Year Released: 201
Directed by: Neil Burger
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet
(PG 13, 140 min.)
Genre: Action and Adventure, Science Fiction and Fantasy
“The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it.” H. L. Mencken
It plays around with ideas like the dangers of conformity, but what really brings in the box office is the chemistry between its two stars and the kick ass action. The first is a slow sizzle and the second red hot – a nice combination of opposites. Based on the best selling book series by Veronica Roth,
...this thrilling action-adventure film is set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is warned she is Divergent and will never fit into any one group. When she discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader (Kate Winslet) to destroy all Divergents, Tris must learn to trust in the mysterious Four (Theo James) and together they must find out what makes being Divergent so dangerous before it's too late.
Of course the comparison to The Hunger Games (Roast Wild Boar) original franchise as well as its most recent installment Catching Fire (No Manners Needed Chocolate Cake) is obvious. This critic was even struck with the physical similarities between Jenifer Lawrence’s Katniss and Shailene Woodley’s Tris; they both share the rounded almost cherubic faces of youth and innocence, with lean and athletic frames. Both have an intriguing combination of toughness and vulnerability.
While the political background of Divergent is not as dark and engulfing as The Hunger Games’ dystopian vision, both films feature reactions to a devastating war. The Chicago group in Divergent takes a different path, not the naked power grab of The Hunger Games’ Panem, but a cooperative plan to ensure peace and tranquility. The remaining decimated population divide themselves into 5 groups (factions) dedicated to virtues.
Abnegation is dedicated to selflessness. They hide their beauty in gray clothes and guard against vanity, greed, and envy. Bathroom mirrors are under lock and key; only timed viewings are allowed. Fifty Abnegation leaders run the entire government. By birth Beatrice (Tris) is a member of this group.
Black clothed, pierced and tattooed, the Dauntless faction is bold, daring and intense. They guard the fence that surrounds the city.
The bluntly honest members of Candor see truth in black and white, so that is what they wear.
The peaceful, playful and kind members of Amity clothe themselves in the earth tones. Interestingly, they play little or no part in this film, and maybe that is a statement in itself. To this critic, they seem a close overlap with the Abnegation cult – excuse me – that would be Abnegation faction.
And finally, the blue clad Erudite are serious and focused, dedicated to knowledge and intelligence.
Ironically, with perhaps as many parallels to today’s America as The Hunger Games chronicles, this setup supposedly devoted to good works has as many dangers as the more obvious corrupted evil Capitol that Katniss battles.
The road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions, as our Tris soon learns when she joins the Dauntless faction. And of course, even the idea of “factions,” which is usually a pejorative meaning “a group or clique formed to seek a single minded goal within a disagreeable political party of government” sets itself up for further jockeying for position and turmoil, not unlike our present day American so called culture.
But, as I said earlier, what everyone is coming to see is the budding romance between Tris and the stoic Dauntless trainer Four who reluctantly mentors her. Perhaps all of us, even adolescents of the notorious hookup generation, are looking for a break from the uncommitted, casual sex thrust upon us nonstop from television and film. Here it is back to the age-old formula that took us the long way to love when passion was a look, a longing, and a light touch. And as other critics have commented, it helps that the cast is not just made up of pretty faces; they can act, too.
In interviews, we find out the actor who play Four, Theo Jones, is both articulate and intelligent, and even a little more sexy with his authentic British accent. The inspiration for his role, Jones admits, is traditional, modeled after the very masculine, old school Paul Newman, incidentally, one of my first movie crushes, which probably explains why I liked Four so much.
Shailene Woodley, who plays Tris, is also reflective and bright. She sees her character as a great role model for girls – strong, resolute, and empowered, but, as the actress wisely ads, a feminist who doesn’t hate men.
Finally, the action and adventure is pretty thrilling, especially Dauntless’ heart-stopping running leaps to board to old "L" that still circles round my former home city, Chi Town, and not too terribly removed from some of my own remembered real life boarding ventures. The zip line initiation rite is awesome, if someone my age is allowed to use that word; the training fight scenes sufficiently brutal, with just enough teenage cruelty and betrayal thrown in to make us all recall moments of our own sometimes tormented adolescence.
Perhaps this new franchise doesn’t cut any real new ground. And yes, its trumpeted message about the dangers of conformity is somewhat obvious and predictable. It also lacks the unflinching savage brutality that informs greater works such as Lord of the Flies, but that 1990 literary film grossed only ¼ of what Divergent has brought in during its opening weekend alone.
So, abandon your sincere, selfless, peaceful, or intellectual proclivities, and dive into the thrilling abandon of Dauntless this weekend, for a few hours, at least.
Raised a member of the selfless Abnegation Faction, Tris was a vegetarian. When she chooses to enter the daring Dauntless faction, Tris has her first taste of meat, a hamburger, to be precise. And she takes that in just as she does all the other changes in her newly chosen life, without hesitation.
But her hamburger, a single meat patty with no adornment, doesn’t have the same thrill as her first jump into a concrete abyss, a descent that tests her courage and gives this drab Abnegation “stiff” a Katherine Hepburn just riding over the rapids in African Queen thrill.
Let’s see if we can do something with the burger to make it a little more Dauntlessly thrilling. How about some Chicago Beer Braised Burgers from livened up not only with brew, but also Tabasco, Worcestershire, and topped off with beer-braised onions?
I usually don’t have pictures of my recipes, but this one is too fabulous to pass up. In Chicago lingo, “Eat dem up, youse guys.”
Chicago Beer-Braised Burger Recipe
1 1/2 lbs minced beef
2 tablespoons beer
1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
4 slices cheese
- Combine beef, beer, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Season to taste.
- Form into four 1" thick patties. Wrap in cling film and chill for a couple of hours.
- Grill patties; top with cheese and berr-braised onions.