Teenage fiction used to be about solving crimes, addressing problems and going through rites of passage.
Now, it’s all dystopian. At least Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” trilogy skips out the werevolves and vampires, although there are echoes of the “Hunger Games” in this brave new world. Life is brutal and exceptionally difficult.
Nobody seems to have things in the future. No phones, TVs, computers – except for big corporate-controlled screens. Teenagers don’t even have a change of clothes, unless these are given by Those In Power.
Gloomy times call for unhappy stories. “Divergent” as a book reminded me of Philip K Dick’s “The Clans Of The Alphane Moon” which, in turn, was based on his 1954 short story “Shell Gama”.
Basically, after a horrible war, people have been divided into factions. When you’re 16, you get to choose.
Most people choose their family clan. Some don’t. There’s a test which may or may not give you a wider choice.
You’ll enjoy this film much more if that’s all you know, going in.
I use to almost drool with glee when a female was the lead of a film aimed at young people. Now, there are so many “hardened outsider girls” that I fear few role models remain for the nerdy and the chronically shy.
“Divergent” benefits from a great soundtrack, a lovely and quite slow build-up and an imaginative use of a semi-ruined Chicago.
The performances are good, too. Shailene Woodley and Theo James are just fine, as the young leads. Kate Winslet looks almost unrecognisable and does a good American accent, which only occasionally slips.
Ashley Judd and Zoe Kravitz are the other stand-out performances in a movie populated by huge crowds of epic proportions.
The fights, stunts and chases all have that “Matrix” look.
The mainly-teenage audience at the Stratford East Picturehouse loved it and enjoyed the corny romance and grim feel of the film.
Me? I’m a little depressed at the idea that there is no audience for the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. I enjoyed the movie once I suspended disbelief, got into a gloomy and bleak state of mind and just rolled along with the action and words on screen.
I needed a stiff drink and a cheery conversation, afterwards. I am incredibly grateful that I grew up in a world in which I felt things were getting better each year. Who’d be a teenager now, based on the stuff they like? I always feared that Philip K Dick was a prophet. But I hoped I was wrong and continue to wish that.