Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Divergent

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion, that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching! When will this golden age of Tween-centric Fiction end?




Divergent – 1 out of 5

When I got to finally achieve my lifelong dream of visiting my holy land of San Diego Comic-Con, the first thing I did was get involved with a drawing for the autographs of this film.  It’s not that I really wanted the autos (in fact, I gave the poster away after getting it) but there was nothing else going at the time and my niece really wanted them so having me there only helping her chances.  Anyway, I did end up getting the autographs but, and here’s my point, that was when I discovered Divergent, the latest tween dystopia book saga that was adapted into a movie.

Now there's a man who looks like he carries around a copy of his band's demo tape
everywhere he goes and really, really wants you to listen to it right now.
 

In Future Chicago, society has boiled itself down to five factions in order to control its population (don’t think too deeply into this concept because it is pretty ridiculous—even by dystopian fiction standards).  You have the selfless (Abnegation), the peaceful (Amity), the honest (Candor), the brave (Dauntless), and the smarty-pants (Erudite). 

Just a quick stop here...the Dauntless are the soldiers/police force in this dystopia but
are shown mostly running around laughing and climbing on things...I have no idea
how this society is functioning in any productive way.

However, there is one more class they don’t speak of and those are the ones who carry multiple traits from several factions.  They are called Divergent.  They are independent and impossible for the government to control—so they don’t like the Divergents very much.  When the time comes for young Tris (Shailene Woodley) to be chosen for the Hunger Games tested to see which faction she belongs to, she is (and here’s a shocker) discovered to be a Divergent.  She is told by others to keep this a secret and she finds herself joining up with the Dauntless faction.  There she is tested to see if she belongs and meets the man who will be her prerequisite love interest; Four (Theo James).  Soon, her and Theo discover that the evil Erudite leader Jeanine (really?  The bad guy is named Jeanine?  Well, at least we have Kate Winslet playing the evil Jeanine) has plans to use mind control devices to kill all of the Abnegation class.  Now it’s up to Tris to reveal her Divergent-isms and stop them and be the hero that she was born to be.

Because baby, she was born this way.
 

Like anytime I watch something that was clearly not made for me, I admit that I was not the intended audience for this film and base my entire review on my experience of being an alien in the audience.  When the tween novel by Veronica Roth was optioned to be made and become the next Hunger Games, the production wasn’t thinking, “Hey, we should make this movie for that dork Rev. Ron!”  However, even though I’m not the guy they intend to buy the tickets on opening day…or a week later…or a month, or even when it hits the budget theater and then RedBox, there is still the chance that I might like the film.  Hell, I gave the Hunger Games a shot and even though I didn’t really care for the film, I had enough interest put into me to watch the sequel and I actually liked that one.  So, even though I acknowledge I’m not the droids that the production was looking for, I didn’t rule out that there wasn’t a glimmer of a chance for me liking it.




Hopefully she is not like those fish that attack their
own reflection.
 

But, in the end, I didn’t care for it.

"Quick pose for our album cover..."
 

While I won’t knock the audience that does like the film, I have to admit that there are a lot of problems and clich├ęs that come with this tween subgenre of dystopian societies that involve a female character rising up against the oppression but manages to fall in love with the nearest guy with the perfect jawline that was pretty antagonistic towards her but she suddenly loves out of nowhere and with no real “getting to know each other” development.  Despite the title, the characteristics of a majority of the characters, and a lot of the basic plot elements, is really no different than any of the other tween books about dystopias out there.  Hell, the Abnegation faction looks suspiciously like Katniss’ district in The Hunger Games and they even settled for casting the daughter of one of the stars from that franchise.
"Alright, we don't want to be compared to The Hunger Games so let's be careful with
our cast.  Get me Lenny Kravitz's daughter!"

 
"Fools.  You can't oppose me.  For I am Jeanine."
Visually, the film looks fine.  The dilapidated buildings and the dull color schemes help set the tone of the film’s story quite well.  Hell, even the acting is pretty decent.  Granted, I didn’t see a powerhouse performance anywhere in the running time (despite having Ashley Judd and Kate Winslet in the cast) but the acting really wasn’t bad—even with Shailene Woodley’s performance seeming to be mostly just staring wide-eyed around her immediate area and refusing eye contact.  However, the complete lack of any really compelling characters helps only to make the passable acting look worse than it really is.

Incidentally, this was the same look I had the entire time I watched the movie.


I already mentioned how “by the numbers” the story is and how, basically, it looks no different from any other of these tween pop culture crack morsel that the kids can’t get enough of.  However, this one seems to do things a lot worse than The Hunger Games did but infinitely better than something like The Mortal Instruments did.  Yes, you have your female hero but she is no Katniss.  Instead of being determined with purpose and duty, Tris is born into her abilities.  She isn’t brave because she has to overcome anything, she was just born as a Divergent and just has to master being said Divergent and that’s why she has skills, talent, and bravery.  I hate to keep comparing this film to The Hunger Games but, even though I didn’t care for the first film, it still handles its hero a lot better than Divergent did.

I have to assume that Ray Stevenson's character will play a bigger role in the franchise
because he kinda looks like he just wandered on set and forced himself in the film.
 

Okay, so your female hero isn’t that special because she didn’t really have to overcome anything beyond really working on her birthright—that shit happens with male heroes, too.  Just look at Wolverine.  We have absolutely no reason to see anything cool in him because all of his bluster, bravery, and badassness exists only because the guy can heal fast and, in turn, takes a lot to kill him.  So, Tris is basically an X-man…only she has lame mental fortitude powers and not the ability to shoot optic blasts from her eyes, teleport, or have claws that shred their way out of her hands.  In all honesty, Tris’ hero’s journey isn’t bad because she is just written to be born with the right genes, it’s lame because of how grossly predictable it is.

Holy fuck, this movie just went all Battlefield Earth.
 

The tween dystopia story has become so big so fast that they are on the verge of parodying themselves due to their common formula.  Every genre eventually gets to the point where it will call itself and its bullshit out but this tween dystopia subgenre might end up doing it sooner than later.  Divergent is so alike its other tween pop culture droplets that the film is entirely too predictable.  Right off the bat, you knew the film would be about the hero finding out what makes her all hero-y and that she would train to hone her hero-y stuff and that some conflict will occur that makes her put her hero-y stuff into action…then, along the way, she falls for the guy she has very little meaningful interaction with and, because she has the mentality of the audience watching it, quickly falls in love with him for reasons that can only be explained by the fact he has dreamy eyes and he gives her lady-boners.  All of this happens in Divergent and happens so expectedly that you can easily zone out for an hour, return to the film, and know exactly where you are.  To make matters even worse, this formula also means your characters develop in the exact way you expect.  So, the whole “zoning out” scenario is only given further support because the characters will neither grow or change in any meaningful way that you couldn’t have already guessed from the moment they were introduced.

"I love you because you're attractive..."
 

Gah!  Zombies!  Nope, sorry, I was wrong...of course,
that would have probably improved my score...
There is an audience for Divergent and that audience loves it.  I won’t mock them for that.  In the end, Divergent just wasn’t one of those dystopia tween novel adaptations that really spoke to me—granted, I only became a fan of The Hunger Games when the second movie came out…so, maybe, when the sequel Insurgent comes out next year, I may give it a shot and find that I enjoyed it more than this one.  However, judging by the foundation that was planted in this one—like the very obvious storytelling formula, passable acting, and characters that are just too bland to really care about—I don’t know if that prediction will come true.  When all is said and done, Divergent just wasn’t a movie for me and what I took away from it was just a lack of interest.

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