Divergent is yet another attempt to capitalize on the popular dystopian young adult novels of late. While the film is mildly enjoyable and engaging, it’s plot and characters are a bit vapid to make it the next Hunger Games.
Divergent takes place in a futuristic, dystopian Chicago after a war ravaged the world. To protect its inhabitants, the government fenced off the city and divided society into five strict factions: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite. Each faction represents a different ideal and value: selflessness, peacefulness, honesty, bravery, and intelligence, respectfully.
Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), a 16-year-old Abnegation, has reached the age where she must choose what faction she will live for the rest of her life. Before the Choosing Ceremony, she takes an aptitude test, which serves to show what faction she will be best in. Being a Abnegation, it’s most likely that she’ll continue to be Abnegnation. But her aptitude tests come back inconclusive, meaning that she fits into three factions instead of just one. She learns that she’s “Divergent”, a dangerous trait that makes her a threat to the government. She must keep it a secret from everyone, including her family.
When it comes time for her to choose at the Choosing Ceremony, she surprisingly chooses Dauntless, shocking her parents who she will never be able to live with again. Beatrice changes her name to Tris and embarks on her journey to become full-fledged part of the tough-as-nails Dauntless faction, which involves her moving up the ranks so she doesn’t get cut and become “factionless” or an outcast of society.
Tris is one of the worst and weakest initiates, so she starts with one of the lowest ranks. Luckily, her instructor Four (Theo James) has taken a special interest in her and she works to improve. She gets beaten up and broken down along the way, but never gives up. She also uncovers the plot by the Eurodite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) to overthrow the government and become the ruler of the city.
At 143 minutes, Divergent feels long, even for someone like me who read the books. However, the film is true to the book and the majority of the main scenes remain intact, even fan favorites such as the capture the flag game, initiate training, and the fear simulations. There are some scenes that are thrown in just for the fans, such as Tris’s tattoos, but not explained in detail as they move on to the next plot point.
Of all the actors, I enjoyed Woodley’s performance as Tris the most. She was far prettier than I imagined in the books (expected in a Hollywood adaptation), but still did a wonderful job depicting the difficult decisions Tris made throughout the story.
Divergent is a valiant effort to bring the to book to life. It’s pretty to look at, the special effects are great, the acting is good; however, overall it lacks that extra special something to make it stand out and become the next big blockbuster franchise.