Friday, March 20, 2015

My review of what I assume was supposed to be Insurgent

I wish the movie had been as awesome as Shai's hair.
*Spoilers for the book and movie. You've been warned. This review assumes that you're familiar with the events of the book series.*

Okay... so...

Okay...

There's no easy way for me to say this:

When I first saw the trailer and sneak peeks for Insurgent, mostly I was thinking, "What? That wasn't in the book. What the heck? That wasn't in the book either," and so on and so forth. I suspected that they'd changed things even more than they had for the first movie. And therefore, I didn't go into this movie with high hopes.

I didn't go into this movie with high hopes. Let that sentence sink in, as I tell you that I was disappointed. Like, my hopes weren't even high to begin with, and I still leaned over to my friends halfway through and was like, "This is kind of AWFUL, isn't it?" and was met with agreement.

Screenwriters, did we even read the same book? Did you even read the book, period? I mean, it was like: Imagine that I had given a detailed summary of this book to one of my freshmen who is not good at general comprehension or communication, and then he or she passed it along to another student, and then it got passed along again in a typical game of telephone... so, the version of the summary that eventually reaches kid #10? That was what they wrote the screenplay based on.  Especially since I can easily imagine a teenager inserting a sex scene somewhere along the line.

(Yes, they put a sex scene in the movie, even though Tris' fear of intimacy was a big deal in the books AND in the first movie. It's one of her fears!)

(And no, it wasn't even enjoyable or contextually appropriate, because it kinda seemed like Tris did it to distract Four from her plans for martyrdom. He's like, "I know what you're thinking," because she's thinking about doing something reckless and dangerous, and instead of addressing it, she sleeps with him.)

(But I'm getting ahead of myself here.)

I could tell after the first ten minutes or so that something wasn't quite right. The acting just felt so... stiff. (LOLZ.) I was like, "Why is their acting rubbing me the wrong way? These are good actors! I've seen them be awesome!" And then I eventually realized... Ah, it's the writing that sucks. And it unraveled from there.

I'm serious, it was as if the writers had received a loosely accurate summary of the plot and then adapted the summary. I've seen Wikipedia plot synopses that included more detail and were more accurate than this movie.

So, Jeanine Matthews (with Kate Winslet looking goddess-like as always), stating via fuzzy-hologram-transmission message that a group of renegade Divergents and Dauntless were responsible for the attack on Abnegation, not her or Erudite. Seriously. I mean, I only got halfway through the book on my re-read this week, but I've read it a few times before, and I'm pretty sure that Jeanine owns  her actions in the book. And they're searching for some box that holds some mysterious secret message from the founders. It looks like an artifact from an Indiana Jones movie. There is no box in the book. Apparently, it requires a Divergent to open it, and they have to pass simulations from all five factions in order to do so. Jeanine practically kills a handful of Divergents before she realizes that she has to find a very special Divergent who is strong enough to pass all the tests to open it. (Guess who.) PS - None of this is in the book. However, someone decided to make this the backbone of the story. Instead of, oh, I don't know, the actual plot that's in the book.

Meanwhile, Tris, Four, Peter, Caleb, and Marcus escape to Amity. They're on the run, just like in the book. Tris cuts her hair, just like in the book. Tris beats the crap out of Peter (not because he tries to steal the hard drive that they don't address in the movies), which upsets all the Amity citizens and then gets them in trouble, just like in the book. So, okay.

(PS - I don't buy it that Amity is part of dystopian Chicago, but hey... I've never been to Chicago. There are parts of Chicago that look vaguely tropical, right?)

They leave out the ONE scene I really wanted to see - Tris hopped up on peace serum and then getting upset about it - which I guess is fine if they were pressed for time, but they also leave out anything involving Marcus having secrets with Johanna (which is important) and Tris saving Peter's life when the baddies show up. Instead, they give us this huge, action-packed chase scene through the woods that has Four just barely jumping across the train tracks ahead of a speeding train, with Tris shooting at the baddies to cover for him.

Tris, shooting.

Tris is not supposed to be shooting. This is a huge part of the book. Tris can't even touch a gun without her hands shaking and her falling to pieces, let alone shoot at a bunch of people while Four jumps in front of a train. Like, way to overlook her PTSD, writers! It's not like her trauma was a big deal or anything.

And THEN there's a huge hullabaloo between him, Tris, and Caleb and the factionless who are on that train, led by some bloodthirsty dude with a mohawk. A HUGE hullabaloo. One that has Caleb beating a dude to death with a lead pipe (what?) and Tris shoving people off the train to get run over on the track. WTF was that even.

Look, Divergent movie people. You guys cast a guy to play Edward in the first movie, and then you all but cut out all the Edward parts. And then, for the second movie, you cast a different dude to be Not-Edward, but you don't even stay true to his character. There was never a fight with the factionless. This was total unnecessary action. What was the point of it?

So, after they beat up on some more people, Four finally reveals himself as Tobias Eaton (which he totes could've done before all the chaos and then Tris wouldn't have been nearly choked out with her head dangling a foot off the train tracks), and they get taken to his mother Evelyn, who is played by Naomi Watts, also always goddess-like. In the book, Tris immediately doesn't trust Evelyn while Four seems like he really wants to believe his mommy. But in the movie, it's Tris who kinda seems pulled in (because she's all "Kill Jeanine! Did someone say 'kill Jeanine'? Do you wanna kill Jeanine? We should kill Jeanine!" all the damn time), and it's Four who bangs his fist on the table and stalks off from the confrontation. God. Seriously. These changes make no sense, and again, they're so poorly written.

They go to Candor and reunite with their non-traitor Dauntless. In the book, Tris and Four have to undergo the truth serum in order to stay, but in the movie, it's framed as Four's idea, so they can avoid being turned in to Erudite. Um, okay.

And the interrogation scene, which I just re-read today... it's heavy. The questions that are asked, the way Tris and Four's responses are worded... there is SO MUCH said that is important to their character arcs (as well as the plot) in this scene in the book, and in the movie, it all got cut out except for Four saying revealing that they were in fact innocent and that he is in love with Tris. And Tris revealing herself as a divergent and her shooting Will. And there was a very awkwardly-placed "I will never forgive myself!" exclamation in there somewhere that sounded really trite, but I guess they needed to establish in as obvious a way as possible that Tris can't forgive herself, because this will be important to the story (their story, not the book's story) later.

We get to meet Uriah officially, which I had been excited about, except that they didn't give him much to do. Like, aside from having a name this time, he might as well have just been a random background character, which some of the other Dauntless people were - I'm not entirely sure they officially named Lynn and Marlene in the movie. I just happened to know who was who because I was studying the cast list on IMDB earlier today.

The baddies ambush a bunch of people in the John Hancock tower (?), and everyone gets shot with that transmitter thingy, which I thought looked like a really cool dermal piercing. (I'm Dauntless. I'd get one.) We did not get the pleasure of seeing Tris stab Eric with a knife, but they did make Four shoot him. Which I don't think was supposed to happen right then - there is more stuff with Eric in the book, including a "trial," and THEN Four shoots him. But not before the baddies scan Tris' head with this fancy scanner thingy and determine that her badass pixie cut she is a super speshul Divergent, which means that Jeanine needs her, and she pressures her into turning herself in by trying to make people die. (That part was in the book, however.)

My memory of the book gets fuzzy here, but I do remember that Tris didn't go there specifically so she could open some damn box. I remember that she DOES get experimented on by Jeanine, but for a different purpose. I also remember the reveal of Caleb's betrayal being a much bigger deal. Like, it was a big reveal in the book that he had been feeding Jeanine information about Tris. In the movie, he didn't seem to be so proactive in being a defector - he just kinda seemed like he was just there. So, thanks, writers, for taking away some of Caleb's agency and character arc too.

FWIW, I'm still having trouble letting go of TFIOS, so when I see Caleb being a jerk to Tris, it makes me sad inside. Man, I just want to watch TFIOS right now so that my cathartic outpouring of tears washes away the memory of this movie.

Tris goes through the tests one by one, and NONE of this is in the book, so I don't even know what to say, aside from "Hey, more Ashley Judd screen time!" So yeah, there's that. They did include the Fake Four simulation that was in the book, but it's not the gunshot wound in her shoulder that gives it away, since they completely ignored the fact that she had a gunshot wound in her shoulder at all for this movie. During one of the sims, she decides not to shoot Peter, and I guess THAT was enough to make him decide later on to help her. Which is bogus, because Peter is not a hero. He's really not. He helps her in the book because she actually saves his life (and not just hypothetically), and he doesn't want to be indebted. He's supposed to be morally gray at best. But, because the world is comprised only of good guys and bad guys, Peter has to be shoved from one side to the other.

(Miles Teller is such a treasure, though. For real. He was the best thing about this movie. Well, him, Shailene's hair, and Theo James' face.)

So they save Tris, except that she HAS to go back and open the box-that-never-was, and they cut out a WHOLE LOT of other things that happen (political intrigue sort of stuff, other character development, things that are... you know... important), and they skip way to the end, where Tris fights herself in a simulation. Now, this is in the book, but it's done totally differently, for a totally different purpose, and in the book, she actually fights herself and finds a way to win. And it's really cool. In the movie though? there's this whole "I'm not gonna fight you!"/self-forgiveness stuff, and it's way less cool and more hokey. Like, Oh, that's it, huh?

And Evelyn and the factionless storm the castle and apprehend the bad ones, including Jeanine, and they watch this mysterious message from Edith Prior, except WAIT... they don't even TELL you who she is! That's an important detail that they totally just left out - Tris has a family connection to the founders! It's important in the third book! They even credited Janet McTeer as Edith Prior on IMDB, but did they give us this information in the movie? Nope.

But why would they give us important information from the book? I mean, it's not like they were trying to adapt it or anything.

And for your final scene, it's Evelyn who shoots Jeanine at the end of the movie, instead of Tori shooting her during the invasion as revenge for the death of her brother and ruining Tris' chance of getting answers (before the message is aired). Sigh.

Guys, I don't even know. Seriously, WHAT HAPPENED? Did someone give you a really battered copy of the book with a bunch of pages missing, and you either didn't notice stuff was missing, or you just filled in the blanks yourself?

I mean, I get it - movies are never the same as books. But that doesn't mean that they can't be GOOD. Again, I refer you to Catching Fire - it wasn't the exact same as the book, but it was really damn good, because the changes they made were meaningful. God, even the changes made to the Breaking Dawn movies were really good - in fact, those movies were even better than the book.

I wish the people who made Twilight had made this movie instead. (Ouch!)

I'm sure I might've found this movie mildly compelling if I hadn't read the book, but even so, there were parts that were just ridiculously over-the-top and self-indulgent.

Like I said, what little hopes I had for this movie? Crushed. I've never been so unhappy about being right.

I honestly don't know if I will see the Allegiant movies if/when. I mean, I probably will, because that's what I do, but there is so much more that they could get wrong in that book, that I'm actually afraid of how bad it could be.

So... if you have never read the books, and you don't have a particularly high standard for action movies, then you might have fun seeing Insurgent. If you're a big fan of the book series and you want to see a beautifully complex second book of a trilogy brought to life before you on the screen... well, you're kinda SOL.

But to end things on a positive note, here's Theo James:


Your face, sir. Your faaaaaaaaaaace.

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