I just got back from seeing Divergent, the movie adaptation of Veronica Roth's runaway best-selling trilogy.
First, the technicals. I hope this movie makes eleventy-seven-billion bucks and shows moviemakers that you can make a blockbuster action flick by holding the damn camera still. I hate shaky-cam like fire. Divergent blew Hunger Games out of the water on cinematography alone. Sets were beautiful. Costumes were beautiful. The CGI and backdrops were beautiful.
No, "OMG, WE'RE RUNNING!"
*shake shake shake*
No, "OMG, WE'RE FIGHTING!"
*swing the camera around your head on a rubber band.*
No, "ERMAGHERD, WE'RE EDGY AND DARK!"
*throw everything slightly off-frame with some dumbass filter and soft focus*
I want movies to be immersive experiences. I want them to be real. When the filmmaker inserts himself into my experience with stupid camera tricks, I get stabby.
Second, the casting. I saw a lot of screaming in social media about the choices for Tris and Four. To hell with that, those kids were perfect. And Four was sex on wheels.
* * *
That out of the way, the strength of the movie is the gut-punch. The Fear Room. The Factions. My own self-examination on my 15-minute walk home from the theater.
I'm pretty damn bright. With no help or grooming from my family, I went from a trailer park on the other side of the airport to degrees in civil engineering and law. The only thing that stood between me and comfortable careers in both was a lack of desire to conform. So, on choosing day, would I have slid into the logic and comfort of Erudite?
However, you wouldn't know it by looking at my pale-skinned, lumpy, middle-aged self in cargo pants and polo shirt, that I've climbed red iron, went up the side of an oil tanker on a rope ladder, and calmly held my shit when I lost the rear end of my car on the ice, slid uphill, and came to rest sideways less than two feet from the traffic on a state highway. Not to mention a few things I was involved in that are better left unsaid until I'm positive the statute of limitations has passed.
These days I am more likely to express the Dauntless side of my nature by doing things like walking away from jobs that don't please me, from people that don't support me, and property that doesn't serve me. I find it funny that I now have the wisdom and experience to face physical and mental challenges, and can only wish I still had the knees and flexibility. If I had my half-century brain in my teen-self, I would have been the first jumper without question.
One of the main questions of Divergent is what do you fear and how do you face it. The final test for joining the Dauntless faction is the Fear Room. It is a simulation where you confront and overcome your greatest fears.
What do I truly fear?
I've certainly been afraid before. I've had a gun put in my face and a hand around my throat that was more than capable of going through with the implied threat. But in the end, the real pain wasn't physical, it was the rejection and betrayal inherent in those actions.
Death? I'm in no hurry to cross that bridge, but after a knock on the door in the middle of the night in 2009 and the four words that change everything, "There's been an accident," I understand there are things far worse than dying.
As you get older you can do one of two things. You can let the insecurities and fears of your youth grow and consume you or you can shed them.
I don't fear old age, only the loss of capacity, especially my vision and mental acuity.
I don't fear poverty, only the loss of options that comes with it.
I don't fear pain or injury, only the loss of freedom and mobility.
I don't fear being alone, only the loss of connection.
I don't fear failure, only the nagging doubt that I missed some magic window of success along the way.
I have a feeling my Fear Room would be a complicated place.
Divergent is 5-stars, two-thumbs up, with a round-the-world snap, and a bag of damn chips. Well done to all involved, from the writer, to her agent, to her editors, to those who adapted it for the screen, and the filmmakers who pointed the cameras and let the action unfold.