Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Ghoul Versus The Divergent Series: Divergent (Part 2)

Click here for Part 1!

After this ends, they talk about fears and the movie FINALLY remembers its intended audience so Tris asks Four what his tattoo is of, seeing as how we've only ever seen a tiny part of it poking out of the back of his shirt. Four takes off said shirt to display his ink, but more importantly shows us his chiseled physique so all the women in the theaters can finally hoot and holler because you know they SO did. That's enough build up so he finally kisses Tris, who is more than happy to kiss back but says she doesn't want to go any further because she wants to take things slow. As far as young adult romances go this is a pretty typical one, as it's based way more off of physical attraction than anything else. Until the last couple, almost every conversation they've had has involved talking about beating up people. Maybe that's a huge turn on for Tris though, who knows? Also a young woman falling in love with her older battle instructor, where have I seen THAT before?

The next morning Four takes Tris outside to show her the Erudite loading many large crates into the Dauntless base containing supplies and computers. He also shows her a vial of serum they've been delivering as well, which is a neuro-chemical of some sort that'll turn whoever is injected with it into a mindless slave that'll follow instructions. Really? THAT'S what we're going with? That sounds like the plot from a 1950s science fiction movie. But I guess it's nice to get another hint of a plot at almost one hour forty minutes, so cheers for that. And just like before Tris doesn't have a chance to process this revelation, because an announcement over the speakers announces it's time for the final test.

Seemingly every Dauntless member is in attendance for this one, as well as Jeanine. You know, everyone's being really stupid here. It's already blatantly obvious she's Divergent, why not just kill her? It's not like anyone is going to miss a single initiative in this massive complex, and they've gotten away with it before with Tori's brother, so why let this play out at all? Not to mention the movie still hasn't given us a concrete explanation on why Divergents are so bad, besides the fact “they don't fall into the faction system and thus can't be controlled”. What does that even mean? Again, what do the FACTIONS even mean? Wouldn't logic and harmony go hand in hand? Can't you be kind AND brave at the same time? I'd argue it takes MORE courage to be kind than it does to be a badass or whatever the hell it is the Dauntless are supposed to do. You know, the jobs we NEVER see them doing?

She passes the birds and the drowning test the Dauntless way with flying colours, which doesn't make a lot of sense because none of these showed up in Four's fears. Though you could argue he put her in the right mindset for puzzle solving, but on the other hand you could equally argue he could have just TOLD HER how to solve her tests since he saw them on his goddamn screen. Tris' final test involves her... being sexually assaulted by Four, which she solves by kneeing him in the balls. HMMM. I've reviewed a LOT of new movies with sexual assault in them lately, both implied and for real.

This is not a trend I'm very thrilled with, can't we go back to Matrix bullet time or something Hollywood? She comes out of the test with everyone applauding except Jeanine, who hands her a gun. This harkens back to one of Four's tests where he had to shoot an innocent civilian, and we see Tris is still in the simulation because her parents and Caleb are standing there, all dressed in Abnegation gray. Tris raises the pistol towards them and pulls the trigger, FINALLY waking up from her test for real. So... none of her fears involved being outed as Divergent? You know, the entire thing that's been DRIVING this entire act?

Later the initiates are celebrating their acceptance into Dauntless when Eric announces he wants everyone to line up to be injected with a tracking device, which Tris recognizes as the chemical Four showed her earlier. She tries to find him but is too late and gets injected. She wakes up that night to find her friends all getting dressed and acting like zombies, so it would appear the chemical doesn't work on Divergents. She imitates everyone else, marching single file to the Pit where they're all issued guns. She notices one guy walking around, confused as to why everyone has transformed into Stormtroopers. Max points him out as a Divergent so Eric shoots him pointblank in the head. So wait, how did he pass HIS training without getting discovered?

They board the train, Tris noticing Four standing towards the front of the crowd. She makes her way through the zombies, finding him in the same mindless trance. Or so she thinks, until he surreptitiously takes her hand. The train stops outside of the Abnegation territory, the Dauntless getting out and marching their way through the buildings, dragging people out of their homes and shooting them in their search for leaders. Tris and Four sneak away to her old house to find her parents, but the house is empty. They head back outside where they're captured by Max and Eric, taken to a nearby building where Jeanine is. She goes on to give a classic Bond villain speech about how her way is the right way blah blah blah, Abnegation and Divergents are a threat to the perfect system blah blah blah... you can pretty much guess what she's yammering about.
She's doing all of this instead of, you know, FUCKING SHOOTING two of the biggest threats to her master plan. She decides to take Four with her as she leaves, ordering the Dauntless to kill Tris. Instead of just shooting her like we've seen them do with everyone else the past ten minutes, they slowwwwwwwly drag her out to a field and make her kneel execution style. Then they slowwwwwwwly make sure their guns are loaded, as well as checking the wind resistance to make sure they don't miss. They go on to slowwwwwwwly check the weather to make sure it's not going to rain, and gee I hope all this stalling doesn't give someone a convenient window to kill them and save the- oh there it is!

Natalie appears from nowhere and shoots them dead, running with her daughter down an alleyway where they get into a shootout. Yay, Ashley Judd: Action Hero, my day is now made. Tris is forced to kill Zombie Will during the firefight, which shakes her up greatly. Natalie snaps her back to reality and they continue to run, one of the Dauntless scoring a kill shot on the elder Prior. That's kind of sad, but since it's Ashley Judd not THAT sad. Tris escapes into the building her mother told her everyone was hiding at, finding her father, Caleb, Marcus, and other Abnegation inside. Tris cooks up a plan to return to Dauntless to stop the mind control, the three accompanying her.

They take the train back to the Pit, Tris finding a non-zombie Peter patrolling the perimeter. She disarms him and asks where the control station is, shooting him in the arm when he refuses to answer her. This gets him to change his tune, so he takes them to the base of operations. It's heavily guarded so they shoot their way in, Andrew the next to fall. Damn, Tris has lost both of her parents so fast you'd think this was a Disney movie! Sadly this scene is unintentionally hilarious, because Tris was CRUSHED over the death of her mother and now when faced with her father's death she just kind of shrugs. SOMEONE had a favourite parent!

Going inside Tris is disarmed by Four, who is now Jeanine's slave thanks to SUPER chemicals or something. Jeanine starts blabbering AGAIN about how bad Divergents are instead of JUST KILLING TRIS, finally walking away and ordering Four to kill her. The two budding lovers break into a VERY brutal looking brawl, made especially vicious thanks to everything being kept in frame and absolutely NO shaky cam! HUZZAH! She finds a gun on the floor and points it at him, which causes other Erudite in the room watching to pull their guns on her. JUST SHOOT THEM BOTH, WHY DO YOU CARE?! Tris responds by pointing the gun at her head, once again evoking one of Four's big fears. Telling him she loves him is enough to break his conditioning, because NOTHING is more powerful than.. the power of love! Excuse me while I roll my eyes so hard they pop out of my head.

They turn the tables on the Dauntless, another shootout erupting. Jeanine runs back to the control station to make the Dauntless kill the rest of the Abnegation, but Tris stops her by throwing a knife through her hand. NICE! However, she was a bit too late as the Dauntless slowwwwwwwly begin to set up their victims for a mass execution. Tris orders her to stop them but Jeanine refuses, as she's quite ready to die for her beliefs. That's when Tris sees a vial of the serum on the floor, injecting her with it. She COMMANDS her to stop the Dauntless and destroy the program and she does, which makes no sense because the zombies had to be controlled by the computer to act.

Fortunately the Dauntless are still slowwwwwwwly making sure their jackets won't restrict their arms from using their guns, so the Abnegation are saved as Jeanine turns everything off. This also snaps Jeanine out of her trance because why not, so she attacks Tris and gets punched out for her trouble. We're not done yet though, as Four sees Max and a platoon of soldiers running their way via the security monitors. They head out the back door apparently where they meet up with Marcus, Caleb, and Peter (what?) and then take another magic back door because now they're all outside.
Why the fuck is Peter running with them?! They jump a departing train, which you'd think the Erudite would have shut down at this point. That's pretty much it, Tris and Four share a sweet moment and then she narrates us out. She talks about how they're now factionless and the future is uncertain blah blah blah, but at least she has a plan! They're going to ride the train to the end of the line and jump... which is kinda dumb because wouldn't the Erudite be anticipating something like that? They HAVE to know they took a train, how else would they have escaped the Pit so quickly?

Cue the credits, just in time to distract us from the fact this movie is ending INCREDIBLY similar to the first Hunger Games with our lovers departing on a train, unsure of what lies ahead.

This scored a 41 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, the general consensus that this was an overly long and formulaic young adult movie. The word “generic” comes up WAY more often than not as well. I agree with all of this, and yet... I liked it. Just like Horns, this movie is completely carried by Woodley and her infinitely likeable charm. You want her to succeed and find yourself rooting for her, which is handy since over three-fourths of this movie is about her training. It's rather ironic that most of this stuff is entertaining, whereas when the “real action” kicks in at the end, I found myself utterly bored. The last twenty minutes feel SO horribly rushed because they'd spent so much time on the training, as you can really tell what the filmmakers were more interested in detailing.

Tris is definitely a more compelling heroine than Bella, what's-her-name from the Mortal Instruments, whose-her-ass from Vampire Academy, Wanda, and even Katniss herself. I certainly can't say the same thing for the Big Bad of this thing, Miss Jeanine. I don't blame Winslet for this, because she was serviceable as a villain but her character was written SO poorly. I compared her to a Bond villain previously, but that's not really apt because all of them had a clear motivation. Jeanine's goal was to put the Erudite at the top of the faction food chain by overthrowing the Abnegation, blaming them for upsetting the order by protecting Divergents. That's fine, but isn't usurping the Abnegation ALSO UPSETTING THE FUCKING ORDER?! She rants on and on and on (and on) about how the Abnegation are ruining everything, but she is literally doing the exact same thing!

Sure, a classic villain doesn't see themselves as the bad guy and that they're justified in their actions, but she doesn't even have the damn basics right! It doesn't help that virtually every scene she's in she won't shut up about this, making her look FAR from the Erudite she's supposed to be. She makes the right call in allying with the Dauntless since they're the toughest faction, but personally I'd be targeting the Amity who hold the most power since they control all the food and probably have the most brute strength since they're the workers.

But a lot of this is just yet another example of me overthinking a film. I know the books likely address most of my issues, but as I've said time after time you should never have to read a book to understand a movie. And I'll be saying this again when I get to Harry Potter, because HOLY SHIT those last few movies damn near require that. In summary, this is one of the few young adult movies I'd actually recommend if you even have a passing interest in the genre. Actual work and care was put into this to create an interesting world, one that didn't reek of a manipulative cash grab designed to bring in female audiences outside of the scene where Four took his shirt off. How much care though? Let's see what the Twilight Meter tells us!

Step One. Start off with a completely bland boring uninteresting dark haired young woman who starts off as nothing special. She has to be a loner who only has one interest/hobby in her life.

Tris wasn't dark haired, but the rest of this is a textbook description of her. Hell, she didn't even have a single interest besides gaping at the Dauntless. That's one point for a score of 1/7.

Step Two. She will have a single male best friend that she only thinks of “as a friend or like a brother”. He, of course, pines for her daily to love him like he secretly loves her.

We never saw her with a single friend, so this wretched trope was avoided. No points given to keep the score at 1/7.

Step Three. Have her suddenly become the most important person in the world through a combination of the supernatural, a hidden talent she didn't know she had, or an indomitable will.

Debatable, since we saw there were other Divergent but they weren't the ones stepping up to the plate to FIGHT THE POWER. +1 point for a score of 2/7.

Step Four. Make sure she only has one parent, usually a mother but that's flexible. The other parent is gone either through divorce, death, or mysteriously vanishing when she was young.

I'm fairly sure this is the only movie I've seen where the lead character had BOTH parents together in a loving relationship, and they damn near made it to the end of the movie still alive. That's no points for a score of 2/7.

Step Five. Throw her into a Love Triangle with two men, one of whom is the aforementioned best friend she's known her entire life and the other an enigmatic stranger she instantly prefers. Bonus if the stranger is introduced saving her life.

ONE HUNDRED PERCENT Love Triangle free! Again no points to keep the score 2/7.

Step Six. Add a villain. The villain isn't important at all so we don't need any kind of development for him. In fact, the more faceless and generic he is the better because that's just taking time away from the Love Triangle.

Sorry Jeanine, I'm going to have to use the “G-word” with you. +1 point for a score of 3/7.

Step Seven. Make sure whatever world changing events going on in the story are minimized so they can take a backseat to the Love Triangle.

There was no Love Triangle, and while Tris' growing relationship with Four was a key part of the story I wouldn't say it overtook Jeanine's quest for power. No points for a final score of 3/7.

0: Congratulations! Your fictional world is so original and creative it's almost guaranteed it'll get ignored by mainstream audiences!

1 – 2: A very nice breath of fresh air, it was great to see a unique spin on well worn material.

3 – 4: I feel like I've seen this a million times already, and will see it a million more.

5 – 6: Seriously, why even bother making this when you should have just been working on new features for Twilight: The Tenth Anniversary Blu-Ray?

7: You should be expecting a call from Stephenie Meyer's lawyers ANY minute now.