In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she's Divergent and won't fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it's too late.
The first film adaptation from Veronica Roth’s dystopian book series needed to diverge a little more in order to give Hunger Games a run for its money.
It pays to be first to market, as Katniss Everdeen has become the standard that other strong, yet reticent, young heroines must live up to. Directed by Neil Bruger (The Illusionist, Limitless), Divergent is a fine cinematic experience if you take it for what it is, and have realistic expectations going into the theater.
WARNING: SPOILER ALERT!
Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) is 16-year-old girl who is a post-apocalyptic survivalist in the wake of a world war that leaves the entire world decimated. What’s left of human society, at least in Chicago, have been divided into five tribes based on a person’s personality type; they are Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intelligent).
Each teenager must undergo a personality exam that is administered via a powerful hallucinatory drug. Post Beatrice’s exam, it’s revealed that her personality doesn’t fit in with any one type, and that she is “divergent” – a disruption to the social order. During the public coming-of-age ritual, at which every teen has the right to choose their faction regardless of their test result, Beatrice chooses to cast her lot in with Dauntless much to the consternation of her parents (Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwin) who are Abnegation.
A good portion of the film is spent chronicling the evolution of Beatrice (now called Tris) from selfless teenager to intrepid young woman. Of course, she is aided along the way by her trainer Four (Theo James) who predictably doubles as her eventual love interest. To his credit, he isn’t the pallid excuse for a teenage boyfriend like the Robert Pattinson’s of the world. In particular, he is rather compelling during a hallucination in which he must face his fears while instructing Tris.
There are a handful of other plot twists along the way, but the narrative adheres to a rather predictable path. At 140 minutes, there were parts that lingered a little too long which resulted in a fast-paced conclusion to the film that seemed slightly rushed. Given the fact that Divergent is the first film in an eventual trilogy – there are three novels in the series – there wasn’t the need to rush anything.
Woodley, though, brings an accessibility and likability to Tris that sets her apart from Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss. There is a sense of naturalism about her that keeps you engaged and continuously cheering for her. Her combat sequences were relatively believable, and the screenwriters (Vanessa Taylor, Evan Daugherty) did a nice job of not over doing it.
Overall, Divergent is enjoyable. I had relatively low expectations going in, and for the most part, they were exceeded. While it certainly isn’t original, the acting is strong and the visuals are decent. Both Insurgent and Allegiant – the sequels – are already in the works, and Divergent does a passable enough job at laying the groundworks. It’s certainly worth the matinee price and a solid pick for a date night.
Surprisingly solid acting
Cliche and a little stale at times