I just reviewed The Mortal Instruments the other day and now I’ve watched another movie aimed at the lucrative young adult market. But will Divergent -also based on a popular book series-be any better?
In a future dystopian Chicago 16-year-old Tris (Shailene Woodley) is preparing to choice one of five fraction of society to join, Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent). When she takes the test to determine her fraction, Tris discovers that she is Divergent-meaning she has qualities belonging to more than one fraction. Being Divergent means her life is in danger and she must protect her secret at all cost.
So it’s no Hunger Games but compared to The Mortal Instruments, Divergent is a masterpiece. Woodley is the main reason why this movie works. She is likeable, sympathetic and interesting to watch. With this and The Fault In Our Stars Woodley is surely becoming a name to watch. She has great chemistry with co-star Theo James, as Dauntless instructor Four (stupid name though). The only thing is that Woodley looks about 12 while James looks like he’s pushing 30 which makes some of their scenes a bit uncomfortable. The supporting characters are mostly forgettable or interchangeable, the only stand outs are Zoe Kravitz as Tris’ brutally honest friend Christina and in particular Miles Teller as Peter, a fellow dauntless transfer determined to make Tris’ life hell.
Most of the problems I had with the film is the same as I had with the book. The Dauntless, the fraction Tris chooses (not a spoiler) their definitive quality is meant to be brave but it comes across more as stupid. They throw themselves off of trains, the transfers are made to beat each other up to, all to prove how tough they are. I wouldn’t trust them to be bouncers of a club never mind protect a whole city. The whole notion of fractions and Divergent is a bit silly as well. After all how many people are determined by one quality, people are a mixture of many different strengths and weaknesses.
Although it’s understandable for the age rating, but I was disappointed that some of the violence from the book is missing, particularly Peter’s violent attack on a rival transfer. I was also a bit distracted by the fact that Tris’ brother Caleb was played by Ansel Elgort, Woodley’s co-star and love interest in The Fault In Our Stars. It could have done with being a bit shorter with the running time. But all in all it’s an entertaining movie that will leave you wanting to know what happens next.
Rating 3/5 – a star turn from Woodley makes this new teen franchise worth watching
Based on the bestselling novel by John Green (which I loved) The Fault In Our Stars has exploded into the summer box office making great numbers for a romantic drama. But can it possibly be as good as the book?
Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) is 16 years old and has terminal cancer. Kept alive by an experiemental drug and dragging round a tank of oxygen with her everywhere she thinks she knows what to expect from her probably short life. Then into her cancer support group comes Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), an eighteen year old boy in remission who lost his leg to cancer. As the two bond over Hazel’s favourite book and seek to contact the author, they find themselves slowly falling in love despite Hazel’s terminal situation.
OK from that summary above this film sounds like a overly sentimental affair with all the cliches that you come to expect from these kinds of films. The fact that The Fault In Our Stars avoids most of these tropes makes it special in itself. That fact that you care so much about the characters make it exceptional.
I may be biased becuase I’ve read and loved the book but I loved this film. I was nervous beforehand considering how much I liked the book but this is a faithful adaptation that does justice to John Green’s novel. The two lead characters are wonderful-snarky, funny, intellegent, heartwarming. You feel like you could be friends with these characters. They are played brilliantly by Woodley and Algort. Both roles must have been difficult to cast but Woodley makes for a likeable and sympathetic lead and Algort steers his character away from being the bland romantic lead to give Augustus charisma and believeability even when he’s sprouting his philosphoical musing. We also get to see Gus’s more vunerable side as he worries that one day he’ll fall into oblivion and he will have left the world withoutmaking a mark. Something which Hazel has long resigned herself to before Gus came along. The chemistry between them is fantastic, so much so I can’t imagine them playing brother and sister in Divergent.
Of course there are faults to be had with the movie. Although Grace’s parents are great (played by Laura Dern and Sam Trammell) some of the other supporting characters are either written out or reduced. Augustus’ best friend Issac gets sidelined into more of a comedic role than I remember in the book. Some viewers may also find the scene where Hazel and Gus kiss at the Anne Frank House a bit distasteful although I just saw it as them realising they should seize the moment while they have the chance (the clapping from the other visitors was a bit much though).
I got so into this film that I started crying about halfway through the movie-to my embarassment. I can’t garentee you’ll cry like I did but I think even the hardest of hearts may find themselves falling under the spell of Hazel and Gus.
But I would also recomend you read the book first because it’s so wonderful and adds so much more to their story in the way the film doesn’t have time to.
Rating 4.5/5 – with wonderful performances from Woodley and Algort I can’t fault this adapation of one of my favourite books of recent years