Big screen adaptations of young adult novels, or novels for that matter, are nothing new. What’s new, is that most seem to be about a dystopian system or some massive dislike between one group of people and another.
Ultimately what ends up happening, is this tale has to be stretched out and told over the course of several films. And as such, several changes in who is involved in the filmmaking process usually occur.
The Summit Entertainment film “Divergent”, is clearly, or more likely, going to fall into all of these categories. To make matters worse, this is a film produced by Lionsgate or Summit Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of Lionsgate, so the company’s going to come up with some stupid name for the sequels. Making the name longer, and borderline redundant.
*sccccrrrrreeeeecccccchhhh………….!!!!!!!!!* I think I got off track. Oh look! the road! Blue skies! *
This action film stars Shailene Woodley (“The Fault in Our Stars”, “The Spectacular Now”), Theo James (“Golden Boy”, “Underworld: Awakening”), Ashley Judd (“Olympus Has Fallen”, “Flypaper”), Jai Courtney (“I, Frankenstein”, “Felony”), Ray Stevenson (“Thor: The Dark World”, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”), Zoe Kravitz (“After Earth”, “The Boy Who Smells Like Fish”), Miles Teller (“That Awkward Moment”, “The Spectacular Now”), Tony Goldwyn (“Outlaw Prophet: Warren Jeffs”, “Scandal”), Ansel Elgort (“The Fault in Our Stars”, “Carrie”), Maggie Q (upcoming TV series “Stalker”, “Nikita”), Mekhi Phifer (“A Day Late and a Dollar Short”, “House of Lies”) and Kate Winslet (“Labor Day”, “Movie 43”).
The film was directed by Neil Burger (“Limitless”, “The Lucky Ones”) and written by Evan Daugherty (upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, “Killing Season”) and Vanessa Taylor (“Game of Thrones”, “Hope Springs”). It is based on the book of the same name by Veronica Roth.
The film opened in theaters on March 21, 2014.
Now, I like so many, probably rushed out, at some point, and got the book to read quickly before the films release. Because of this, more is engrained in my mind and I will do my best to not draw comparisons between the two, like some obnoxious diehard fan or something. Mind you, there wasn’t that much altered anyway.
Let’s see… what worked? On a grand scale, or overall, nothing really worked. This wasn’t a film that I felt managed to come together the way it was intended. Individually, there was a lot that was pretty cool! Most of that was due to the way it was shot. The training sequences were decent, the fight scenes were fun, and even the jumping from the train to the roof and down the hole was cool. But, past that, mostly I was unfazed. I wasn’t completely pulled in like I expected.
One, of the only other two areas, that I thought were worth anything was the capture the flag game. While it only held complete interest for a few minutes, it still worked because of the way it was shot. The look is everything. Second area was the finale. Storming Abnegation. That managed to intrigue me enough to actually watch the action sequences play out. Seeing Woodley fight James had me wondering, as I do with action scenes, how much did they actually get to do themselves?
I’m not sure if it’s the script or portions of it, but something kept me from enjoying this thing as a film entirely. I’m keeping in mind, that while I may not have a need or want to compare it to the book, I think I’m comparing it to something else. Something with similar elements. That something would be “The Hunger Games” films. I’ll say, briefly, I think that’s because so many elements, from emotion, to type of character, just stuck out at me as falling short of “The Hunger Games”. Even the level of suspense was higher in “The Hunger Games” films than this one. One brief moment with Kravitz’s dangling character doesn’t do much for me.
What else doesn’t do it for me? Lack of emotion and chemistry. I didn’t think there was any, from anyone. Pick a few characters and I’ll probably tell you they were bland. Now, the acting didn’t reach the epically bad levels of a “Twilight” film, but the performances were still stiff. James and Woodley are supposed to be slowly falling in love or whatever, yeah, didn’t buy it. Even Courtney’s character was dull. Sure he’s supposed to be a hard ass and unpleasant, but this version, so boring. I practically heaved a heavy sigh when he came on screen. The only characters to have any slight emotional connection were the Tris and her parents. I feel that this lack of emotion or chemistry, made it hard for me not to care about what happened during the films finale. I wasn’t sad or moved. Just slightly bored. I cared more about Rue in “The Hunger Games” than some of the stuff here.
While you’re not supposed to necessarily like the villains, you’re should be allowed to “love to hate” the villain. Winslet was so interesting, and looked the part, but suffered from something. Her character stopped just short of being outright evil. I was probably envisioning a little more than what was shown, especially since she was given a whole lot more to do in the film. To me, she reminds me of Imelda Staunton’s Dolores Umbridge in “Harry Potter & the Order of the Phoenix”. Great casting choice, but the performance, or character as written and developed, fell short.
I did, however, really liked the costume designs. Each one was so unique and different for the factions. I was able to believe that these really were the types of clothes these individual groups would wear, and not just some flashy way to make a film look creative.
I could be doing too much comparing with that of the other properties owned by Lionsgate, but hey, they asked for it. It was going to happen and I”m sure I wasn’t the only one. I want to like these characters and the story, but currently, it’s going to take some time. I may only end up enjoying this film, and its sequels, for what they are. Somewhat entertaining films. Time will tell.