Yari Film Group Releasing via Everett Collection
Divergent is headed our way and there's plenty to get excited about. Shailene Woodley, Theo James and Kate Winslet are all starring in the highly anticipated adaptation of Veronica Roth's dystopian YA novel. The story will be brought to the big screen by director Neil Burger, and we think it's safe to say that the film is in good hands. A big fan of literature and a guy who knows what the young people want, Burger has an interesting story — and some really interesting thoughts on why Divergent is absolutely not the new Hunger Games. Here are a few fun facts about the man behind Divergent.
Former Music Video Director (of the Meat Puppets' "Sam")
We're about to take it back to 1991 for a minute. Burger used to direct music videos for alternative artists like the illustrious Meat Puppets. And if you don't know who they are, there's a good chance you'll be a fan after checking out their video for Sam. The visuals appropriately reflect the very grungey times, so we're mainly just impressed that he was hanging out with these guys back in the day. All of this now explains the dopeness of the Divergent soundtrack, which includes folks like Ellie Golding, A$AP Rocky, Skrillex, M83 and Kendrick Lamar.
He's All About the Books
In addition to being all up in the grunge scene, Burger invested some real time and effort in turning his own love for literature into a literacy movement. He worked with MTV, directing PSA-type videos advocating for literacy among the young folks, which he described as "music videos for literature and language." Also, three of his five feature films are book adaptations.
Excellent Taste in Women, Apparently
We don't know much about his wife, but Diana Kellogg is a brilliant architect and you're probably about to get lost in the vortex that is her website. Seriously, this SoHo loft is everything! Here's hoping she had something — anything — to do with the look of Divergent.
He's Got Some Interesting Thoughts on The Hunger Games
Although he knows that The Hunger Games comparisons are inevitable, Burger has told Fandango that he sees some stark differences between Tris and Katniss: "This is a far more complex story than Hunger Games, and if you know the book, she [Tris] starts out questioning her place in society and she ends up questioning society itself, in a real way.” Burger believe that Katniss Everdeen doesn't experience growth in the same way that Tris does. While Katniss is "a good archer to begin with and she’s good at the end,” Tris “goes through this massive journey, this incredibly extensive change from somebody who is very sheepish and kind of wants to disappear and just doesn’t want to be seen to somebody who’s just gonna really stand up.”
Divergent hits theaters March 21. You can check showtimes and purchase advanced tickets at Movietickets.com.
Follow @Hollywood_com Follow @shannonmhouston
Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com