Insurgent (2015): The Special Box of Specialness!
Following the events of the first book, Tris and Four are in hiding while Jeanine Matthews, leader of the Erudite and the reason behind all of the problems, finds a secret, special box that Tris’s parents had hidden in their home. Only a special divergent can open the box.
The special box feels like a neat, gimmicky idea to give the main character something to do, yet the sum total as to why Jeanine wants so desperately to open the box is ‘just cause’. Or, somehow, this box is supposed to save their society… just cause. It doesn’t make much sense. If a divergent is required to open this magic box, why would she think this box had a solution for eliminating the divergents? Wouldn’t it be the opposite?
I read up on what actually happens in the book this film is based on and I found no mention of this special box at all (the ‘data’ this box is protecting is actually available in a way that makes more sense, from what I’ve been able to gather). The movie seems to throw out logic as it sees fit and sacrifices many of the struggles between other characters, which might have added more depth to the coming struggles as the fight escalates.
The movie also includes some magical new advances. Part of the point of the first movie was needing special tests to find divergents, yet in Insurgent, the movie. they now have magical new devices that almost instantly detect divergents, which feels a little too easy given how it immediately follows the previous film and this undermines things a bit (though could have been overlooked if other problems didn’t exist).
Based on what I read happens in the book, the film apparently took key sequences and sprinkled them into the script and then made up whatever it wanted to in order to connect these sequences, giving the illusion that the film is following the book while throwing out a lot of key things that make sense from the book while adding in things that don’t really make much sense (or is so poorly explained that it might as well be the same thing).
EVERYTHING ELSE: PACING + ACTING + LOOK
There is enough excitement and movement in the plot, that it all flows fairly well, at least, never dragging, even if some of it doesn’t really work. The look of the film is nice, with some especially cool sequences shown via the special box (all of which were splattered all over the trailers). The biggest problem is that the revolution some of us may have been expecting, doesn’t really happen and the film never really lives up to that (even at the end, when stuff is happening, much of it happens off screen).
As far as performances go, if you liked the acting in the first film, then you should have no issues here. I liked it. And I thought Tris, Four, and even Peter have enough to work with for their characters that they still work as characters. Their motivations work. Their direction works. They are probably the best part of the film and why the film works at all.
The film isn’t bad, though the core plot in regards to the box falls apart for a few key reasons. MAJOR SPOILERS follow, so skip to final thoughts if you don’t want these.
If the point of the box was to reveal that the emergence of divergents is the whole reason for the city they live in, then why would the box kill any divergents that didn’t pass the test? Obviously, this was done to create a sense of danger for Tris (also to hit the point home of her ‘specialness’, to eye rolling degree), but it doesn’t actually make any sense. Again, Jeanine’s motivations for wanting to open the box in the first place make no sense. And given how much of the movie is about this stupid, gimmicky box… that makes the film as a whole fail.
All of this because some writer adapting the book thought it was a cool idea, but no one bothered to make the writer actually justify this cool idea, to make it actually work in this world. There seems to be no reason to divert from the book in this key way… it makes no sense.
Now, if the box had done something cool at the end, something big… then ok, I could excuse the flaws of the film… but it was just so damned anti-climactic. So… lame. And then we find out what the box actually is and surprise surprise, it turns out to be a message completely counter to what Jeanine wants, so of course, she’ll want to suppress it… except, just as she orders the execution of our leads, behind the scenes, most of the exciting revolution was happening and we missed it all so that there could be a forced deus ex machine moment… for no reason. It’s not quite, since they technically set it up before then, but it feels like that for no reason.
I think this is where the film pushed me away, whereas, before that I was still following it, despite some things not quite working, going into downright into major meh territory… because the film sabotages itself. It takes the easy way out, saying things happen just cause, rather than showing these things. I want to see the factionless storm the erudites. I want to see them rise up. And I want all of this cross cut with the special box sequences, if you simply insist on such a pointless device… and then make the box cool. Maybe the box is the key to defeating the Erudites… because a small freedom force needs proof and the box is the key, for whatever reason, to revealing the truth to the other factions and making the Erudites into the outcasts. I’m not saying it had to be that… but something.
Instead, the end result of this pointless device… was eh.
While I didn’t feel ripped off watching this movie, like I did with Jupiter Ascending, I do feel underwhelmed by the result. The film ends not with a bang, but with a thud, a small whimper, and it could have been far more exciting. The story of the book supported this.
Should you see it in theaters? Well, if you are a big fan of the books, this movie will probably piss you off, but if you just liked the first movie and never read the books, and can excuse a plot that doesn’t really work or you just like Tris and Four and want to see what happens next for them, then yeah, I think it is still worth seeing. Plus, the poster is pretty flippin’ cool.
If you have seen it, what did you think? Did you like it, dislike it, and why?