3/22/2014
Tris will kiss Four!

Here's all that I knew about Divergent before last night: it has a character named Tris, and Clarisse likes the book series. My sister hasn't even considered buying the first book. I was surprised, actually, to learn that Rainy's excited for the film version, which meant I'll inevitably watch it with her. And, as it turns out, her friends (and sisters) Janine (I've met her before) and Janelle (I haven't), because we both decided to buy a pair of tickets each, for some reason.

So, yeah. Divergent. Shailene Woodley, or that American teenager with a secret life. (I know she isn't famous for just that anymore, but forgive me and my past as an American television pundit.) That guy who looks like James Franco and Josh Holloway. (Again, my past as... I've done too many parentheticals.) Kate Winslet looking like a store-bought version of Bedelia du Maurier, Ashley Judd sort of continuing what she did on her last television series... nope, not putting a parenthetical there.

On paper it should be good. The set-up is, too: a girl discovers she's not like the others. Okay, that is setting you up for a "just be yourself" cliché - and if you think about it, and the not-subtle promotion the film's getting in the Philippines, it is like that - Anyway, a girl discovers she's not like the others, in a dystopian (ding!) society rigidly organized (ding!) into factions determined by skill set or whatever, where a revolution (ding!) poising one to be above everyone else is brewing.

Oh, yeah, there's that to. On paper I should not like Divergent. It's not necessarily because of my inherent dislike for young adult book series, about how they manage to shoehorn romance and, err, hormonal expression into a potentially fantastic premise. I really don't care about these things - again, I just watched the first two Hunger Games films because of, well, my girlfriend. But, like how Twilight spawned so many romances between humans and not-quite-humans, and how the Hunger Games trilogy spawned so many romances set in oppressively bleak circumstances - you sit there and think, "hey, haven't I seen this all before?" And you don't have to have seen a single second of footage to say that. They say "don't judge a book by its cover" but these books look very, very samey on a bookstore shelf.

That said, the film - and again, I'm coming here blind, having no idea what it's all about until last night, so don't go telling me I should read the books and all that - made the most of its interesting premise in its final third, when all the card are laid on the table and things get crazy. I guess it's me enjoying the dystopia more than the romance. The first skirmish between Tris and Jeanine did grab on to my interest; it wasn't perfect, but it was good enough a pay-off.

I certainly felt rewarded after having to sit through the sloppy 66% of the film. The first part was a hasty exposition sequence, like Tris skimming through the whole introduction - about how the five factions work and all that - just so we can get to the second part, which is where the romantic tension between Shailene Woodley and new guy-claiming-Rainy's-heart Theo James is. Sure, it's "important", but do we really need those moments where Four grabs on to Tris' waist?

Divergent's biggest problem is how it's bogged down by the tropes of young adult books, and the films they inspire. Not just the romance, per se - but, of course, I felt really hammy whenever Tris and Four have some almost-awkward conversations about the things they have in common. I mean everything else. Why are everyone in Dauntless so hyperactive? Why is it that Tris' friends in training camp are, conveniently, from a faction of intellectuals (read: info dump) and a faction of honest people (read: id)? Why does Ellie Goulding have to sing in at least three distinct points in the movie? Why is the musical score so, err, patronizing?

But, yeah, I enjoyed the film, I think. And I mean this. Again, that pay-off in the final third of the film, it made sitting through all of the typical teenage angst stuff bearable. (That, and the inspired use of this M83 song.) The sloppiness will stick out to me, of course, but hey, at least I wasn't annoyed by half-Sawyer, save for his need to have a gravelly voice, again fulfilling a trope. What makes us different makes us dangerous, the promotion goes... so let's play it safe, all right?

But my opinions, again, don't matter. I'm just a guy who sat there, in the middle of the cinema, squirming at every "Tris will kiss Four!" moment, while two seats away was this fat girl who half-stood up her seat and did fist pumps whenever a highlight that she gleaned from the many times she read the books (and worshipped Tris, maybe) unfolded on screen. I wouldn't mind, but she's seated so close to me, and I can see her flabby arms to my left. Talk about idiots in the cinema. I imagine she senses me squirming and she has this urge to throw a knife at me, without Four's ear-scraping compassion.

Yeah, I'm probably being harsh. Yeah, I'm being a hater, maybe. Ugh. That term. Still. They say "don't judge a book by its cover" and yet...

And your responses...

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