Matt’s Movies: Insurgent, Too Close to Hunger Games for Comfort

Series seems more like a rip-off of Katniss Everdeen's tale than an original story

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Matt Chouinard, Film Critic

Typically a person only has one story to learn about characters and the worlds they live in, but occasionally the story will continue with sequels, growing on the world created in a first movie. Done correctly, this technique strengthens the characters involved and creates a more enjoyable experience. Insurgent is an example of a continuing story that builds on its predecessor, resulting in more layered characters and a better experience than the first time around.

Insurgent, directed by Robert Schwentke, continues to follow the dystopian world of the factions, and how Tris Pryor(Shailene Woodley) is forced to try to live in it as a divergent. She doesn’t fit in to any of the factions and this makes the ruler(Kate Winslet) nervous, resulting in her and her friends becoming fugitives on the run. Tris must deal with the consequences of the decisions she’s made, embrace her role as a divergent, and figure out what the next step has to be to ensure her group’s survival and what’s best for their civilization.

This movie works primarily for two reasons; the awesome visual effects, and the acting of Shailene Woodley. As a dystopian science fiction action movie, Insurgent needs creative ideas and awesome visuals to hook the viewers and draw them into the film’s world. The basic ideas, themes, and storyline are pretty generic and in line with many other previous told stories (the superior Hunger Games movies come to mind), but the visual effects used throughout Insurgent are what set it apart and make it an original and entertaining story in its own right. The action sequences and especially the scenes where Tris is in a simulation are quite engaging. The visual effects are presented on a very grand scale, invoking an eye-popping reaction with its intensity and resulting in a great deal of excitement from the viewer.

The other half of Insurgent’s success is credited to the acting, namely Shailene Woodley. The movie is firmly carried on her shoulders, further developing the character Tris Pryor into one of the more layered heroes that’s been seen on screen recently. Tris Pryor is a girl who doesn’t know where she belongs in the world. She is mourning the recent deaths of her parents, continuing to grow as an extremely skilled fighter, and developing a relationship with her former trainer, Four(Theo James). She is also depressed, angry, loving, compassionate, skilled, tough, defiant, and most of all scared. She hasn’t come to grips with her role as a divergent in her society and doesn’t know what the next step to take is. Her character would be easy to find unrealistic, except Woodley captures these multiple sides to Tris very effectively.  She is very believable playing this character, making it a joy to watch Tris continue to develop and grow over the course of her journey.

The rest of the cast does a solid job as well in their respective roles. Theo James does well as Four, the skilled fighter who used to be a leader of one of the factions, but became involved with Tris and now they are both fugitives. James and Woodley act well together, displaying good on screen chemistry. Kate Winslet also serves her part as Jeanine, the ruler of the factions who is out to kill Tris. She displays the typical evil dictator vibe effectively, as she is determined to not let anything get in her way of ruling over everyone. Her number one henchman is Eric(Jai Courtney). Courtney does a solid job in the role, conveying a ruthless demeanor that invokes anger out of anyone who’s watching. He does a great job with it and plays his role well. The best supporting performance though is easily that of Miles Teller. He plays Peter, another of the fugitives in hiding with Tris and Four. His character has a cocky mean-spirited personality, but at the same time is very funny and smart. He is a dislikeable character, but Teller is able to play him so smoothly and with such wit that he manages to come off tolerable, maybe even likeable. Its awesome work by Teller and really adds to the overall enjoyment of the movie.

The movie has a fairly straightforward story, consisting of the female hero standing up against an oppressive dystopian society along with her love interest. It is all stuff that has been done before, and better. It does manage to create some interesting and original plot points though. The simulation machines are a big part of these movies, and they allow for some interesting story arcs and most of the exciting action sequences. The movie overall isn’t simply an action movie, as it carries a lot more drama and storytelling than the generic dystopian action epic. This allows for the story to become more detailed and all the characters to develop more than would be typically seen. Overall, Insurgent is a good movie with enough cool and entertaining moments throughout to hold interest. I give it 3 out of 5 stars and recommend it to anyone interested in the genre.