Movie Reviews: Divergent and Captain America: The Winter Soldier

captain americaSo last week I promised you movie reviews and I am never one to back down on a promise. My word is my bond. Which sounds like something Captain America would say (like my segway there?). But firstly something else mildly diverting – Divergent.

Divergent

It is hard to imagine this film without the massive shadow that is the hugely successful Hunger Games looming above it. I think it is safe to say that the option for this book series probably got picked up in the wake of the Hunger Games – when Hollywood finally clicked to the fact that teenage girls kicking arse was something that could bring in the big bucks. So another series of novels about an ordinary girl in a post apocalyptic world who has to shoulder a responsibility she never asked for nor expected? Hell yeah, let’s movie the hell out of that one!

And they did. Divergent tells the story of Tris – ably played here by ‘The Descendants’ Shailene Woodley. We meet Tris and her brother on the day they have to choose their path in life – stay with their family and live a life of restraint and good deeds in the Abnegation faction or choose another – potentially more exciting – faction and leave their family behind. Because this is a world where humans are divided by their most over-riding personality trait – the selfless in Abnegation, the smart in Erudite, the honest in Candour, the peaceful in Amity and the brave in Dauntless. This is done to, apparently, keep the peace after the world almost ripped itself to pieces – and a beaten up but still impressive looking Chicago is the backdrop and evidence of this. But of course – Tris isn’t like everyone else. She is ‘divergent’ – meaning she has more than one of these traits. And is therefore a threat to the entire fabric of society.

So, if you can get through that summary without either raising an eyebrow or snorting, then you will probably love this film. I went in having already read the book – which I struggled through if I am honest –  it wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t that compelling. And the same can be said of the film. It is an interesting concept – basically an overblown version of the ‘don’t let them pigeon-hole you in high school’ lesson that better films than this have trotted out in the past. But this is a solid adaptation of the book – keeping true to the style and the plot and therefore keeping most of the hardcore Divergent fans happy. And it is a decent film on its own – good action, decent dialogue, some great performances (especially from Woodley and from a distractingly pregnant Kate Winslet in her first turn as a baddie) – and some eye candy for the girls (hello Theo James). But at the end of the day – Tris is no Katniss and Woodley is no Lawrence – and this is just a mild diversion while we wait for Mockingjay to finish filming. 3 M&Ms from me.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

I think I can be honest with you, my loyal blog readers, and tell you that Captain America was probably my least favourite of The Avengers. He was always just a little too earnest and a little too beef cake to be of interest to me. Possibly my only mild enjoyment of his first solo outing could be put down to the fact I saw it on DVD and not on the big screen – Marvel films are DEFINITELY best enjoyed on the big screen – and the bigger the better. But, that was how it happened – hence I was far from excited about the latest of the Marvel Phase 2 films. Then I started seeing the trailers and hearing the hype. And there has been quite a bit of hype. So by the time I walked into the cinema this evening my expectations were definitely a few degrees above simmering.

And so they should have been. What can I say – Marvel just are the best in the business these days. Every time out of the box they are doing something different. Not content to have cornered the market in smart talking super heroes with the best effects and explosions EVER, they also want to add something new to each story – and to link them all together so that those fans, like me, who are watching for the connections, can see them and go ‘wow, I am SO down with this stuff now’. With the Cap’s second outing they double down on the political intrigue and topical moral questions by having the Captain question the organisation he works for – S.H.I.E.L.D – and with very good reason.

This is definitely the most intellectual Marvel film in the franchise – but it serves its smarts with some massive side orders of action which ensure that everyone leaves the cinema happy – no matter their IQ or gender. I am normally one who would happily fast forward through the action to the next talky bit – but the fights in particular here are simply amazing to watch – and at one point my jaw actually dropped. The huge set pieces and the smaller one on one scuffles are all exquisitely filmed – and are a joy to behold. It was also fantastic to see the one decent female Marvel-ite – Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) – get some decent screen time and some kick arse fight scenes (who would win in a fight – Katniss or Black Widow? Hmm, tough call…). Newcomer Anthony Mackie as The Falcon also stole his fair share of scenes – with a great blend of humour and BEING ABLE TO FLY.

If you have thus far shunned Marvel films as being popcorn entertainment that is too low brow for you – I suggest you use this one as your entry point. Robert Redford is in it and everything! It is practically a festival film…Ok, I may be stretching that slightly. But I can’t wax lyrical enough about how happy I am that Marvel continue to up the ante film after film after film. Simply…(yes, I am going there) Marvellous. Four and a half multi-coloured M&Ms from me 🙂

 

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