Shailene Woodley (Left) and Theo james (Right) in Veronica Roth’s “Divergent”
Here we go again with yet another Young Adult novel turned blockbuster film, and surprise! It takes place in a dystopian universe! However, the rules in Divergent are a tad bit more complicated than filling an arena with weapons and children that have had the idea in their heads since inception that they must kill one another for society to move forward. There are five factions that are designed to represent this fictional word in Chicago: Dauntless for the brave and fearless, Erudite for the quick witted and intelligent, Abnegation those who believe in helping others and live the selfless lifestyle, Amity which represents peace, and Candor for those that are incapable of telling a lie. The other two not even considered a faction in this are the homeless or without faction, which were either kicked out of their factions or failed to yield results that are acceptable. The other group is Divergents those who are capable of living within any of the aforementioned factions, but feel as though they don’t really belong to any certain faction. Divergents are generally hunted down and singled out through the aptitude tests; this normally results in death. . Abnegation led by Marcus (Ray Stevenson) rules over the others and acts as a type of Government complete with Board members.
Which brings up to the main plot of the film Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) whom later in the film changes her name to just “Tris”; is due for her aptitude test followed by the sacred “Choosing” ceremony which dutiful brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) reminds her “Think of the family, but also think about you”. Which is really the least of Tris’s worries when her tests results come up as inconclusive or “Divergent”. Tris must now live amongst the faction of her choosing and lie low so she is not discovered and ousted.
Along the way Tris finds allies in unlikely places; starting with her love interest and mentor four (Theo James) and her mom (Ashley Judd), a known follower of Abnegation. With these few allies Tris learns the ropes of living within her faction and also learns of a plot, which Erudites led by Jeanine (Kate Winslet) to takeover what remains of Chicago using the Dauntless as her soldier of choice.
Divergent is quite a bore in the beginning as the film sets up, yet another revolution against its dystopian dictators. However, the basis of the plot has to be boring people that are just going to see these films for the entertainment value. With The Hunger Games franchise in full swing now and Battle Royale beforehand, it’s an old story. Other young adult franchises like Percy Jackson and The Mortal Instruments share a common theme as well, they just don’t take place in dystopian world, and instead they fight demons; which isn’t much better. The end of the film will dawn upon you long before you actually see it begin to happen, with a run time of two-hours and twenty-something-minutes. However, the film does pick up after the set up and knows when its okay to have some fun with its characters. Particularly, the incredible zip line sequence which Limitless director Neil Burger masterfully translates the feeling of flying through skyscrapers thousands of feet above ground.
Based on the series of Novels by Veronica Roth, Divergent shows promise for future installments, but in all honesty could exist without a sequel. Its not everyday these Young adult adaptions can stand on their own two feet when they are cranked out on a regular basis like the superhero films of today.
At the end of the day Divergent is no different than any other YA adaption out there, but it does help that there is a genuine connection felt between the characters that isn’t rushed or tries to get a reaction out of its audience. This could also be attributed to director Neil Burger who has put out character driven films to the likes of The illusionist, The Lucky Ones, and Interview with an Assassin; Each with their own story like Tris.
If you’re into these YA adaptions then I’d recommend Divergent, otherwise if you’re looking for something different then I’d look into Veronica Mars or Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. For its Genre, Divergent is about as middle of the road as it gets.