up in it, doesn't it? It's almost as if Shailene Woodley's Tris and Naomi Watts' Evelyn are going to be the founding members of the Maybelline faction in the next film.

*4 And probably more focussed than this review, to be fair. Footnotes like these are what happens when my mind wanders during a film. Or, more pertinently, when the cast, director and editor allow my mind to wander during a film. Yeah, like this snarkiness isn't my fault...

*5 Brainy, Frowny, Smugly, Hapless and Wishy-Washy. But there's no test for the group for people without any faction, Raggydolls.

*6 Thanks for reading all these, by the way. Yes, you. Thanks.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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