Showing posts with label insurgent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label insurgent. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Insurgent (2015)

For a teenage-dystopian film in a sea of teenage-dystopian films, how does it stand out from the crowd? As a person, how do you accept your individuality in a world that shuns your differences, or in Tris Prior's case hunts you down? Insurgent addresses these ideas as it reunites us with the franchise created by author Veronica Roth.

Civilians of a futuristic Chicago are sorted into a faction system based on five virtues; honesty, amity, selflessness, bravery, and intelligence. Heroine Tris Prior, who defies the norm by qualifying for more than one faction, is on the run from the power-hungry leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) trying to eradicate those similar to Tris. The clash between an immeasurable hero and the society that can't confine her will inadvertently unlock secrets about the fate of their secluded world.

Taking us back to the Divergent world established by director Neil Burger in 2014, director Robert Schwentke separates this sequel from its predecessor. Every sequel gets a much grander stage than its prequel, and the sets, special-effects, and costume are not just familiar from what we've seen before but are improved upon. Amplifying its special-effects  and packing in much more gunfire, the action-packed scenes balances an empathetic portrait of Prior and delivers enough interest for the next installments - for readers and non-readers alike. With Schwentke attached to the next two installments, I look forward to how this world is going to grow.

While the film holds up in adventure, it also succeeds in bringing to light an individual defying the stereotypes of her society's enforced conformity. Like a million similar heroes we know in books and films, Prior is in search of accepting her identity. Defined as defective by the world, her evolution is not degraded or dumbed-down by other characters telling her who she should be. Instead, she is figuring it out for herself and that is the main draw. Though some of the script is not entirely organized, Priors' defiance of categorization is satisfying and rewarding as a viewer.

A great credit for the authenticity of the leading lady is Shailene Woodley. For such a young actress, she remains a versatile and intriguing talent. Equally, her main counterpart Theo James, continues to be a refreshing partner as her character's love interest, Four. Their relationship is not about coddling each other or playing cat-and-mouse with each other's emotions, which has tarnished the young adult genre. Together and alongside so many other members of the cast, the actors boost each other's performances and characters. Even if the story is centered around Prior, the film does not selfishly hold Woodley hostage to be a one-woman show. Everyone gives validity to their role whether it's leading or minor.

As a reader of the series, my only main con is that the translation of the world-building could have fared better. This is something I struggled with even when reading the novelsso the films are not necessarily to blame. The script does improve upon the motivations of Jeanine's hunt for divergents from the first film, however it can still feel disordered at times. While I truly look forward to Allegiant Part 1 and 2, part of my gripe towards the YA genre overall is that one story takes four movies to complete. Is this a fandom I love to be apart of? Sure, and each Divergent installment feels like its own stand-alone film. However, it's the in-between sections where I start to feel impatient towards the studios' prolonged cash-grabbers.

The Divergent Series is not trying to compete against the untouchable pedestal that has been emphatically (and wrongfully, in my opinion) gifted to The Hunger Games franchise. Instead the films are constructing their own world and heroine as best as possible. Compared to other aspiring series that were complete bombs due to horribly weak scripts or non-interest by audiences, Roth's series is managing to carve out a name for itself. The success of the series may not be in its ability to create a franchise-making logo of a bird encased by an inferno but the praise-worthy showcase of a layered heroine, visual aesthetics, and talented cast.

Rating: ★ ★

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Insurgent by Veronia Roth

By the looks of my previous review for Divergent by Veronica Roth (the predecessor to this book), it would seem that I would not touch the rest of the series with a ten foot pole. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, because a girl crush for Shailene Woodley commenced followed by a decent adaptation, I somehow felt compelled to put myself through continuous torture. So, here is my review of Insurgent.

Picking up where the last book finished, our heroine Tris and her beau Four have ended the first round of drug-induced simulations where Dauntless (brave faction) were brainwashed to commit mass genocide against Abnegation (selfless faction). On the run from Jeanine Matthews, head of the Erudite faction (intelligence), the lovebirds and company escape to Amity (peace faction). Their next move is to discover why Matthews is hellbent on capturing the Divergent - society members like Tris and Four with special traits that make them immune to her mind-controlling substances. (Go with me on this!)

In a future dystopian world, Chicago is the main setting for Roth's story. Fenced in to incorporate five dramatically-different factions, the personality traits seem straight out of Harry Potter Sorting Hat with the characters' adventure taking notes from The Hunger Games. Part of me was grateful that my wish was fulfilled for the sequel to develop it's worldbuilding. Understanding how the science of the technological advancements, and a few of the actually unexpected plot twists, was by far the most improved aspects of the book. By far this was the best improvement to the story (as well as the necessary character development included below).

However, the other part of me wished the writing technicalities lived up to the worldbuilding.  Most of all the prose seemed to repeat itself. I can't count how many times Tris was at "the edge" of crumbling to pieces to symbolize an emotional breakdown or a stone sat in her stomach to emotionalize guilt. Dangerous situations in which the characters found themselves on the "brink of new information that could solve everything" usually lapsed into a catch-up meet and greet in every faction. New characters were often introduced within a few pages that would go on to reappear later to help out Tris in some way. The story would pause, let Tris break down, reignite her fears and determination - then presto, the goal of discovering why Matthews was trying to implement the serums would be back on track.

A major issue I had with Divergent was the dialogue which was cringe-worthy and the inability to tell characters apart - because of the lack of diverse communication. All of the characters' personalities ranging from younger teenagers to adults continued to collide into snarky sarcastic behavior. For a series about intrinsically different personalities, everyone sounded the same. A rolledex of the same insults and comebacks seemed to appear every other page. "Whatever" signified the end of a cutesy quarrel. Two characters that came from the same faction would mock each others' similar traits - repetitively. Tris and Four would gravitate towards honest believable exchanges before the dialogue would return to mush. Relating back to the prose, which did provide more than several chapters of substantial consistent storytelling and exposition, the written tone felt like Roth was capable of accessing deeper material but didn't or wouldn't flush out.

What made the story perhaps the most beneficial was Tris Prior continuing to be a truly refreshing dystopian leading character. I can often see Prior verus Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) are the subject of debates for best leading heroine of the modern YA age. For me, Tris wins hands down. Inhabiting three of the five personality traits that make up the futuristic Chicago; selfless, brave, and smart, Tris is multifaceted in that she makes her own decisions by her own emotions and doesn't do so with the hopes of gaining her loverboy's approval. For the strict confinements that are offered in the setting, it's pretty awesome that she is capable of being more than a one-dimensional character - which everyone else seems to be. There's a constant struggle of standing up for herself and being brave for others in the most dramatic of crises.

Furthermore, I found Four to be a well-developed boyfriend/leading male character. What I find most frustrating in YA fiction is that couples run together on the same dependence trope; giving each other ultimatums, making it seem like the other person's love is all they have to live for. Sometimes they are forced to be so in love they lose their own identity. With Four and Tris, there is a magnetic friendship that blooms into an adolescent romance. Tris is not constantly wondering if what she does or says will lose the attraction he has for her. Four and Tris' emotions and decisions are separate, and where they collide in understanding each other's motives and their violent, chaotic circumstances. But rarely does Four hold Tris emotionally hostage, which makes their relationship an even better partnership.

Divergent was by far one of the most challenging reads to undertake in a long while. Its story and characters seemed so foreign to me, the mega-phenomenon this series has grown to be failed to live up to the hype. With Insurgent, and now thoroughly engrossed with the movies and characters, the world-building factor and main character's evolution was satisfying, even if the writing failed on so many levels. Perhaps even moreso, the material made me question if this story was worthy of three books to reach its conclusion. Is the material strong enough for me to sit through a reading of the third and final book Allegiant? Unlike my first review I truly may just wait for the movie.
Rating: ★ ★