Tuesday, 8 April 2014


Silly, selfish me. Of course I wasn't expecting to feel intellectually nourished by Divergent. That's neither an expectation nor a requirement of mine when watching any film, no matter what the genre. But some form of nourishment, be it perhaps emotional or sensorial, is indeed a requirement of mine if I am to have valued the experience of watching a film, and Divergent is a long film in short supply of anything of the sort. For all its fantasy and its peril and its high-tech dystopian chic, it's a rote, inchoate and frustratingly drab, inconsequential action thriller. Why wasn't I more alarmed to hear that the screenwriters had refused to excise any of the source novel's key moments? This film is stuffed with such moments, which might carry copious amounts of significance on the page, where they're given time and space to amass it, but which each produce a sense of bathetic deflation on the screen, as they wither past in an endless parade of overblown futuristic pomp, serving no purpose beyond baffling its bored audience, save those for whom Divergent has been quite meticulously tailored. The YA crowd is by no means demanding, but that's no reason not to try harder to make an actually good film - it's not even in its relentless teen-baiting that Divergent proves such a catastrophic bore, but in the inadequacy of the filmmaking in general. You can tell why the starry ensemble cast has turned up - a combination of feeling like they're contributing to something of worth to the contemporary cultural landscape and a handsome paycheque - but one glance at the less-than-well-practised crew beside the hefty budget, and you might not be able to tell why you've turned up. Shailene Woodley is a compelling lead, which only makes the film even less tolerable, as she must undergo humiliation after humiliation that the current YA vogue has mandated her to, in return for stardom. I wanted to grab her by her ponytail and swing her over that fence and back into an Alexander Payne film.