They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me
dr_phil_physics

Why Do People Keep Saying That To Me?

Mrs. Dr. Phil mused on the way home about whether it's a new phenomenon for the YA blockbusters to be all about the dystopia -- Uglies, Hunger Games, Divergent. So we wracked our brains for earlier examples, especially SF.

Before there was a YA category, I know teens read Animal Farm, 1984, A Wrinkle in Time, Catcher in the Rye (dystopia in the protag's mind), Lord of the Flies. For that matter, the hobbits in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings are not looking for adventure, but get thrust into a bad situation. And H.G. Wells, The Time Machine, War of the Worlds. Also the original Frankenstein and Dracula involve getting into a bleak situation.

So maybe we've always been this way.

Divergent [PG-13]
Holland 7 Theatre #2 Noon 2x$7.00

Finally, a movie that really follows the book, which I recently reviewed (DW). Unlike Hunger Games, Divergent is set in Chicago, or a recognizable version of Chicago. So let's get that out of the way -- the texture mapping of Chicago to dystopian Chicago seems smooth and seamless. We didn't see it in IMAX, but I imagine the visuals and vistas retain their lustre even blown up on the big IMAX screen.

Obviously they can't completely do the whole book, but I don't see a lot damage done here. They start with the testing and go straight to the choosing, no school. From there, it's one wild train ride. The first half of the story is Beatrice choosing to leave her family and faction of Abnegation and jump as Tris into Dauntless. It's an odd society, but the characters believe it. So we do, too. Each of the characters can't completely change where they came from -- something they dwell on in their interactions with each other. No wonder the system is about to crumble.

The visuals and set pieces feel right. The mind reading chairs are not overly designed. The Dauntless leadership is tough and confident. The El of the Chicago Transit Authority is just the unnamed train, but it's a major player. The arrival at Dauntless is true to the book -- as Mrs. Dr. Phil pointed out, they could have screwed that up so easily. Recognizable Chicago landmarks abound, including the Ferris wheel on Navy Pier and the Hancock Tower -- thank goodness they got THAT scene right.

Simulations and hallucinations of the testing are done convincingly -- as in the book we don't need to know or care about the details, the characters just have to believe it.

Kate Winslet plays Jeanine, the villain-with-the-plan who imagines her truth supersedes everyone else, and her elegance and fervent "niceness" and "concern" are major league creepy. Agree with her or else, but check your wallet when you walk away.

I'd have to recheck, but the ending is a bit compressed and part of it will no doubt be blended into the beginning of Insurgent, the second part of the story. There's at least one major punch that I think was in the first book that got pulled from the movie -- I wonder if they will put that in movie 2 or try to workaround it in the story.

Our leads are striking and believable. Tris blends inexperience and weakness with determination. She is much more of the engine of her story than Katniss -- the latter tends to react more than choose. And Divergent is all about choice and its consequences. Tobias/Four and his nemesis Eric are solidly portrayed as Dauntless powers. Four feels real, too, and pairs up very well with Tris.

In looking for a picture for an icon I was struck with two thoughts. One was that there's a lot of fan art from the books, as you might expect, and it almost makes the film look too pretty. Then again, we're talking almost functioning dystopia, not a complete collapse of society. Second, there are two similar publicity stills, of which my icon is taken from one. In both, Tris is staring straight into the camera, while Four is looking down and away -- reminds me of Madeline Stowe in the Last of the Mohicans poster. Interesting because the boy is in the weaker position. But in one photo, Tris stands with her arms crossed, defiant. In the other, a bit softer, with weight shifted to one hip, but holding a throwing knife again her leg, more relaxed but clearly dangerous. This is not your Barbie-fied heroine, and frankly it's refreshing.

I think you can stay with the story without having read the books. An older woman paused at the bottom of the steps and asked what I thought. I said it stuck close to the book and did it very well. Had she read it? No. Did you like it? Oh very much.

HIGHLY Recommended

Trailers: Some creepy horror flick about unorthodox methods to cure illness or possession, which all goes very badly. Don't go up the stair! Don't open the door! Filmed in Blair Witch Cam. We'll pass. A Kevin Costner flick as a guy trying to draft the perfect team for the Cleveland Browns of the NFL. Could be fun. A couple others that didn't make an impression.

Stick to Divergent, you'll have more fun.

Dr. Phil
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