December 21, 2014

Divergent (2014)

Shailene Woodley, Ashley Judd, Kate Winslet and what James Franco and Chris Pine's baby would look like with huge lips

I've been dying to see this move. Not because it looked good, but because I wanted to talk about how annoyed I am about Shailene Woodley popping up in what seems like every movie nowadays. She's like a teenage Jennifer Lawrence. (And yes, I realize she's in her 20's, but her face and her acting make her seem like she's about 16.) I don't like her. I can't quite put my finger on why, but I just don't like her. She did a decent job in The Descendants, but there, she was a supporting character who mostly just made pouty teenage faces the whole time. So I guess she's good at that.

What she is not good at, however, is convincing me that she is an action star. Look, I get that Hollywood needs to mix things up. And I appreciate their willingness to experiment in casting to try and diversify the pool of predictable action heroes. I even love that this series stars a female action hero. And yet... not every experiment goes well. Look at Toby Maguire as Spiderman (or Andrew Garfield as Spiderman, for that matter) or Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Looper. Shailene Woodley is not the next female action star. (Though that won't stop the studios from making this three book series into a four movie blockbuster! Woo!)

Speaking of questionable casting... why is Miles Teller in this movie? And as a bad guy? Talk about unconvincing! Add to that the fact that three other guys in the movie looked vaguely like him and the fast action sequences shot in dark settings and it was difficult to tell who was who. It just added an unnecessary layer of false complexity to this movie, which was already trying really hard to be deep.

It's just really hard to watch this movie and not think "B-Squad Hunger Games." I know I probably think that because I happened to read The Hunger Games first, but the whole 'dystopian society with factions ruled by a ruthless leader' thing is really overplayed now. I didn't get around to reading the Divergent series, but if this movie is any reflection of them, I think I'm better for having skipped them. I mean, if I thought the characters in The Hunger Games were underdeveloped and miscast...

The plot hurts my head. It really does. Completely ignoring the giant, gaping plot holes, the entire first half of the movie reads like a high school drama that happens to have guns. I mean, how does it even make sense that you cannot interact with anyone outside of your faction? How are we supposed to believe that the vast majority of people are so one-dimensional that they easily conform to their faction? Is the author really telling us that at our core, we are only one thing: honest or smart or fearless or giving? Why do the people in Dauntless need to run to everything? Is it really necessary that the train never stop so they have to run/jump to get on and off of it? And what's with all the ridiculous initiation rituals? Why would it make sense for a "harmonious society" to purposely kick people out of Dauntless, making them faction-less, then turn around and have to patrol these same people? I mean, it's hard to even take the "leader" of Dauntless seriously because he is such a caricature of what a bad guy would look like. I'm sure the other factions are equally ridiculous, but we wouldn't know because they are basically never shown. I realize this partially violates my ethics of not giving anything away in a movie, but I'm pretty confident if you watched the trailer you'd already know what was going to happen.

The second half of the movie does stop being quite so ridiculous and becomes more of a regular, predictable action movie. And while both the acting and plot are painful, it's still semi-enjoyable to watch because there is so much action happening (even though much of the action is questionable as to why it's necessary). 

Final word: [trying to keep a straight face] The world definitely needs 4 of these movies.

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