Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Divergent (2014) Film Review SPOILERS!

I actually watched this one the other day so I might have forgotten a few minor details but what still remains is the confusion at how a film with seemingly such a good premise could fail quite so badly. Possibly the screenplay writer or the director could have done with making it slightly grittier, a la The Hunger Games. Because this film already borrowed heavily from that film. Aside from the obvious Katniss/Triss comparisons which are stupid anyway because we are allowed to have more than one female protagonist per decade (and because Tris doesn't compare to Katniss - she's a sap) it even opens on a Reaping-style day with all the teenagers about to go through a ritualistic (yearly?) ceremony deciding their fates, and the “strong” female protagonist having her hair done by her mother in preparation. What is it with these YA dystopian films and having their hair done-did? Could you guess, too, that there's even a motif of birds running through the film? Instead of a mockingjay she has tattooed onto her (ooh, edgy) a flock of birds flying, and it also seems to be one of her fears. Original.

So we have Tris (right now still plain ol’ Beatrice) and she’s completely ordinary. She does her chores, keeps her head down, has no arguments, displays no out of the ordinary behaviour that would set her apart from the rest of the girls in her faction. Then they do the test and, ohmygod, she’s different. She’s unique and set apart from the crowd (except she’s not. I’ve seen the trailer for the second film. There’s billions of them! Even, coincidentally, the guy she falls in love with) and she’s dangerous too, because her mind doesn’t work the way the government wants it to. WTF? No further explanation is given on that throughout the film, it’s just kind of rehashed with different words, because it’s a stupid premise.

Then she has to keep this big secret from everyone, even though that oh-so-mysterious brain checker (who also sidelines as a tattoo artist?!) knows fine well she’ll be caught out later anyway with the more intense examinations. That whole thing just seemed really silly to me anyway, like those crappy online personality tests you find online that determines your whole character from like 10 obviously worded questions about your pets. For some reason their results aren’t computerised in this advanced technological society and no one finds out that she hasn’t got a definite faction. But no one investigates her mysterious lack of results. Because it’s Tris, and she’s special.

Obviously she chooses the bad-ass faction that thinks they’re great but they’re more like squealing banshees for the first few scenes. Then Tris must have some calming effect on them because when she’s initiated there’s no more joyful shouting or anything. As soon as she jumps out of the train, Tris has a  personality transplant. She transforms immediately from average, quiet girl to outspoken and confident hero. But there’s no transition, and it just leaves her character feeling inconsistent and unreliable. That tends to be a problem throughout the film. All characters act a certain way until it suits the author that they should now be different and they instantaneously switch without warning. Four turns from miserable, anti-social guy to outgoing and kind, Peter goes from being sarcastic bully to quiet good guy, the maths geek goes from unassuming and weak to a murderer. It just doesn’t make sense.

More about Four. The brooding, handsome, mean guy she falls in love with. I hope they explain his name later on because it’s a bit strange that he chose a number for himself as his permanent name to last forever. Four is awful to them all really, for no reason. Then he takes a special liking to Tris because she speaks back to him at dinner or something even though when Lenny Kravitz’s daughter does it he has a go at her. The writers obviously took tips from Twilight about this romance subplot because their main method of communication is staring at each other an uncomfortable amount, and he unfairly helps her over the other newbies even though she’s the worst and weak as anything. But we get a montage which seems like a night or two where she does a bit of extra practice with a punching bag so then after that she’s ripped and excels at fighting. Obviously. The only good bits in these scenes are the banter between the friends.

After Tris gets kicked out but she decides she’s above the rules and tags along with her faction and no one bats an eyelid there’s a long, pointless scene where they fight and shoot each other for flags but it adds nothing to the film except for Tris and Four to bond and it’s boring and drags. I mean, leadership should have really bothered, knowing they’re just going to be used as pawns in a robot army in the next scene anyway. What were they hoping to teach them?

Four helps Tris disguise her divergent-ness and it’s all very lovely. They stare. She finally gets inside of his head (literally) and finds out why he’s so mean. Then they are the only two divergents and they find each other, then there’s a very, very conveniently timed reappearance from Tris’ mother to save her life at the very last second. We also learn Tris is a heartless bitch when she cries for about a minute when her mum dies then when her dad dies within the same hour she doesn’t shed a tear. WTF? Both your parents just died! Don’t you care? Nope. She only cares when Four has been programmed to kill her (anyone remember when this happened to Peeta in THG?) then she cries because “I love you, it’s okay. I love you.”


They’ve kissed once. They’ve known each other about a week. And now she loves him. Please. For just one second of this film could we not be treated to some believability?

Obviously Tris wins over bitchy Kate Winslet with the dodgey accent and boring name (Jeanine is not a villain name, that’s more like a distant aunty who force feeds you biscuits when you visit) and it ends happily with them on the train off into the sunset. So cheesey. And still no one but her brother cares about the parents dying! Within an hour of each other!

I didn’t particularly like Divergent, as you might have been able to guess. The story was a blatant set up for further action and it was just plain boring in most parts. The love story was contrived but I was glad at least we were spared the dreaded love triangle. Compared to its YA dystopian action film predecessor The Hunger Games it really falls short. It seems more like a money-maker than an attempt to make a brilliant film for teenagers. It’s all about making the next big franchise now and they’ve even split the last book in the trilogy into a two-parter. Shock. It steals all the wrong elements from THG so it’s neither original nor impressive. Apparently Insurgent, at least financially, is doing as well as Divergent on its opening weekend. I’m hoping for the film’s sake as well as the fans of the books that their experience won’t be ruined any more by gaping plot holes, inconsistent characters, too conveniently timed deus ex machina, and cheesiness. Hopefully this series gets better, but I’m not holding my breath.