Too crowd-pleasing for any creative leverage
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What to Expect
Let as all take a moment to thank whatever higher power one believes in – or doesn’t – that The Hunger Games was brought onto the big screen as a currently running franchise to mend the psychological wounds of those afflicted to a severe case of P. T. S. D. (or what stands for the Post Twilight Stress Disorder). That being said and done, let us now sit up and notice as a similar trend begins to erupt with yet another movie adaptation of yet another young-adult fiction trilogy set in yet another futuristic world full of shockingly subtextual laws featuring YET another female rebel. Do I hear “The Hunger Games” and “Similar” in the crowds out there? Unfortunately, “Hell Yeah!” would be a strong contender for the answer here.
However, if one looks at it from the point-of-view of a movie buff planning to watch a film, reasons aplenty will be found sitting right in the credits, [hopefully not just] hatching eggs:
- Director Neil Burger has a good repertoire behind him, what with the visually delicious Limitless and the gripping The Illusionist backing him up.
- Vanessa Taylor, known for writing the David Frankel directed Hope Springs, stands as one of the writers; and of course
- Shailene Woodley, known for her brilliant performance in The Spectatular Now, leads the array of performances here as well.
With the plusses also enter a few minuses. The other writer of the film is Evan Daugherty, whose famous films include Snow White and the Huntsman, Killing Season and the upcoming GI Joe sequel. This almost drops the expectation levels for the film down a notch, but there’s always more to look forward to than not to. Veronica Roth’s book – which serves as the adapted movie’s source – has earned quite some acclaim despite its subtle (?) similarities to The Hunger Games as a set-up for a franchise. Does this film do the trick with potentially unaware viewers, much less the loyal fans of the books?
What’s it About?
Let’s just runs us down through the basic plot of the film first. We have ourselves a dystopian future, in which Chicago – for the sake of World peace – divides itself to five distr- um, factions, in which lives the family of Katn- whoops. Beatrice. Every young adult must run oneself a test to decide which faction can each adopt; but there’s one hitch. The test must allow the detection of only one virtue (per faction). If you’ve got more than one, you’re basically in trouble – it makes you eligible for more than one faction; it makes you Divergent. The challenges of the journey she undertakes (which will definitely include her falling in love with some guy girls will definitely squeal in joy for) forms the rest of the movie.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Neil Burger’s direction is what highly moves the film through, and his effectiveness in the handling of a lot of scenes and set-pieces shows, despite the highly inconsistent graph of the Taylor-Daugherty written screenplay (we’ll get to that later). For him to bring out an almost sincere character without overdoing her arc to milk emotion must have been a challenge, but he does it well. It’s almost helped that the makers decided to pitch in Shailene Woodley, who gives her all to a character that’s a tad derivative of other young adult fiction adaptations (although breathe mister, it’s not anywhere close to derivative of any part of the Twilight franchise). However, the screenplay tries really hard to pack in too much, which leads to the movie not fleshing out enough emotion on any single part. This apart from the fact that if you’ve been following young adult fiction, you’ll get a strong deja-vu feeling lurking around in places you cannot specifically point, but just know. That’s not to say everything’s half-baked; in fact, quite a few scenes are consistently thrilling. Woodley’s character Beatrice’s tests have been tastefully shot, and lead you right into the heart of the matter. The action is, for the most part, quite impressive. It’s steady and straightforward, packing in more of the atmosphere than masking the flaws of the crew with the dubious marriage of “shaky-cam” and “quick-let’s-almost-not-know-what-‘s-going-on-cuts”. Cinematographer Alwin Kuchler, who has already given the audience a very strikingly versatile visual direction to films like Danny Boyle’s Sunshine and the Joe Wright helmed action-thriller Hanna, returns to give the viewers some deliciously lit, tastefully offset frames, backed up by some solid color-grading that doesn’t overdo it anywhere. Music by Junkie XL and Hans Zimmer (executive producer) gives the film strong support. The soundtrack seems very Ellie Goulding friendly (possibly taking a cue from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire? Definitely), however, overall packages the sound of the film nicely.
To Perform, or not to Perform
Shailene Woodley as Tris has yet another strong performance. From “secret” to “spectacular” (puns definitely intended), and currently this, she’s come a long way. Woodley embodies “Tris” and never gets out of character, which is quite good for someone who’s attempting to bring life into a role that has a not-so-unique character arc in the film. Theo James plays Four really well. He looks good, he broods around and gives that occasional smile. Definitely what the target audience is looking for. Oh, and besides; he acts well too; quite well. Kate Winslet is a shocker. Despite the fact that her American accent is all I can think of currently, I’m quite impressed by this character she’s embodied. Cool, cunning and calculative, she pulls it off effortlessly. Miles Teller is efficient to the role he takes on. For those of you who have seen The Spectacular Now, however, the scenes in which Teller and Woodley are in the same screen will definitely be distracting. Ashley Judd plays her short role really well. She looks the character and gives it her best shot. Jai Courtney plays an ass-hat. Again. And he’s good at it.
Overall, for those unaware of the franchise, or for film buffs, this is a one time watch for the performances, the effortless direction and beautiful cinematography. Be prepared, however, to face certain jarring inconsistencies in screenwriting. For the target audience of the novel, this will be a major hit. Considering the large fanbase, the studios will definitely be happy. Had they put half of the sincere emotion and effort into the screenplay relative to The Hunger Games, the movie would definitely be a solid win-win.
Watch the trailer
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