The Quarenteen films
Updated: Apr 10
Crazy leaders and moody teenagers, love triangles set in the dystopian future, a fanatically loyal cult following that formed a cultural phenomenon; can you see where I am going with this? We have Divergent, Maze Runner and The Hunger Games. Three classic films filled with teenage angst and a surprising amount of violence. These films spoke to a generation and can do so again! Stuck inside we can find sympathy for our solitude in the unlikeliest of places; be it teenagers in a prison-like maze, segregated districts and arenas of death or simply overly oppressive dystopian societies, these three films have it all.
The Hunger Games (2012)
Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) is from the most destitute of districts, number 12. The capitol of Suzanne Collins fictional country, Panem, run the Hunger Games once a year to keep the districts in check. A cruel punishment for rebellion that claims 2 teenagers from each district in a public reaping, a random draw of one boy and one girl who will fight till the death. In the 74th Hunger Games, Katniss' little sister Primrose (Willow Shields) is selected and Katniss volunteers as tribute to save her, joining Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson) as the two in District 12 destined to die. This adaption of the book is good, the screenplay is slick. It hits all the highpoints that are in the original text including the crazy Capitol outfits and grisly deaths. Sadly, the love story between Katniss and Peeta isn't just included but is beefed up to a barely bearable point that embodies the trashy teenage love triangles that it popularised. But Gary Ross (Director) did do a wonderful job bringing the crazy world of Panem to life: the opulence contrasted with abject poverty is captured in Katniss' journey into becoming 'the girl on fire.' The costumes in particular capturing how desolate and dark district 12 is compared to the vibrant, gaudy Capitol. Ross does have one unbearable habit which is his shaky cam! The opening of the film and a few of the action scenes have fallen so victim to this shakiness (maybe Ross was going for 'authenticity' here but who knows,) that I find myself feeling ill and turning away whenever I watch them. Thankfully, this technical faux pas only applies to a few frames. The other issue is the simple fact that Katniss Everdeen is not a likeable character. Jennifer does an amazing job playing her character but on or off the page she comes across as grumpy and selfish! The supporting actors like Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) are so great, both guys are funny and a joy to watch. We know what to expect with Hunger Games and the film delivers. It is just as interesting as when I first watched it and gripped me from the start. I did notice issues coming through, but the supporting cast makes the whole watching experience enjoyable. This is not on Netflix or Amazon Prime at the moment, but I am sure you either own a copy or have seen it before and can be enticed into buying one.
The Maze Runner (2014)
Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) arrives in 'The Glade' remembering nothing about his past and himself. Trapped inside an enclosed environment at the centre of a massive concrete maze, he is introduced to the small settlement of teenage boys who survive against their cyborg prison guard the Grievers. Their world changes when Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) arrives. The boys split into two factions: one is led by Thomas, Teresa and Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) who want to escape through the maze. The other by Gally (Will Poulter) who want to stay. This is an incredibly original idea and the plaudits must go to James Dasher who wrote the original novel. The concept of a prison-like maze with a group of teenage boys trying to survive against cyborgs is enthralling. The turns in the film are surprising and keep you interested the entire way through. The film does not waste any time on superfluous plot. The pace is kept high and the focus is on escaping. The screenplay is one of the reasons this film was so successful and it is a great watch. The other big reason for its success is the cast, Thomas Brodie-Sangster and Will Poulter are amazing in their supporting roles. The two are able to showcase their talents, Will especially in his role as antagonist. They overshadow the leads because they clearly possess a higher calibre of acting than those they are surrounded with. I would highly recommend that everyone rushes to watch this film again which is made easy as it is on Netflix. It is a fun watch that will keep you enthralled the entire way through. The acting may be mediocre at points but the plot more than makes up for it. The biggest issue with this film is its sequel, I would encourage you to avoid that at all costs.
Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) lives in the dystopian remains of Chicago. The city is split into five factions which each deal with a pillar of society like farming, security and law. Tris is at an age where she must pick the faction that she will dedicate her life to. However, the test that guides her reveals that she holds the dangerous position of a Divergent. A square peg in a round hole, Tris Prior does not fit in anywhere. The test instead of indicating one faction points to three, Tris has to choose for herself what kind of life she wants to lead. A poor one with her family or a life of excitement chosen for herself, a life that risks her secret. This is by far the most convoluted of the three films. The social system is not explained and no real reason is given to its existence. In points, the script feels clunky and the emotional beats do not hit quite as well as they should. This is partly (or mostly) due to the acting of Shailene. However, other characters like her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and her trainer Four (Theo James) are not fleshed out at all. The moments involving them in the film never have their desired impact because it is like watching strangers on the screen. There are some great moments in the film mainly in and around Tris being trained in her new faction. Her character learns to let go and live life. It is good to watch Tris blossom and the training is both fun and enjoyable, especially as she must work hard to improve and maintain her position within the faction. The love story in this film is predictable. The leader of the dystopian society feels two dimensions and like a textbook MCU villain. The training of Tris is the only non played out part of her film. Out of the three films I have reviewed, I would say this one is the least effective as an adaptation. It relies on a reading of the books, which I would recommend, ignore the film and focus on the text it came from. It would be a more enjoyable experience. If you do want to give it a try, its a click away on Netflix.