Friday, March 20, 2015

"Insurgent" continues the "Divergent Series" with impressive "alternate reality" effects at the end, but the characters seem rather weak


The Divergent Series: Insurgent” (or, so to speak, “Divergent II”) continues the franchise of dystopian sci-fi films based on the novels by Veronica Roth, directed by Robert Schwentke.
I may have misperceived the “divergent” concept.  “Divergents” have mixtures of traits from all of the factions (Erudite, Dauntless, Candor, Amity, and Abnegation), whereas the “factionless” are those who have flunked their class, so they become the true proles, the underclass that deserves to be so. A good moral question would be this:  Is the dilettante -- the "jack of all trades and master of one" really a worthy "divergent" or just a lazy "factionless"?
       
The concept seems super Marxist.  People need to “belong”, so that their sometimes self-disciplined or even self-sacrificing choices have meaning (think about this idea with respect to “eternal marriage”), but the problem is, the “faction” you belong to could be “wrong”.  So factions (whether religious groups or nationalities) in the real world go to war.  Individualism (aka “divergence”) seems the answer, except that hyper-individualism leaves even more people behind than those who would normally become “factionless”.
  
Nevertheless Jeanine (Kate Winslet) is super-woman, someone who can do everything, so she is the obvious threat to the power structures (run by a kind of female Putin).  Miles Teller, as Peter, still has a bit of that Whiplash fight in him, and is a little too wholesome to be truly dauntless.  Caleb (Ansel Elgort) is the nicest guy in the movie (not saying much), willing to come off his post as “erudite” and try abnegation for a while.  Jai Courtney has had more likeable roles than that of a cop in this movie. 
  
I almost forgot the other dauntless boyfriend, Tobias Eaton (Theo James), who didn’t leave a strong impression.

The plot has a lot to do with getting the power structure, at the end, realize that it needs divergence.  (That is, the world needs the likes of Alan Turning, Jack Andraka, and Mark Zuckerberg – not to mention Bill Gates and Steve Jobs -- to keep moving ahead.) 
  
One problem with the concept of the movie is its geography.  A high tech world (however totalitarian) in the middle of a ruined Chicago seems not much of a place, especially when walled in.  At the end, the celebrants populate the bottomlands of the Chicago River.  Nevertheless, the “alternate realty” when Jeanine takes her five faction tests at the end, has some striking visual effects in 3-D, reminiscent of “Inception” even though the story context is much less compelling. 
  
Note the spelling of the title" "Insurgent" is singular, but plural makes more sense to me. 

   
I saw the film in 3-D before a sparse Friday afternoon audience at the Angelika Mosaic in Fairfax, but the evening show was getting sold out. Curiously, Angelika isn’t showing 3-D at night. 

Lionsgate and Summit will no doubt make money on this series, but I hope they keep some focus on their origins in independent film. 
        

The feature was preceded by two films from last year’s DC Shorts, including “Silence Is Golden”, something about ignoring proselytizing.    

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