Directed by Neil Burger
Written by Evan Daugherty & Vanessa Taylor
Written by Evan Daugherty & Vanessa Taylor
Yes, sometimes you have to go and watch films you do not have much a desire to see. Although I am not being paid or completely published yet, it is time for me to go see everything. If you are going to be a film journalist or blogger, you must strive to be as objective as possible when it comes to opening weekend. You cannot just go to the movies you want to see, but watch everything: the good, the bad and the ugly. I saw Divergent this past weekend and it was a rough 2 and 1/2 hours. The film is quite bad and has a target audience which is definitely not myself. Also, my wife said we were going and that was that. I have to break out of the mold of only watching what peaks my interest and see the ugly. Well, to a point. I am paying for these tickets.
Divergent, based off the YA novel that sold, and I am sure still is, like gang busters, is set in a dystopian Chicago. The skyscrapers looked similar, but what happened to Lake Michigan? The world is sheltered by a huge barricade protecting the city from whatever malice is outside of its walls. Although there are farmers outside the walls, but I guess that is OK. They will make it. This dystopic, futuristic world is broken up into five factions: Abnegation, which are selfless, charitable and run the government; Amity, which are the farmers; Candor, which are honest and lawyers; Dauntless, which are the fighters and protectors; and Erudite, which are the scholars and the intelligent ones. There are also the factionless which are basically the homeless. These five factions are what control and keep order in this society.
We meet Beatrice Pryor (Shailene Woodley), daughter of Andrew (Tony Goldwyn) and Natalie (Ashley Judd), and brother of Caleb (Ansel Elgort). There family is of the Abnegation faction and Andrew is of some importance with government. Both children are teens and, in this society, must take an aptitude test to determine what faction they are going to be apart of. This feels important, but if you do not like what faction you score into, you can still choose whichever one you like. Beatrice takes the test, but something is awry. She has elements of all the factions and is very skilled, as proven in this goofy, hallucinatory exam. It is quite stupid in my opinion. This is bad. She is a Divergent and this society finds them to be of the highest threat to peace and an ironic sense of equality. Instead of cherishing, nurturing and educating the society on these special individuals, they are basically delinquents and are killed off. Good luck!
Beatrice is told to keep her mouth shut and choose whichever faction she wants to be with. She chooses Dauntless, much to the demise of her parents, and must pass a series of tests to be welcomed into this faction. This group jumps from running trains onto rooftops and trains. A jolly bunch. They train for preparation of an attack from outside the walls. They also, oddly and annoyingly, seem to sing and dance and hop around. Then, for what seems like well over an hour and a half, we see Beatrice, who changes her name to Tris, train and train and train. She fights her way up the point system so she can be accepted as a Dauntless. I know this film has a target audience of youthful teenagers, especially young woman, but this film is sloppy and terribly conceived. Ten minutes into it and I knew I was in for a long, boring ride. Again, I am not the target audience.
She is trained by the mysterious Four (Theo James) and the relentless Eric (Jai Courtney). Four is tough, but you can see the blossoming attraction and romance from a mile away. To contrast this relationship, you have the hard ass Eric, who basically is just an annoying human being on the screen. I cringed every time Courtney popped up because the acting, and mainly the writing, was so horrible. They obviously were not going for anything substantial here. Paychecks and to cash in on this "YA" market similar to the likes of the Twilight and The Hunger Games films. All I kept asking myself was 'are they even trying here?'
The film trudges along and there is a serious threat from the Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet). She has ulterior motives and wants to take over the Abnegation faction and rule the society as the governing body. Yes, a clash between Tris, the frightening divergent, and Jeanine is in the books. Remember, these divergents are bad and must be stopped. They do not have any superpowers, but could possibly have the ability to do something horrible cause they do not fit into one of the five factions.
I will give the film a little bit of positivity in that it attempts to promote young people, especially young woman, to be strong, yourself and not be categorized or placed into a certain program or way of being and thinking. You must be yourself and fight for that right. It also as a female heroine and we do not have enough of those in the male dominated Hollywood. I love that, but can it be in a quality, well-written film. The writing is so bad in this film that even one of the best actresses in the world, Kate Winslet, feels strange and off. Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor wrote an absolutely horrible screenplay. How long do we have to see Tris train and battle the odds? Give her some character. Give her some deep thought and mental challenges. Woodley is decent in the film, but nowhere near how good she was in Alexander Payne's The Descendants. I began to wonder if this was the same actress. I have already mentioned how awful Courtney is, but it honestly as to be the script more than anything else.
Burger, who directed the very good The Illusionist, must have gotten a good paycheck, because he is complicit, boring, uneventful and adds nothing to this terrible film. I wish I could say the acting was good, but nobody stood out. With those lines though, how could you. I can only imagine the book, written by Veronica Roth, is more in depth and explains some back story and history, but the film does not at all. It would have been nice to know why the society is they way it is and how it occurred. Why are there factions and who created this system? How is someone to be a divergent and why? I am sure since the target audience probably has read the book knows, but what about the rest of us. Bad movie all around.
Divergent is just an awful film. There is nothing I found enjoyable or suspenseful or well-made. This is a flat out bomb, but these films are hot right now and are going to sell tickets. I do not care what kind of film it is or what it is about, I want to see some quality in the writing, directing, production and acting. Too much CGI and sappy romance, but not enough story and character. I am sure the audience who is obsessed with the book will enjoy it, but for film lovers, this is as bad as it gets and shows the steady demise of Hollywood cinema.
Photo credit by screencrush.com.