Sunday, August 10, 2014

Divert Away From Divergent


This Harry Potter/Hunger Games/any high school-set story was a terrible crush of a bore.  It's set in a dystopic, post-apocalyptic Chicago just so we can see all the familiar city landmarks overgrown with weeds.

Shailene Woodley, who I enjoyed in the movie The Descendants, is our focus here as Triss, a young girl on the cusp of womanhood who has a decision to make, and it's not what frappaccino to order at Starbucks.  In Future Chicago, everyone is divided amongst five factions: Abnegation (selfless); Dauntless (brawny law enforcement); Erudite (brainiacs/nerds); Amity (peaceniks); and Candor (honesty).

When you come of age you have to take a sort of future SAT test to determine which faction you will belong to -- think the sorting hat scenes from Harry Potter.  The silly thing is, even if the test determines which faction you should be assigned to, you can still just chose whichever faction you want to be in.  So why have the friggin' test in the first place?

This movie is so serious that it is unintentionally funny.  Early on, we are introduced to the various factions.  We see the Erudites teaching school, the Abnegationists running the government, etc.  When the Dauntless people arrive by running up the street grinning and laughing, I fully expected them to break out into song, as if Divergent were channeling Newsies or West Side Story.  Not only do the Dauntless-ites run onto the scene, they immediately started climbing the framework of the L Train, which they seem to ride a lot when they aren't running everywhere.  It was a supremely stupid, silly scene, although 12 years old doubtless thought it was rad.

Triss goes against the SATs/sorting hat and picks Dauntless, and the rest of the movie is her getting schooled at their rock quarry HQ.  When we first see the digs, all the Dauntless kids are hanging out and chatting away; it looked and felt just like high school.  And this movie had that extremely juvenile feel of high school, with the jocks (among an entire faction of jocks) bullying Triss and her other non-steroidal friends.  Plus it included a couple of High School Cafeteria Scenes (TM).

The cast was uniformly pretty and bland (see the usual casting on any show on The CW).  Woodley has large expressive eyes, but she tears up a few times in the movie and, I swear, it was like somebody held up a Fresnel lens in front of her because her eyes become ENORMOUS when she cries.

At some point the movie remembered it should have some kind of plot since the whole waste of movie was Triss training at/for Dauntless High, so they shoehorn in something about a mind-control drug and one faction wanting to take control of the gubmint.  South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone hit it on the head in their movie Team America that every movie should have a montage.  Divergent could have seriously benefited from that axiom with all the training nonsense. 

I can't believe there are supposed to be two more movies after this one.  I think they're called Astringent and Detergent.

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