Directed by: Neil Burger
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Asley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, and Kate Winslet
Opening: March 21st 2014
The Plot: In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she's Divergent and won't fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it's too late. (Note to reader - I cut and pasted this plot right out of the heart of IMDB's page for the film. Such is the disinterest I am ensconced in for it...)
The Film: I can appreciate the irony of a vast mob of introverts, dressing up in costumes, braving crowded midnight book releases, and lining up in military formation for a fetish property like Divergent this weekend at the local Cineplex, every last one of them identifying with the solitary individual.
The black sheep. The outcast. The rebel. The Tris. The Katniss. The Ender Wiggins.
There's a fortune to be made in the snowflake market. (selling a promise to a massive market that they are anything but a massive market, and are, in fact, rare as snowflakes) As a Star Trek fanatic I understand the concept of strength in numbers and controlled, collective rebellion.
What I fail to understand, on absolutely every level, is how this so-called Divergent world works exactly.
The post-nuclear-war Divergent society seems to be based entirely on five different aspects of some self-help messiah's personality test. One of those tactically honed 100 question tests crafted to make you feel like... well, like a special snowflake.
The first obvious thing you notice about this current crop of YA-adaptations (that's "Young Adult" for the OA's) is that they are mostly metaphors for life in high school. What you are, is, of course, what you wear and who you hang out with. In the Divergent fan-base's defense, if I found myself wandering the halls of some high school, encrusted in zit-cream, boners arriving and leaving like the rush of underground subway trains, hoping like hell I was doing my best to fit in - the idea of a society set-up to legally force me into the exact right group for me might sound pretty savory.
In Divergent you get five choices. Choose Dauntless and you'll be dressed smartly in black and spend lots of time yipping and howling as you parkour across the rooftops of Chicago, and fight, and share toilets with the rest of the warrior class. Choose Abnegation and you get to dress like a Mormon Fundamentalist as you take care of the poor and generally run the government. Choose Erudite and they put a blue suit on you and sit you down in computer lab with the rest of the dorks. Choose Candor and...? Tell the truth?? (talk about running out of ideas) Or you can choose to be part of the Amity collective and spend the rest of your natural life out under the burning sun, in a brown hemp poncho, plucking turnips out of the ground.
What you cannot do, what you must never do, is be good at any of those things combined. To do that means you've gone "Divergent." To be Divergent is a DEATH SENTENCE in this society. So erase all hopes of ever being a warrior/computer nerd/farmer in this community.
Also... do I have to point out that no teenager, not one who has ever existed, would ever in a trillion years choose to be a gawdamn dirt farmer? Ever?
Another troubling issue in this movie is the weird spikes in technology. These people have nano-probes that can reprint dreams and thoughts on the big screen - for testing purposes mainly, but also because the acting is so stiff in this film the audience is going to need visual cues as to just what it is everybody's thinking - but we still can't turn most of the power on in Chicago? The Erudite develop mind control juice, and a computer system to control the kids who've been injected with the juice - but we don't have partitions in the bathrooms so people can poop together with at least something left to the imagination?
It is just now that I realize that I haven't really covered the film in any real way a film analyst should. Obviously Shailene Woodley was chosen for this role because she was so great in Alex Payne's The Descendants. She's a cute girl, with the gooey eyes of a soft, baby rabbit, and a fine little actress. She's new to the world of Hollywood career building so she gets a pass for jumping into this Hunger Games/Harry Potter/Starship Troopers knock-off.
Who doesn't get a pass is Kate Winslet.
How you can go from winning an Oscar in The Reader, (or being in Little Children, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind...) to playing Pol-Pot, by way of Katie Couric, in this Divergent adaptation is a complete mystery to me. Winslet is Divergent's central villain. She's the one little Tris must punch repeatedly in the face if she ever hopes to be respected as a Divergent in her world. What I got out of her performance is that it certainly seemed like Dame Winslet (because you just know that's in the pipeline) decided to tackle the role of lead villain between naps.
There's such an environment of lethargy in just about every avenue of this production, it's impossible to generate any enthusiasm for the film. As a matter of fact, during the Divergent screening earlier this week I kept checking the entrances of the theater to make sure nobody was pumping clouds of car exhaust into the auditorium through green garden hoses.
Not that I wouldn't have welcomed a spirited bout with death by asphyxia at any point during this terrible, terrible movie.
The Verdict: Divergent sucks. Even worse, it sucks with next to no passion about sucking. It just sits there... sucking away while we watch it suck away.