Tuesday, April 8, 2014
A Powerfully Divergent Message
The #1 Bestselling Profile Of A Pre-Ordained Future Shines A Light On All Of Us
ARTH VADER (AV): Based on the incredibly popular first book in a series so popular, nearly every teenager in North America has a grasp on it, Divergent is a story based on the first in eerie sod books that portray a post-apocalyptic society, hell-bent on deceit, control and compartmentalization of the human spirit. Like the book, the story centers around a society re-structured in “old” Chicago after ‘the war’ (as identified in the movie). Clearly something awful happened and this new society has rooted itself in the ashes of the old one. In this choking and sobering dystopia, people are split into five factions; Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (truthful), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave), based on their personalities. As a citizen of this “New Chicago” (“Buck Rogers in The 25th Century” much?), your personality must conform to one of these factions, pointy, or else.
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): This film is just slightly “divergent” from the novel of the same title, written by Veronica Roth. The areas where it differs aren’t really make or break points for the purposes of the film but no doubt fans of the book will likely have issues anyway. The idea of it all was intriguing to me as diversity is part of the human condition, a fact both embraced and rebuffed by this future society.
CASTING, DIRECTING AND ACTING
AV: There are some terrific casting decisions made for Divergent, Ponty. Shailene “The Secret life Of An American Teenager” Woodley plays the lead as Tris and heads up an impressive and surprisingly well-casted array of actors to help bring Divergent to life. Jai “I, Frankenstein” Courtney is fast becoming a go-to onscreen bad ass as Eric, the crooked training instructor. Who else is in this film you ask? Glad you did Ponty because I enjoyed Mikhi “8-mile” Pfier as the sinister Max. The other-worldly beauty of Maggie “Nikkita” Q, Kate “Titanic” Winsett as the devious Jeanine and Ray “Punisher oh, wait, i mean Thor” Stevensen as Marcus. Even an heiress to music royalty, Zoë “After Earth” Kravitz appears as the lovely and chaotic Christina and last but certainly not least is the stunning Ashley “Kiss The Girls” Judd as Tris’ Mom, Natalie.
TP: The casting was well done and the actors convinced me of the realness of their characters. Shailene Woodley’s “Tris” was a character I found myself rooting for as she navigated the demands of her faction within the larger scheme of the plot. I was also intrigued by “Four”, played by Theo James. His portrayal as a catalyst and mystery kept me interested in his fate, especially as it related to the machinations of “Eric” (played by Jai Courtney). Courtney is paving the road to being known for menacing roles, and his work here is certainly more ground work for that. Kate Winslet was also menacing, but in a much more subtle, yet more dangerous, way. Moving at a moderate pace, director Neil Burger didn’t let me fall asleep.
AV: Depicting the blasted out remnants of ‘old’ Chicago was a CGI-flavored victory here, my friend. The beautifully rendered ‘reclaimed’ Chicago is breathtaking to behold. The visual effects largely support the story–what there is of it–and that is as it should be. The ‘dream’ sequences were eye-popping and stunning to behold. I tend to gravitate toward SF/X that are invisible in the tapestry of a story and this movie does great by the viewer by not having social effects–by design or by chance–that get in the way.
TP: There was nothing new added to the special effects seen in films today, but there was also nothing by way of effects that detracted from the film. The effects used moved the story along and in the end, this film was not made or broken by effects.
TAKING DEEPER LOOK
AV: So here’s where I weigh-in on this film, Pontificator. I root for really strong female leads and Divergent come strong with Tris, a ‘Divergent’ (that’s someone who doesn’t conform to any of the five factions, yet shows strong tendencies toward all of them) who represents a threat to this new societal order. Inserting the dopey onscreen love interest of Theo “Underworld” James felt forced, and unnecessary. So much so that I feel Tris would be a stronger character without him. Furthermore, I found myself relating deeply to the main character’s plight. As a writer, designer and artist, I would NOT be one to conform to this system, and would likely be put down with a bullet to my head. I won’t give away major plot points here but I will share that the message of ‘don’t be labeled by society’ and don’t conform like cattle’ was very refreshing to me as the parallels to Nazi German society were haunting. The foreshadowing to the film’s “great wall of protection” made me want to know more and the film smartly, doesn’t engage my curiosity but instead chooses to tease me about an impending danger. So while I still struggle with this movie as another “young in’ saves our world” storyline, I must say, I enjoyed this film. P-Man?
TP: Well Vader, despite my enjoyment of this film, there was always an underlying feel that there was so much more going on that I wanted to know. For me, it was the society in general that intrigued me the most. The idea of society being separated and broken down into five factions had me salivating for more on how they interacted and made it all work… Abnegation, for the selfless; Amity, for the peaceful; Candor, for the honest; Dauntless, for the brave; and Erudite, for the Intelligent. Let’s face it, the idea that you had to be a part of Candor to be a lawyer just floored me. Although I loved the details of Dauntless, how did they interact with the rest of society as protectors and police? Since Erudite felt they should run things (an obvious progression if you are part of a faction created for your intellect) it was no surprise that they came up with the science to do just that. What was confusing, however, was why the leaders of Dauntless would go along with their scheme. Why would they give control of their entire faction personnel over to the leaders of Erudite, with no oversight themselves? What was the gain for them to do that? What would stop the Erudite from eliminating the Dauntless leaders and why hadn't the leaders of Dauntless considered this? What happens to those aging in Dauntless? Are they discarded to be faction less?With so many unanswered questions, I felt a lot was missing from the story.
AV: Obviously there is more to come. The Divergent series of books is a hugely literary success with young people and since both “Insurgent” (book 2) and “Allegiant” (book #3?) are in pre-production (as of the writing of this blog) I think it is a fair bet that future releases are inevitable. Let’s hope that means more fiercely independent development of Tris and not more love-smitten shenanigans over the hot-boy-of-the-hour. This movie–this story–has a greater potential I pray it lives up to it.
ARTH VADER rates Divergent: Perhaps it was the rich-diversity in the casting, maybe it was the simplistic character development or maybe my expectations were just low but this film was enjoyable. While I could hardly urge our readers to go to the theaters for this one, it is good, solid and morally sound Sci-Fi. From one Divergent to another, I give this one a dystopian-skewed 7 busted blocks and keep my fingers crossed this franchise gets better as it goes.
THE PONTIFICATOR rates Divergent: A good movie with moderate action and intriguing story, “Divergent” was certainly entertaining. My need for answers to my questions detracted a bit from the film, but it was still able to bust six (6) blocks in it’s attempt to diverge itself from other films.