“Divergent” (2014): Anatomy of bad film

Directed by Neil Burger (“The Illusionist,”), this adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel is a variation on the current theme of young girls living and surviving in a post-apocalyptic wasteland (“The Hunger Games”). A society in which everyone is divided into five groups matching their personality (basically: smart, brave, honest, selfless, or kind) based on a psychological test.

Most young people choose what their parents are but they don’t have to. The groups are segregated and members and choose an occupation commensurate with that faction, lawyers and judges in the Candor group, teachers and scientists in the Erudite group and so on

The heroine, Beatrice (a very Katniss-like Shailene Woodley) discovers she’s “divergent,” she doesn’t fit into any discreet category, making her unpredictable in a society that thrives on predictability. This puts her at risk from being killed by cold-blooded utopians like Kate Winslet (a throw-away role). She survives using the same dangerous qualities that can kill her if discovered.

Here’s what makes a BAD QUALITY FILM and “Divergent” qualifies:

1. Films made from good books rarely succeed. It is extremely difficult if not impossible to translate the intricacies of a book to a two-hour film. The classic crash and burn was the film version of “Catch-22” (1970) that flopped despite an all-star cast, a ton of money and a Director fresh from his success in “The Graduate” (1968). Even “The Godfather” book was much more intense.

2. Beware messages about the evils of conformity wrapped in big budget packages. A script marked by pre-digested, post-adolescent wish fulfillment trite in a nonsense futurist premise is what it is, too busy warning us about the dangers of conformity to develop a unique persona of its own.

3. Jumping on the bandwagons of similar films that came before rarely succeed. Plucky, post-adolescent heroines learning to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances has been done. That the public embraced “The Hunger Games” is no guarantee they will embrace a similar concept with look-alike stars.

4. The story line isn’t even by a stretch possible or believable in real life. It’s silly and contrived especially for the film’s plot. Further, it doesn’t adequately inform the audience to the basic premise it’s built on, making it unwieldy and repetitive. The audience gets lost as they are forced to fill in the blanks, then they get perplexed and then bored.

5. Interjecting an obligatory and ever-so-brief sex scene into an otherwise austere story line doesn’t work except as a thinly veiled contrivance to be sure guys in the audience don’t get too bored. It’s as out of place as yarmulkes on biker gangs.

6. The film is too long. There is little or no sense of story progression in a two and a half hour film that could have adequately explored the premise in 2/3 the time. The story line bogs down, usually to extend CGI pyrotechnics that get overwhelming quickly.

7. If the producers desire a sequel (said to be in the works), leave some twists at the end to build on. This film comes to a climax that seems pretty much self-contained. Any sequel will not continue the model and so will be a totally different production, using the same characters to work an unrelated plot.

For all the above reasons, this film is not recommended by me. Watching a poodle recite Tennyson would be more interesting. Definitely don’t pay to see it.


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