Hello, Spongey here.
Well, it’s time to talk about YA once again. Awhile back I went into this world with Vampire Academy, a movie from last year no one saw because it was not good. However, I don’t think that fully captured what YA films tend to be like, despite the presence of Vampires.
So, against my better judgment, I’m looking at a film from last year that’s closer to what Modern YA films tend to be like. I’ve gone on about them before and how they aren’t for “Young Adults” at all, so I’ll skip the spiel.
You just need to know that these kinds of books are all the rage, especially the books. However, the landscape has changed a bit. YA films were mostly about supernatural creatures and romance and crap like that. However, eventually we got a type of YA film no one really expected.
The Dystopian Future YA film. When a little book called The Hunger Games hit the scene, people were shocked since it was a YA story that was about a Dystopian future, and because of that it was mature and more about telling a good story than having crappy romance.
Even the 2nd book which was about crappy romance did well. The target audience got sucked into it, as well as normal people. In some ways, this changed YA entertainment for the better, forcing most of the books and movies to focus more on story.
However, when something is popular, there’s always a ton of knockoffs that only care about cashing on the trend and nothing else. Thus, we’ve had a couple films trying to cash in on the Dystopia Trend, and perhaps the most well-known example is today’s movie.
Released in 2011, the original book got decent reception but as time went on, I heard plenty of complaints about logic and the obvious Hunger Games knockoff element. I’ve never read it so if you want comparison, go somewhere else.
I’m not gonna knock the book, cuz for all know it’s nothing like Hunger Games and it actually tries to be something interesting and original. I’m here to mock the movie, which has been mocked for all kinds of reasons.
While the author of the book was involved in the movie, all kinds of things can happen to make it…lesser, to say the least. Either way, this movie has had mixed reception, with a 41 on Rotten Tomatoes. It got better reviews than some others, but its’ still seen as the perfect example of the effect Hunger Games has had on YA films, in a bad way.
There is one difference: Most of these movies fail to start a franchise, while this one has a Sequel coming out. You gotta give it credit for having enough staying power to get a sequel while others usually get nothing.
With that sequel coming out, I figured go back and see if it’s worth getting angry over, or it’s actually an underrated gem. The director did Limitless, which was very good. One of the writers has done nothing, while the other has done Snow White and the Hunstman, which I actually enjoyed, and last year’s Ninja Turtles film, which I haven’t seen yet.
Yes, I’ll get to it.
So, let’s see how this YA adaptation holds up, if it’s any good at all.
This, is Divergent
After 2 minutes of logos, credits, and opening pan shots, the movie opens with narration telling us that the “War was terrible” and the world was destroyed.
“Our founder built the wall to keep us safe, and they divided us into 5 Groups”
Oh, this isn’t gonna be like Vampire Academy with its narration, is it?
Let’s go over the factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). Our humble narrator is in Abnegation, which helps runs the Government.
“Everyone knows what they belong. Except for me”
Yeah, I totally have no idea where this is going.
We get properly introduced to our narrator, who is Beatrice Prior, played by Shailene Woodley. Today she takes the test which recommends their best-suited faction. At this place, this lady tells what our narrator said but in a less subtle way: There was a big war and people were divided into groups to keep the peace.
Hey, it’s kind of like that other YA Movie…Mortal Instruments! …Wait..
She tells us that while they choose your best suited faction, you can pick whichever one you want later regardless. So…what’s the point of them picking it for you?
She takes the test which involves drinking this thing and tripping balls. At least that’s what I think is happening when she appears in a weird room where another one of her tells her to choose a way to fend off an attacking dog.
After thinking, she just tries to be nice to it, then it turns nice, then bad again, then it chases after a young version of her, she chases it and she wakes up.
Like I said, tripping balls.
Maggie Q here is worried and tells Beatrice that her results said she belongs in Anegetation…and Erudtite…and Dauntless..
“Your result were inconclusive”
Dun dun dun?
“They call it Divergent”
She tells her to just claim that she got Abnegation to keep things all normal and stuff. That won’t last long. I hope we find out why the test got all wonky. It could be that she displays attributes of all faction, which wouldn’t make sense given that we have no proof she acts like any kind of faction. She was nice to a dog. That’s it.
Otherwise, she’s a blank slate for far. But maybe the explanation makes sense. She goes home and tries to keep things under wraps which works and we cut to the choosing ceremony the next day. Beatrice goes up and she volunteers as tribute, I mean chooses Dauntless. Okay then.
After that, Beatrice meets a fellow new Dauntless named Christina and meet a Dauntless leader played by the son from Die Hard 5. Yay. Right away he says there’s going to be a test and they all must make a leap of faith. By that I mean they must jump from a tall building to a dark hole.
Beatrice volunteers to go first, making me kind of right when I made the cheap Hunger Games reference. She jumps and lands in a net. She meets the instructor and tells him her name is Tris. Good, that’s easier to type for me.
Speaking of names, this guy’s name is Four. First Hunger Games, now I am reminded of I Am Number 4. That movie no one saw, if you recall. Then we get the typical stuff with our trainees getting their uniforms and having the “obligatory cafeteria scene” as the Vampire Academy chick put it. This also involves plenty of training montages, and you may play your montage song of choice.
Eventually, Tris is forced to fight some random other chick to test their skills…or give us a catfight. Either one’s likely. That doesn’t really go anywhere and after it we get her getting a tattoo for some reason, and another training montage. We also have bits that show how tough the training is, and some of is pretty interesting to watch, I’ll admit.
Some of it even gets pretty intense, like when Tris has to stand in front of this board thing and not flinch as a guy throws knives at it. Damn. She does well and earns the respect of the others. Later she is forced to fight this random guy and she her ass handed to her. Thanks to this, she’s out.
This society confuses me. They tell you which faction you belong in but let you choose anyway, but then you gotta train in order to be in said faction and can possibly be kicked out? Just force them into one and stick with it!
Also, I don’t care if it made sense in the book, it should make sense in the movie too. Anyway, she escapes and joins her team and…they are cool with it. Huh? Before this can make sense, they jump into some war games they were doing before Tris came to. Long story short, she helps them win.
So that hospital stuff with her being out was pointless. Yay! The next day, Tris and her pals are doing stuff when her Mom pops up, having snuck in to tell her something. She is told that Tris is Divergnt and that’s bad because nobody likes them Divergent people.
Mostly because Divergents can think independently and the government therefore cannot control them, they are considered threats to the existing social order. In other words, Tris is a special little follower because the plot says she shows many amazing qualities when we’ve only kind of seen some of them. Yep, it’s a tween YA Movie.
Before Mom can say anything else, she leaves before she can be spotted. Later, Trix takes a test where they put stuff in her to make her have dreams that make her face her worst fears. She does well in record time which people find a bit odd. She talks to her friends only to bump into a well and suddenly be in a thingy full of rising water.
Yep, this was part of her weird dream test. Going all inception on us, nice. Her mentor dude is even more impressed and thinks something is up. She tells him she got Abnegation on her test and he doesn’t buy it. He still lets her go anyway.
Tris visits her brother Caleb, and he tells her that Erudite is planning to overthrow Abnegation and become the ruling faction. Oh, rebellion, now this movie can get interesting!
On her way back, she gets attacked by two guys and Four pops up to save her. One of those guys was Al, a teammate of hers. He’s being overshadowed by her so he did…that. Good sport, old chap.
Later, Al tries to say sorry and she doesn’t buy it for obvious reasons. So of course, he kills himself.
Wait, what. He …commits suicide a bit later? Um…wow. I wasn’t expecting that. I…don’t know this bugs me or not. One on hand, it’s an effective and dark moment that shows they are willingly to outside of their YA comfort zone. On the other hand….it tries way too hard to be “edgy” and it’s in a movie mostly for kids about 12-16 or so.
This thing is rated PG-13, not R! What’s next, are they gonna be put suicide in Spongebo-oh wait.
Tris is upset about this, and blames herself. Four says it’s not her fault cuz he was being an idiot, and she’s not sure if he’s right. Then we move onto another dream test.
Sigh, of course this really dark for a teen movie bit is pointless.
\Anyway, this time he takes Tris into his own fear simulation thingy to prepare for the final test. As part of his test, he has to….shoot a little girl for reasons I missed, and this time, he brings himself to do it.
When did this movie get so needlessly dark?! I mean, they cover it up by putting Tris in her place but come on, two showings of death in the span of about 10 minutes?!
Moving on, we find out Four’s name is Tobias and the scene just sort of ends. After that, they talk a bit and Tris asks to see his tattoo and of course that means he takes off his shirt. Through his, he says he doesn’t want to be just one thing, implying he may be Divergent.
Then they kiss. Oh hey a romance that didn’t exist suddenly exists, what a shock. This moment wasn’t too bad and I’ve seen worse but it feels darn obligatory. Then they forgot about it as we move on to our final test.
It combined all the previous tests, and it’s a pretty damn intense scene all things considered. This movie isn’t completely dull, I’ll give it that. Anyway, they go all inception on us with the test having a part where the people tell Tris to shoot a girl and when she does she wakes up.
Okay, stop with the death! This time it’s quick and stuff, but oh my god, why is still rated PG-13?! You could at least shake the camera like Hunger Games did!
Anyhoo, she passes, to the shock of no one. After the test, the new Dauntless are injected with a serum, supposedly for tracking. The next morning Tris is woken up and heads on a future train with the others for mysterious reasons.
As it turns out, it seems they are flat out invading Abnegation yet Tris and Four aren’t compelled to do so like the others. Tris runs to her Mommy but finds that her parents are not home. Eric catches Four and suspects he is Divergent so he puts a gun to him.
Tris pops up and aims a gun at him.
She doesn’t get a shot in because a gun is aimed at her. This is almost comedic with the escalation.
“She’s not gonna shoot”
“You may be overestimating my character”
…Are you watching me?
The two are eventually captured and taken to this leader chick we’ve seen but I haven’t gone into detail on her yet. She’s played by Kate Winslet which is cool I guess. She says they are invading Abnegation because they think they suck, I guess. Yeah, they think they are doing the right thing by taking them out of power, going back to the planned invasion thing.
Neat idea until you remember how cliche this is, for villains to act they are doing something right when they are not. After an argument, Tris is ordered to be executed. Mom finally pops up to save her and takes out the guys. Nice.
When they eventually come to, we have a chase scene which ends with Tris shooting and killing them.
“I killed them’
Whoa, are we gonna get a death scene that actually feels like it belongs in the movie? They just move on so….I’m guessing no. More guys pop up and kill Mom. Okay NOW we have death that matters! It’s cliché but it matters!
It’s kind of sad and I’ve seen worse attempts at this so I will let it slide and say it works. She runs to Dad and cries some more. Her acting is pretty good here, so that helps as well. They are in hiding now, but she’s gotta get back into Dauntless for our climax.
Wait, her Mom just died and she was crying but she gets over it a second she can be a badass? I get being so mad that she died you turn into a badass but it usually isn’t this rushed!
She bumps into a dude named Peter and she forces him to explain some stuff.
“It’s not like your gonna shoot me”
“Why do people keep saying that?”
He leads her to the place where the dauntless guys are being controlled from. Oh yeah, they are being mind controlled by the serum. They head in and Dad jumps into a room of gun totting guys to sacrifice himself.
Okay, is getting fucking stupid. Pardon my French but seriously?! Even if the Mom was the only death so far, this would be overkill. Having both parents’ die in the span of 10 minutes is overkill. Both could have been great scenes on their own, but due to this, the Dad one feels cheap when it could have worked without Mom and vice versa.
Seriously, at least Hunger Games didn’t linger on its many deaths (You know who aside) and the editing tricks made most of them less brutal. Plus, there’s other minor reasons I can see why that one got away with its rating while this is just dumb.
While Mom’s was lingered on nicely, here they just move on quickly. The situation calls for that but you get my point. She gets to Bad Guy HQ and finds Four under mind control. Kate Winslet pops up and says they are safer thanks to conformity.
Zombie Number 4 attacks Tris and naturally, we need a “You’re in there” fight. In this case, she uses his shown fear of killing to snap him out of it. It’s a cool scene but as you guessed it, it is a bit cliché.
They make it to big mind control thingy, where leader lady plans to make the Dauntless execute the entirety of Abnegation. Again, PG-13. After a struggle with a one liner, Tris injects the serum into her and She orders her to shut it all down, and she does. EPIC CLIMAX!
Yeah, it kind of works in context but whatever. Also, Mind control solves all problems! Anyway, the Dauntless are free and Tris and Four run to them and escape the place. She hugs it out with Four and Tris is sad over her parents and not knowing who she is due to being divergent and faction-less.
As they ride along on some train, Tris gives us a speech:
“We’re like the factionless now. We left everything behind. But we found ourselves in each other. Tomorrow we may have to fight again. But for now we’ll have to ride the train until the end of the line, and then we’ll jump”
…Usually I’d get super angry over the abrupt ending AND cliffhanger but I’m just…sighing, because this is yet another tired YA cliché. I mean, whenever any book series is adapted to a movie, that first one very arrogantly puts a cliffhanger, thinking it will be a big series and get another one.
Usually, this will leave you feeling empty, since the movie more or less has no true ending. Even if they do make a sequel, if the cliffhanger is poorly handled, you will wait like a year to see the actual ending.
This is one of those times. I’m shocked this one actually got a sequel, but whatever, at least it’s finally over. This thing is 130 minutes or so, geez. We’re done.
Meh. That’s the word of the day because every aspect of this movie makes it….meh. It has its very good bits, and it’s rather weak bits, making for a very…average experience.
For me, the best parts come from the author’s original vision and attempts to give us a unique experience with interesting ideas. The worst parts come from either the author’s attempt to do everyone else is doing, or Hollywood’s attempt to do so. Who knows, I heard the book has flaws but I’m 100 percent sure it lacks my issues with this one.
The problem here is that it feels so…obligatory. A lot of it seems like it’s there to cash in on the YA trend, doing everything they do. There are a lot of visuals cues and plot elements from The Hunger Games, and general stuff you see in these movies.
But taking that stuff aside, it has its strengths and weaknesses. It’s certainly a well-made movie with very solid direction, making for intense scenes sometimes. The visual aesthetic feels too familiar but that’s my only complaint as far as production.
It’s also a decently acted movie, mostly. Half the actors, just as Theo James as Number 4, are filling in their roles, while some, like Kate Winslet are very good. Like everyone else, I give the biggest credit to Woodley as she does a good job making her character more interesting than the script ever did.
There are some good ideas here beyond the cliché ones, and possibly interesting themes and character moments. However, the problems drag it down a bit in some areas. \
I went on about this, but it tries WAAAAY too hard to be edgy. I read an article telling the biggest differences between the film and book and it says the movie is LESS violent. If several deaths and a suicide is less violent, I don’t think this book is for me. Though to be fair, like in Hunger Games, it seems they just “showed” the stuff they simply implied here.
Hunger Games made it big for being more violent than your average YA story, and while that has higher body count, it actually fit with the story. Aside from the parents, all the death feels forced and it’s not pleasant to watch, nor is it compelling.
The Dad death cheapens what could have a nice moment, too. I have no problem with showing suicide or anything like that, it just needs to fit the story you’re telling.
As for the story itself, it’s half interesting, due to themes and such, half dull and predictable. I knew most of what was gonna happen which is fine since predictable doesn’t always mean bad, but here it did not work in its favor.
It hits a lot of the notes this kind of story usually does, and most of the cool bits are some specific parts rather than the story itself. I’m fine with that but they could have worked harder to make it less dull.
The biggest trappings of the story include the pointless romance, and how our hero feels too special and is less interesting as a result. You can make them part of this whole thing without feeling too sue-ish.
Speaking of which, this is a case where only like 2 character ever do anything. With Tris, they spend too much trying her into the story that they failed to make that interesting. She has some cool parts with her working hard, but the usual problems make her feel kind of dull despite their best efforts.
Four is even worse, having little personality to speak of and only having like one or two cool moments. The rest are just kind of there. That’s fine but they still don’t stand out. Even the villain isn’t much of a villain since she’s kind of there until the end, and even then they don’t finish exploring the themes she helps present.
I may be sounding negative, but that’s only because it’s a case where it’s weaker when I think about it. As a viewing experience, it’s alright. I was rarely annoyed despite my bitching and some of it is interesting to watch, but in the 2nd half the cracks show and I just lost interest.
Bless them, they tried but it just didn’t work too well. It’s pretty average, but it’s at least tolerable. However, there are better options that are half the length. If it helps, the trailers for the new one make it seem like it will explore it’s themes more and be more interesting.
Even if it is from the director of R.I.P.D
As for this one, it’s alright but nothing special in the end. Not as bad as everyone says it is, but not the best either. Meh.
I hope you liked this review, cuz it ended up taking forever to get out due to lack of time for various reasons. By reasons I mean I do these reviews on my Mom’s computer now and she didn’t work at night this week and morning is when I was working on the pony list.
So once again, everything can be blamed on Ponies.
My final thoughts section may be a tad rushed as a result, sorry. Our next movie is shorter so it should be easier. …It’s bad isn’t it?
Yeah, thought so.