Divergent (2014) Directed by Neil Burger. Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet. IMDB says: “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.”
Following the success of any big franchise, Hollywood tends to try to strike gold again by pushing out a smorgasbord of similar movies. The box office beast The Hunger Games is no different and since its cultural appreciation started, movie studios and young adult books have been trying to recreate the magic formula. The first major contender to step up to the plate is Divergent. The book series is very similar to that of THG and so its popularity rose through the ranks when fans were eager to read the next big thing. I haven’t read the book but judging from the film you won’t be getting anything new, just more of the same and lot of tired old trends.
Divergent seems not to care whether or not they adequately explain the plot, history or thematic elements of the story at hand. We start in familiar dystopian future territory as a young girl named Beatrice (Shailee Woodley) prepares to take a very important test that will help her decide what ‘faction’ she is best suited to follow. You see, after some sort of unexplained war, the city of Chicago (not sure about the rest of the world) decided to divide the city up into 5-ish separate factions that are in charge of various life tasks and all uphold different values. Here is your faction breakdown:
- Amity – The hippie faction that farms and values peace. They are boring as hell and not at all essential to the plot of this film.
- Erudite – Smart people. The line in the movie indicates “they know everything!”
- Candor – They value honesty and supposedly they can’t lie?
- Abnegation – This is where Beatrice starts out. They are a completely selfless group that rejects vanity and only uses a mirror for a few minutes out of the year yet still manages to apply makeup fairly well from what I could tell. They are also in charge of the government because why not?
- Dauntless – Supposed to be brave warriors. They wear black because it’s cool and have tattoos and like parkour.
- Factionless – My favorite! These are essentially homeless people but they might as well be zombies. It would have been a lot cooler if they were zombies.
So as I was saying, you go take this test that is supposed to be a quick judge of what faction would probably suit you best. 95% of people that take the test are matched with the faction they grew up in. After you receive your results, you declare the faction of your choosing (the test is only there to help you decide but you can pick whatever you like) by participating in this ceremony where one by one, everyone cuts their hand WITH THE SAME KNIFE and declares their faction. Oh, but there is one other possible wrench in this whole situation. A very small percentage of people that take the test do not fall into a set faction. This of course is called Divergent. It doesn’t sound all that terrifying but divergents are considered an immense threat to society because they cannot be controlled.
Even with all the information I just dished out, this system and setup still leave a lot to be desired in the way of the story. The events of the film don’t start off with a whole lot of weight because we aren’t exactly sure why any of this is even happening. Obviously it has taken some time to get to this societal standard but why is any of this necessary? It also feels like everything is actually working out all hunky dory in the Windy City. There are rumors that some guy in Abnegation beat his son which causes people to worry about the faction’s ability to govern. I guess that sounds serious? Not really though. There isn’t a feeling that anything too bad is going on but what do I know?
The acting is solid and consistent across the board but the performers don’t have much to work with. The screenplay and dialogue is messy even if Burger’s eye behind the camera lends itself well to certain scenes. Divergent is a well worn story that has been done much better main times before and quite recently in fact. Almost every big moment feels very corny and expected. I did have fun adding my own commentary for the film but that generally isn’t a good indicator of a movie’s quality. At best, the movie nails the qualities that it’s 13 year old target demo should enjoy – fun initiation scenes, pseudo-peril, and an in your face soundtrack that I think is comprised entirely of Ellie Goulding songs. But generally, the movie fails to offer any real excitement or fun and worst of all, doesn’t give the viewer any good metaphors or themes to chew on.