Divergent (2014)

Divergent-2014

Director: Neil Burger

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Maggie Q, Kate Winslet

Screenplay: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor

139 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.

 

I wanted to like Divergent. I’ll repeat myself, I wanted to like Divergent, but the movie gave me nothing with which to like. I’m going to start my review today with a quick analysis of the plot, and then list all of the reasons why it isn’t the film I wanted it to be.

Divergent is the story of Tris (Shailene Woodley, The Descendents, The Fault in Our Stars) a teenage girl who exists in a dystopian landscape of the near future. In this interpretation of the future, there are five factions each defined by literally one trait. There is Abnegation, a group of those who practice selflessness (of which Tris is born into). There is Amity, those who choose peace over all else. There is Candor, the truth-tellers. Let me repeat that, there is a group of people that tell the truth, and that is it. There is Erudite, those of intelligence. There is finally Dauntless, the strong and brave (of which Tris envies). The Dauntless are presented as apparently a mixture of parkour and West Side Story. There are also the factionless, who have been sent away from their group from disobeying or failure. Then, there is Divergent, someone who embodies multiple factions over one. The people of future Chicago do not care for Divergents as they are unpredictable. Tris is, at the start of the film, about to perform in a test that will determine where she should be placed. It is basically a big sorting hat, with one major exception: the test doesn’t really matter because you can just choose whichever faction you would like to join permanently. Tris takes the test and discovers she may be a Divergent, so she chooses Dauntless just because. There she meets Four (Theo James, TV’s Golden Boy, Underworld: Awakening), a Dauntless leader who may just have a few secrets of his own. As she becomes more accustomed to Dauntless life, she also becomes more susceptible to being discovered as a Divergent, and the entire story is about the testing she will do to prove herself a worthy Dauntless.

So anyway, that is the movie.

My first problem with this movie was the whole test thing having virtually no effect on the story in the way that anyone can choose any faction. I just found it an extra-convoluted way of fashioning a plot point.

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Then, there is this faction breakdown, how can there be only five traits worthy of having a group of people and why would you want to keep these groups separate? I just don’t get the gravity of the situation and how this helps whatsoever.

Four’s character is kind of stupid. So if you haven’t seen the posters, avert your eyes, because [SPOILER ALERT] Four has a giant tattoo on his back of the five factions, which essentially tells us that he is a Divergent as well. Perhaps he would’ve been better off with a tattoo of a big bulls-eye, since that is pretty much what he announces to the world with it.

This isn’t really a complaint, but I did find it odd that this film is like a whos-who of people who have gotten it with Shailene Woodley in other movies, with Miles Teller (from The Spectacular Now) as an adversary, and Ansel Elgort (from The Fault in Our Stars) as her brother. Blech.

I want to point out the pacing as well, this movie drags on like a son of a bitch. By the time revelations start coming on, I had completely stopped caring and I just didn’t want to hear any more about these factions.

The performances are good (or merely as good as this poorly written script would allow) but none in particular stand out because the characters are too flat and one-dimensional. Now, I haven’t read the book series, but I should hope we get to flesh these characters out in another installment.

The look of this film is pretty much the unused sets and costumes from The Hunger Games movies. I could go on and on about the superiority of that franchise at this point, but you probably can already tell that.

Now, I did enjoy the Lord of the Flies vibe I got from the Dauntless faction, if they would just spend less time bickering and trying to kill each other and more time fleshing out these nameless bodies before bickering and trying to kill them.

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All in all, Divergent is a disappointing and underwhelming beginning to this franchise, which has already set markers for a remaining three films (the final book will be split into two films, because fuck, why not?). Perhaps all of these confusing and convoluted plot points make more sense in the book, so I won’t trash the novel because, as I said before, I haven’t read it yet, but as far as films go, this is a very boring and lazy fantasy.

 

1.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Neil Burger’s Divergent? Did you pass the test or choose to be factionless to get out of the theater? Let me know!

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)

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Director: Jonathan Liebesman

Cast: Megan Fox, Alan Ritchson, Jeremy Howard, Pete Ploszak, Noel Fisher, Will Arnett, Danny Woodburn, William Fichter, Johnny Knoxville, Tony Shalhoub

Screenplay: John Applebaum, Andre Nemec, Evan Daugherty

101 mins.  Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence.

 

 

The Ninja Turtles are back! Go Ninja Go Ninja Go!, and while they may not be the same Teenage Mutants that we knew from previous installments, and they may not be as good yet, fans who are willing to jump in and evolve with the franchise will find some thrills here.

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This year’s TMNT sees our fabled turtles meeting up with April O’Neil (Megan Fox, Transformers, This is 40) and her partner Vernon Fenwick (Will Arnett, TV’s Bojack Horseman, The Lego Movie) to stop an evil corporate tycoon (William Fichter, The Dark Knight, Elysium) allied with the vicious Shredder from unleashing a fatal toxin the general public. Pretty normal fare, I know that, and it isn’t all winners, so let’s break it down.

Megan Fox is just terrible. She is the worst April O’Neil I have ever seen, and it isn’t particularly difficult as far as roles go. Luckily she has some solid help from the always wonderful Will Arnett as Vernon, the video guy that wants in April’s jumpsuit. Arnett is the absolute saving grace performer here, as he gives nods to his other likable roles (did anybody else see him make the parmesan mustard sandwich from Arrested Development?) and provides us with exactly what this picture sometimes lacked: levity.

My only other major character qualm is in the form of the ruthless Shredder, a very underdeveloped monstrosity who serves only as the “final boss” of this video game of a film. In the inevitable sequel, I want more Shredder. I want to know Shredder like I did in the live-action 90s predecessor.

The turtles are much more developed individuals, and I can see the similarities between this incarnation and the 2003 animated series. I like that we see some more fleshed out characters, the animosity and rivalry between Leonardo and Raphael, the often giggle-able Michelangelo, and the kooky and odd machine-freak Donatello.

The major win here is the effects. I know watching the trailer made my stomach churn as I imagined really badly animated turtles, but thankfully, some solid fixing up before the release made this an extravaganza.

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Well, this incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles wasn’t perfect by any means, but I would disagree with former Turtle performer Robbie Rist, who at one time claimed that Michael Bay was sodomizing the characters (please South Park, do not dig too deeply into this). I think that these are turtles with room to grow and develop further, and to be honest, I didn’t really find them cringe-worthy (a fear I had previously held). This movie is fun. I already hear rumblings of a sequel and I hope that the creative team is willing to take time to listen to the feedback they received for this initial outing and use it to make the second installment worthy of the TMNT moniker. For now though, I had a lot of fun at the theater, and if you see this film willing to actually give it a go, I think you will be presently surprised.

 

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

So what did you think of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? Did you enjoy some ninja pizza or did your enjoyment vanish quickly without trace? Let me know!

 

For my review of Jonathan Liebesman’s Darkness Falls, click here.

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