Friday, October 10, 2014

3+1 Short Paragraphs: Divergent

2014, Neil Burger (Limitless, The Illusionist) -- download

For the time being, youth dystopian fiction is where it's at.  With the astounding popularity of The Hunger Games and the screen realizations of The Maze Runner and The Host, we have a few more years of teens against the Near Dark Future establishment coming. But, isn't it weird, when you think something is a thing and then you try and find examples, but realize they are so few? Its the opposite of finding out someone has a new car, and suddenly seeing that car everywhere on the road. Anywayz, its an easy stretch to see why today's youth would feel attached to fiction that has them up against cruel societies that care little for their people.

Now, despite my fondness for near future stories, I never cared to see this movie. The idea of a dark (near) future that is dominated by how it pre-defines its people, how it breaks everyone up into the group they are most suited for, didn't seem that dark to me. As a premise, it is not very alluring. OMG, they want you to be giving or martial or intellectual or whatever. AND you are actually allowed to go against the suggested group and choose. But what if you are the magical kid who has the connection to all the possible life directions / professions? Oooo dangerous. Even as I type it now, I cannot see how it would be considered a real issue. I imagined the movie would spend so much time convincing us this had an impact, I would end up rolling my eyes. But I was pleasantly surprised. The weight of the choices and how far outside she felt, is pretty apparent from the beginning.

Tris is raised in the "abnegation" tradition; those who are entirely giving. She doesn't feel it. During her 'aptitude test' the evaluator tells her the test fails but that she should tell them it said "abnegation". Instead Tris decides on the martial protectors called "dauntless". And thus begins her training at Hogw... the dauntless training arenas. Thus we get the cliches of The Hunger Games, or Harry Potter, or any other fiction where a young character has to spend most of the story training to not be the weak, unskilled, whiny version of themselves so they can blossom into the confident warrior that will set their people free. Inherently, I cannot fault that trend in fiction, having spent so much of my youth repeatedly reading the Band of Adventurers (i.e. Fellowship) trope.

But as training goes on, it becomes apparent why her being "divergent" (carrying traits from all the traditions) is so dangerous. She acts more independent than her peers, more thoughtful. So, despite being smaller and weaker than the other dauntless bullies, she rises through the training ranks. Meanwhile a conspiracy is going on around her, as the current leader of their people, an Erudite (smart people) played by Kate Winslet devises a way to control the dauntless like a suggestible zombie army. And the divergent are immune. As the story closes out, again we have to compare to The Hunger Games as our hero starts a rebellion against the leaders, for the betterment of her people. Let's assume it made enough money to move onto the rest of the series.