Film & TV

Divergent – Film Review

[Image - Lionsgate]
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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Divergent is a clear shoe-in as a successor to The Hunger Games.  

Set inside the literal walls of a future Chicago, society has been divided into five factions: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candour (honest), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave). The protagonist, Beatrice (Shailene Woodley), who lives with “Abnegation” on account of her parents, is just about to turn 18 and will be given an aptitude test to determine which faction will best suits her. However, she has always had a fascination for the Dauntless (daredevil monkeys who climb walls and jump off trains). The candidates are free to choose the faction they want, but they cannot go back.

Things start to get murky when her test reveals that she is “Divergent”, which basically means that she tested right for all of the factions (except Amity, of course; “peace” just isn’t cool), which is Hollywood script-speak for “our protagonist is a badass at everything”. The test remains a secret and during the choosing ceremony, Beatrice chooses Dauntless despite the disappointment this brings her parents, setting off a chain of events which includes falling in love with “Four” (Theo James) and going up against the brutal leader of the Erudite faction (portrayed by the always-brilliant Kate Winslet).

To the more seasoned moviegoer, this will undoubtedly sound similar to The Hunger Games, which starred the beloved Jennifer Lawrence and established a good foothold for the Young Adult genre. Plot holes aside, it is based on a popular series of books, boasts a strong female lead and features a society rooted in both unfairness and misery. Granted Young Adult has been explored before via Twilight, though it failed to acquire any sort of credibility on account of it having potentially one of the worst female role models in film history compiled with the complete destruction of the vampire mythos and a pro-life stance that hit a little too hard on the nose. As a result, The Hunger Games shone through as a fitting contender, with a stellar cast and inspiration drawn from the critically acclaimed and less 12A Japanese film/novel, Battle Royale.

With the final instalments of The Hunger Games still in post-production, Divergent aims to be its successor: It’s based on a popular series of books, boasts a strong female lead and features a society rooted in both unfairness and misery – a recipe for success.

The concept, like I said, is interesting. But where The Hunger Games succeeded and Divergent fails is in the overall quality with which the films are executed. Where the former is well-acted, with interesting nuances which are meant to appeal to a higher calibre of audience and a world that is more rooted in reality, the latter doesn’t quite achieve this. At times, the dialogue is a little choppy, action sequences are unnecessary and we’re treated to a range of expressions which would give Kristen Stewart a run for her money, Divergent will not necessarily provide the best bang for your buck.

But it’s not all doom and gloom, this is only the first in a series of three and there could be improvements along the line. Financially, it has been a success and the film definitely makes for a great popcorn watch. Kids will enjoy the overbearing ‘badassery’ of the leather-jacket donning Dauntless while adults fume at making the Erudite the cold-hearted ultralogical villains. If there’s one thing this movie teaches us, it’s this: if you don’t fit in anywhere, follow the cool kids.