Title: Divergent (2014)
Director: Neil Burger
Runtime: 139 minutes
I went into Divergent blind, much like I did with Hunger Games. I’d seen the trailers for Hunger Games, but never read the book. With Divergent, I was totally blind, having never read the book or even seen a trailer, so I had zero expectations for this young adult adaptation. That being said, Divergent brings a lot to the table, and while I’ve gone back to look at what didn’t make the cut to the big screen, which seems like a big chunk, Divergent still clocks in at almost two and a half respectable and well-paced hours to deliver a well done, if predictable, story. It throws in some of the better ideas from the book to really pack in that sci-fi commentary on society that the genre can do so well, while still giving us completely relatable characters. In short, I was entertained the entire time I was in my theatre seat.
Divergent tells the story of the post-apocalyptic city of Chicago that’s been separated from the rest of the world by a rather large and imposing futuristic fence. The waterways that surrounded the city have receded, leaving a large beached and disintegrating tanker on the outside of the fence and the amusement park on the pier overlooking a grassy wasteland. In the city though, people are thriving. Sort of. The survivors – of what I’m assuming was a war – have set up a kind of class system for each person to fall into. The ruling faction, and also the most selfless and giving, and the one who tries to take care of even those who fall outside the faction system, belonging nowhere, are called Abnegation. The peaceful faction, who also happen to be farmers, among other things, are called Amity. Candor believe in truth above everything, and are best compared to lawyers, only truthful. Erudite are the scientists and thinkers, always developing new ways to help survive. And lastly, the Dauntless are the brave faction, always on the move, and act as peacekeepers, and the only defense of what’s been sectioned off for the city. Your faction is everything here, and represents most what you are, and even comes before your family.
Much like Hunger Games and the lottery, but more in common with the choosing hat in Harry Potter, when children are on the verge of being adults, they are tested and get placed into one of the five houses. There is a bit of choice here as you can pick to be in a house even if you are selected for another; that choice is up to you. They’ll break from their families and join these factions when they have their choosing day, and then train in that faction for whatever they need to do. All is not right here as there are factionless, those that couldn’t fit into their faction of choice. There’s also rumblings that Erudite is looking to rest control from Abnegation as many feel that the ruling faction has been abusing its power, including Dauntless who seems to be getting closer to Erudite. That’s where out lead character, Beatrice, comes in.
Beatrice is from Abnegation but has always had a thing for Dauntless. When it comes time for testing, however, something goes wrong. The tester reveals that Beatrice can belong in up to three factions, including Dauntless, the faction she admires, as well as Abnegation. The tester tells her to keep quite about the results, and informs Beatrice that she’s what’s known as Divergent and could be hunted down. The tester warns her to just hide out in Abnegation. When it comes to the day of choosing, Beatrice goes with her gut and ends up in Dauntless, shortening her name to Tris and having to prove that she belongs in the brave faction. Cue up the training segments and trying to fit in. But there’s something else going on that Tris and a few others can see, all centered on the leadership, and leading to something less than ideal for everyone in the city. It makes for an interesting sci-fi action tale if anything, and a compelling young adult film with a lot of societal commentary running throughout that gives the film layers that keep the viewer far more involved. While some of it is very predictable, there are moments where they deviate from what you’d expect from the genre and really expand on things leading to an ending I half-expected, and the eventual setup for the other two films in the trilogy without leaving you feeling like you haven’t experienced a complete story.
The visuals are really well done, and the pacing of the film is spot on, never leaving me feeling bored. I loved the score, which always fit what was going on, and really helped set a great tone for each scene. While a few actors just deliver decent performances, none of them were particularly bad, and I’m glad they ended up giving Kate Winslet more screen time as she makes for a really strong presence alongside the younger actress playing Tris, Shailene Woodley. I really liked Tris’ trainer as well, played by Theo James, who really reminded me of a young Paul Blackthorne, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd are kind of wasted as Tris’ parents, but are fantastic in the scenes they are in.
Would I go see Divergent again? Probably not in theaters. While it was fantastic to see on the big screen, this is one I’d wait for the Blu-ray for to see again. If you’re into the young adult genre, or are looking for a decent alternative to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, you should give Divergent a shot.
Born the same year as Star Wars, it seems Ashe was destined to be into films with big impacts, explosions, and laser swords. With a love for sci-fi and horror, Ashe has a thing for games of both the tabletop and video variety. He is living a charmed, married life of sixteen years, along with several cats, a dog, and a bearded dragon. Ashe currently writes for Diehard Gamefan, covering video and tabletop games since 2008. Starting with Cinefessions just a few years ago, he has decided to tackle one of his original passions: film.
Good review Ashe. To me, it seems like the YA genre is just getting terribly old and stale. However, that’s not the case by Hollywood’s standards, because somehow, these freakin’ movies still make money!