Insurgent: Matrix rip-off or Matrix tribute?

Naomi Watts is 46 and does not look anywhere near old enough to be playing Theo James’ mother, to the point that it actually took me out of the movie because I thought they were going too far to make the cast sexy. Photos courtesy Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate

Insurgent picks up six months after then first film with the lead characters’ discovery that the machines are drilling into Zion. Wait a minute…

Insurgent picks up three days after Divergent with the lead characters on the run from the Erudite ruling class, which assumed power from the lead characters’ home class Abnegation in the first movie. They are quickly found and sent on the run again, and spend the majority of the film continuing on the run, organizing an insurrection as they go. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) suffers nightmares and acute guilt, as she holds herself responsible for much of the death in Divergent. Eventually, she is forced to give herself up to Erudite for experimentation on a weird box the bad guy, Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), found.

All of this is shot in a way obviously inspired by The Matrix series and Inception, with repeated use of that Nightmare on Elm Street trick in which the dream sequences are revealed in surprising, organic ways.

Insurgent carries over Divergent’s poor, jarring pacing, which is its biggest problem. Situations change too fast for the audience to find any footing. Tense situations end before they peak, and eventually, they stop developing any tension at all since the audience is so ready to be whisked swiftly to the next scene.

This should be particularly miffing for book fans, who would have been guessing just as much as the rest of the audience. The movie is wildly different from the book, which features a much less streamlined story and Matthews hunting Prior to develop a serum to control divergents, who are immune to the one-personality-type-fits-all serum that controls everyone else because these personality traits are genetic and/or racial, for some reason.

Ripoff. Definitely ripoff.

The dystopian faction-based society in this series still makes absolutely no sense. CinemaSins does a great job of pointing this out, as well as breaking down how much Divergent feels like a ripoff of other, better young adult adaptations. It’s all predicated on the idea that people only have one character trait, which creates necessarily boring, one-dimensional characters. “Divergent” characters, particularly Prior, suffer the opposite effect and are too well-rounded, becoming a just as boring completely neutral protagonist. This is particularly highlighted when she is tested for the pacifist faction, when she straight-up breaks character because she knows she’s being tested.

Characters in the courageous military-police group can’t be smart enough to lead, members of the charitable faction can’t be honest about their donations — so, if it takes intelligence to lie, and honesty and intelligence are mutually exclusive traits, are the other three factions honest or dishonest? Are they dishonest without the intelligence to deceive? THIS STUPID SOCIETY DOESN”T MAKE ANY GOD DAMN SENSE

The ripoff element is important to Insurgent because of its bizarre connection to The Matrix series. The announcement trailer and much of the film take place in either obvious dream sequences or Matrix-like simulations to test a subject’s all-important personality type. There was also this Super Bowl advertisement and the posters, most of which look something like this, obviously mirroring this scene from The Matrix Reloaded. 

It’s difficult to say whether this is a tribute or a ripoff. The series don’t really have any concepts or plot points in common and there’s no obvious connection between the cast and crew. In a way it takes creativity to mimic something with such visual style, but it also displays a lack of creativity that the film doesn’t develop its own.

With no obvious reason why Insurgent is so wholly drawn from these other movies, the question becomes about why we have to ask it at all.

Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Liquor has come to Denton! I’ve had a change of heart about reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter when I can be bothered to make one, and shoot questions to reelentropy@gmail.com.

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3 Responses to Insurgent: Matrix rip-off or Matrix tribute?

  1. Steven Stone says:

    Actually when I started watching it, and indeed throughout the whole thing I was reminded of one movie. A movie that flopped, a movie I still felt was more entertaining than this with far, far better action sequences. I of course refer to Æon Flux. Nothing original here people, move along.

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