Not of the target age of the book series that this film was based upon I really did not know that much about it. I knew it was dystopian tale featuring a world that has got itself into a real mess. With all the angst and heightened emotion going on it seems like a perfect fit for a teen film. So another Hunger Games? Do we really need another is my question. The short answer is yes. Watch and you’ll figure out why.
Teenagers on Earth get to an age where they have to select one of the five Factions. Once they select they have to remain with Dauntless (bravery), Euridite (intelligence), Candor (honesty), Amity (peaceful) or Abnegation (selfless) for the rest of their life. It is time for Beatrice (Shailene Woodley – The Descendants, The Spectacular Now) and her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort – Carrie – 2013, The Fault in Our Stars) to make their choices. Her family, including their parents, Andrew (Tony Goldwyn – from television’s Scandal) and Natalie (Ashley Judd – Heat, Double Jeopardy), are Abnegation and most select the Faction they have been born into.
When Beatrice goes to her pre choice test something weird happens in that her result is inconclusive. The Dauntless girl Tori (Maggie Q – from television’s Nikita) who administers the test to her ushers her out quickly telling her not to tell anyone what happened. Beatrice is confused and uncertain about her future. Shockingly both Caleb and Beatrice do not select Abnegation. Caleb selects Euridite and Beatrice picks Dauntless.
Once an initiate to Dauntless Beatrice becomes Tris and undergoes the physically and psychologically gruelling initiation. It is not assured that Tris will make the cut and be Dauntless. If she doesn’t she cannot go home and as such will be Factionless – an outcast. While the physical/fighting aspect of the initiation proves very difficult for Tris the mental part is simple. Her trainer Four (Theo James – Underworld: Awakening, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger) notices this and has questions.
Before long Tris finds out that she is Divergent – a person who defies being part of a Faction. This type of person puts in jeopardy the existence of the five Factions supported by Jeanine (Kate Winslet – The Reader, Titanic) – the leader of the Erudites. Tris’s life is in danger if she is found out. The young woman has to make the cut with Dauntless while hiding her true nature.
Back to the inevitable Divergent and Hunger Games comparisons – both feature young woman having to go on dangerous quests to find out who they really are. A young woman being strong is not something we have often seen on the big screen. There have been plenty of films featuring teenage boys being strong like Spider-Man, The Karate Kid or The Life of Pi. It is about time we have some physically able role models for young women. They need to see that female teenage years are not just about makeup, clothes, music, and boys. Young ladies should be encouraged to be able to take care of themselves even if that means physically. In my books they need more Tris and Katnisses to look up to. The comparison is really ridiculous because other than the films featuring a strong young woman they are totally different.
Though it is targeted at a younger audience its tackling of different moral or societal issues is not what you would normally expect from a teen film. The film takes its time developing these issues of categorization of humans and the power of the ruling class. It allows a developing of the ideas and doesn’t just gloss them over.
Casting films like this are tricky. It is hard to find the right young actors. I think that if I was casting a film that required a young actress I would see if Shailene Woodley was available. Starting off on television (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) and then breaking out in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, a film where she was the strongest aspect. The girl seems to have it all with her talent and looks. She ably captures the strength, backbone, innocence, insecurity, and bravery of Tris. Woodley brings her character from the shy, innocent girl to a strong and courageous hero she becomes. Opposite her is British actor Theo James, who plays the strong silent type well.
Besides the acting the “smaller” facets of the film support it well. Visually it looks great. The setting is a dystopian Chicago and it has a great burnt out look to it with a huge electrified fence surrounding it. The sets and costumes help develop and support the story. As for the music it features plenty of tracks and some work on the score by Brit Ellie Goulding. She provides the perfect voice of Tris in the music.
You don’t have to have read the books to fully appreciate or understand Neil Burger’s (The Illusionist, Limitless) Divergent. It stands well on its own. Though apparently it does not exactly match the book (why do people still believe this is possible?) it remains faithful enough to please fans.
-Bringing Divergent to Life
-Fashion Before Blood
Insurgent directed by Robert Schwentke:
It is not a glowing review (though they might think so) if the people you go to see Insurgent with can only come up with “It was just what you would expect” as their opinion of the second film in the film series based on the young adult book series by author Veronica Roth. Nothing special and totally underneath what I’ve come to expect from upcoming actress Shailene Woodley. It is not odd that the first film in a series is the strongest, but I was hoping that with the talent of Woodley, Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Miles Teller, Janet McTeer, and Octavia Spencer this would be one of the rare ones that supersede the original. Wasn’t in that it was fairly dull and uneventful.
Futuristic Chicago is still in a state of destruction, chaos, paranoia, and divisiveness. All this under the leadership of the leader of the Erudite group, Jeanine (Kate Winslet – Titanic, The Reader). She now has a box that contains an important message that can only be opened by a Divergent. The ones she has captured and put through the five sims have all expired under the pressure. Now she is on the hunt for the “perfect” Divergent; the one with highest percentage of Divergent. She sends Eric (Jai Courtney – A Good Day to Die Hard, Jack Reacher) and Max (Mekhai Phifer – 8 Mile, Dawn of the Dead – 2004) to hunt down and test all the Divergents.
Tris (Shailene Woodley – The Fault in Our Stars, The Descendants), Four (Theo James – Underworld: Awakening, Divergent), Caleb (Ansel Elgort – Carrie – 2013, Men, Women & Children), and Peter (Miles Teller – Whiplash, 21 & Over) have all taken refuge in the Amity group led by Johanna (Octavia Spencer – The Help, Being John Malkovich). They realize that Jeanine’s goons are on their trail and so they run off. Only to get in a jam caused by the turncoat Peter. Four is able to save himself, Caleb and Tris because of his mother. His mother, Evelyn (Naomi Watts – The Ring, The Impossible), who was supposed to be dead is actually alive and the leader of the Factionless group. She offers to help them in the war against Jeanine. Four refuses and as a result unwittingly forces Tris’s hand.
Rather messy is a good description of the film. Lots of stories and sub-plots so it is hard to keep everything straight. Or even care enough to do so. When it seems like they don’t know how to explain things anymore the film just resorts to some violence or fight scenes. With no rhyme or reason a lot of the time. The special effects are rather cool and obviously a lot of time and money were spent on them, but for this film goer it is not enough.
The screenwriters and director Robert Schwentke (The Time Traveler’s Wife, Flightplan) have failed to tap into their biggest asset. The pool of acting talent. When you have Teller, Winslet, Woodley, Spencer, and Woodley to work with you have to use them. Sadly, most of their time on screen is spent on action rather than creating tension and developing characters. They are not really given characters to play. No substance or depth. Big misstep.
It is an attempt to make the Roth novels a little bit George Orwell, a little bit The Matrix and a lot of Marvel action hero films like Thor. In the end it all falls short. Don’t know how they are going to keep me interested for two more films.
-Insurgent Unlocked: The Ultimate Behind-the-Scenes Access
-From Divergent to Insurgent
-The Others: Cast and Characters
-Anatomy of a Scene: The Train Fight
-The Peter Hayes Story
-Divergent: Adapting Insurgent to the Screen
Allegiant directed by Robert Schwentke:
A good and popular book series does not a strong film series make. Now, the Divergent series hasn’t been the most awful film series adapted from a young adult book series (we could have a long debate about what takes that crown), but it certainly isn’t a series that pushes boundaries of the genre or even tries to come up with some original ideas as it goes along. The Divergent series is happy just coasting along giving the movie going public what they expect. If you liked the first two films of the series then you will find the third entertaining. If you demand a little more than safety and routine in your films then wait for another film worthy of Shailene Woodley’s talent.
After the surprising revelation about Insurgent, Tris (Shailene Woodley – The Fault in Our Stars, The Descendents), Four (Theo James – Underworld: Awakening, Insurgent), Christina (Zoe Kravitz – Mad Max: Fury Road, X-Men: First Class), Caleb (Ansel Elgort – Divergent, Carrie – 2013), and Peter (Miles Teller – Whiplash, Fantastic Four) decide that they must flee to the other side of the wall encircling Chicago. This is a big step for all of them as they have never been outside of Chicago.
Once they are successful they quickly realize that everything they believed in is not true. All have to decide who they can trust and who they cannot. All remain true to who they essentially are. Four figures things out quickly, Tris tries to see the good in all, Caleb remains aloof and outside the group, Christina follows along loyally, while Peter tries to what is best for him. Soon the very existence of all of humanity hangs in the balance.
While the world created by director Robert Schwentke (R.I.P.D., The Time Traveller’s Wife) looks great the substance of it is lacking. Most of the content is rather lazily done. The story skips around a lot making it hard to grab a hold of if you have not read the books. Little continuity results in some rather large gaps. The lack of attention paid to the details continues. Emotions are not focused on. Yes, it is a sci-fi/action film, but the humanity involved it in is its essence. Even the scenes that try to establish the deep relationship between Tris and Four are rather empty not allowing you to really believe the deep of their love for one another. Even that great chemistry between James and Woodley has disappeared. Everything about the film feels like you have seen it before in the other two films and other sci-fi/action films of similar ilk. Because of this the characters end up just being empty shells with very little character development occurring.
Not all is awful. There are some insightful moments in regards to society and the way it operates in today’s world. The labeling of people and separation into groups. Also, many of the action sequences are very well done.
After two hours you have not really gotten anywhere. There is really only about 45 minutes of story; it is just dragged out to make it feature length. Retread and filler. In the end you will be left feeling rather empty and a little ripped off. Too bad because in the beginning this franchise demonstrated plenty of potential.
-Audio Commentary with Producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher
-Allegiant: Book to Film
-Finding the Future: Effects and Technology
-Characters in Conflict
-The Next Chapter: Cast and Characters
-Building the Bureau