Yep, here we go again.
Another young adult novel trilogy turned to a movie franchise.
And what is most interesting about Divergent is that it seems like everyone (including myself) could not sit through this 140-minute movie and not draw distinctive comparisons to The Hunger Games, with both movies set in a similar dystopian type future, in which the main heroine fights to survive in their oppressive society.
Divergent involves the population being divided into five factions, according to human virtues and personality traits. The selflessness go to Abnegation, the peaceful go to Amity, the truthful to Candor, intelligent to Erudite and the brave to Dauntless. To determine which faction you belong to, the social system includes a coming of age initiation in which a test is administered and a faction is recommended to you, in which then you have the choice to choose or choose another. Those who do not fit into one of the five factions, go factionless and essentially homeless.
Beatrice (who later on, renames herself Tris) grew up in Abnegation alongside her family. Her discontent and struggle to belong is evident through the first five minutes as she expresses her awe for Dauntless. However, when it came down to her completing the test, instead of finding out where she is supposed to belong as she desired, she finds out instead that she is in fact a Divergent – one who’s mind does not simply conform to just one faction. To add to her confusion even more so, her life is in current danger as Erudite and their leader, Jeanine (Kate Winslet), is on the hunt to get rid of all Divergents.
Eventually, Tris chooses Dauntless as her new faction, leaving her family behind in Abnegation, where she meets Four (Theo James), who trains the new Dauntless recruits. Many scenes here also involve Miles Teller as Peter tormenting Tris, butting heads and even fighting it out physically – a change in their dynamics after playing love interests in The Spectacular Now (“Maybe the twist is, Divergent is the sequel” – My cynical friend chuckles to herself at her own joke). The rest of the movie is then played out as Tris’ survival in a society that wants her dead.
Whilst the plot is slightly convoluted, perhaps a little lackluster and sometimes you’ll find yourself questioning why, I think the main standout and perhaps even the main reason to go and see this film is Shailene Woodley. After watching her performances in both The Descendants as George Clooney’s daughter, and The Spectacular Now as young and naïve Aimee, she has immediately become one of my favourite new and upcoming actresses to keep an eye on, with Divergent emphasizing this through her perfect execution of her role. Whilst the comparisons to The Hunger Games will lead people to inevitably unfairly compare Shailene Woodley to Jennifer Lawrence, I think in her own right she stands out and carries the movie as the shining star.
Nevertheless, even though there were probably a few moments that were enjoyable and entertaining, the film itself was nothing remarkable or even memorable. Some concepts had potential to develop, yet were just touched upon shallowly and others were dragged out painfully. The only thing I took from this movie is that Shailene Woodley is one to look out for.
Directed by: Neil Burger
Written by: Vanessa Taylor, Evan Daugherty
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Kate Winslet
Released by: Summit Entertainment / Hopscotch Films
Running time: 139 mins