Divergent is the next big thing when it comes to action/adventure Sci-Fi’s about a dystopian future featuring a teenage heroine. The Hunger Games trilogy seems to have set the precedent for these types of movies but could the Divergent series possibly overcome them? Simply put, in my opinion the answer is no. Divergent is entertaining and will most likely keep your attention for its entirety. It’s got some pretty good young talent, with Shailene Woodley leading the pack, and more experienced talent like Kate Winslet who plays the antagonistic “evil leader”. It’ll definitely rack in lots of dollars from fans of the book and the younger crowd in general. However, Divergent’s story seemed to be teetering on the edge of predictability and monotonicity since it seemed very reminiscent of every other movie in this genre and simply did not contain any elements that stood out beyond what Hunger Games has already done.
Here we are again in a dystopian future in which a controlling government has taken human nature into their own hands. Society is divided up into five factions which are each based off of different character traits (honesty, bravery, intelligence, etc. You get the idea. It’s pretty much a giant version of Hogwarts). At a certain point, every teenager has to take a test that tells them which faction is best suited for them. Then, they get the option to choose whatever faction they wish to join. Tris (Woodley) was born into Abgnegation, the faction that values selflessness. She struggles to decide on what faction she wants to choose to live with for the rest of her life, especially because her test results concluded that she is a divergent; somebody who cannot conform to just one faction. Tris is warned to keep her test result a secret because government leaders, especially of the Erudite faction, have made it their mission to scout out and kill anybody known to be a divergent.
Divergent is kind of like a mash up of every YA novel movie adaptation that you can think of. With shiny and white settings reminiscent of last year’s atrocity The Host (also features a blonde female evil leader) and a wardrobe along with a rebellious female protagonist reminiscent of the Hunger Games trilogy (except way less badass than Katniss), Divergent really needed a little somethin’ somethin’ that would make it stick out from the crowd. Unfortunately, I could not discern anything like this. The story is just okay. I have no idea how much it differs from the book, or if the book did a better job of presenting the story than the movie, but it definitely came off as lackluster. Near the end of the film especially is when certain elements of the story get confusing and at times downright unbelievable. I did say it was entertaining though, and it can be! It was almost as if I wanted to like Divergent so much that I did everything possible to not let these flaws bother my viewing, and for the most part they didn’t.
Shailene Woodley first caught my attention when I saw her in The Spectacular Now last year (co-starring Miles Teller, who is also in Divergent). Her performance in that movie really made me excited for her upcoming projects and she seemed like a very promising young actress. All of the faults that occur in Divergent’s story I was able to forgive probably because of Woodley. This performance did not live up to the one I saw in The Spectacular Now, but you could tell she was doing the best she could with what was given to her. Kate Winslet also does the best she can with what the script provides her. You could tell she was trying to be more than just the evil protagonist but the depth of her character was simply not there. She just doesn’t get enough screen time or written material for the audience to see her as anything more than “the bad guy”. Theo James stars alongside Woodley as the love interest/eye candy of the movie, Four. Character depth is a little better with Four but still nowhere near where it could have been (Seriously, though…why is his name Four?!). There’s also a bunch of supporting characters that all sport the exact same personality so it’s hard for me to think back about them because they simply all blended together. Then there is Tris’ brother, Caleb, played by Ansel Elgort (Is this costar-with-Shailene-Woodley-Central or something? Elgort will be playing Woodley’s love interest in the upcoming film The Fault in Our Stars). Once again, you get the feeling that Caleb is supposed to be a semi-important character to the plot and to Tris, but the movie does not deliver on this character either. You guys probably get the point, now. Moving on…
I kind of feel like I’m bashing on this film and I feel bad because it’s not like I disliked it or anything. I wasn’t particularly impressed, but I didn’t hate it either. I guess you could say that I’m indifferent. I think it’s a pretty good idea of a story. Heck, diehard fans of the book could totally fall in love with it. But, it’s 2014 and writers and studios everywhere are trying to cash in on this genre’s current boom in popularity. Divergent has some big shoes to fill and it desperately needs a strong story with some strong characters in order to not fall into the cracks. This movie didn’t deliver on either of these elements for me. Its upside was the promising cast that tried their best to create something out of nothing and the fact that I fall a little more in love with Shailene Woodley each time I see her. Divergent is entertaining enough to merit the cost of admission and two hours of your time, and it will definitely rack in some money because of the series’ popularity. However, this adaptation lacked a certain liveliness and thrill that it needed in order to compete with the rest of the genre.