Divergent – Movie Review by Frances Winston
Directed by: Neil Burger
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson,
Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Maggie Q, Kate Winslet
In cinemas April 4th
Based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth this movie shamelessly wears it’s YA (Youth Audience) credentials. It’s understandable why, this market is huge and following the success of the Twilight series and the ongoing Hunger Games movies studios are desperate to tap into this lucrative audience. The actors will no doubt also be aware of the success achieved by those who appeared in previous YA success stories so are no doubt hoping to repeat that in their own careers. To be fair to this, any movie that came on the back of those mammoth hits was always going to suffer from comparisons – no doubt part of the reason that the studio more than doubled its budget when The Hunger Games took off.
This is set in a futuristic post-apocalyptic Chicago where the people have been divided into five distinct factions: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (kind), Candor (honest), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave), based on their personalities. Teenager Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Woodley) is about to undertake a test to see which one she belongs to. Fully expecting that she will be Abnegation like her parents she discovers she is in fact a Divergent – someone who fits into more than one faction and is therefore feared by society. She is advised to keep this a secret and at her choosing ceremony she decides to join Dauntless much to her parent’s surprise. However she soon wonders if she has made the right choice as she proves the weakest recruit there and doesn’t seem able for their strenuous challenges.
Helped by her mentor the enigmatic Four (James) she soon starts to improve and she spends more time with him she begins to learn about the inner workings of their society. The pair soon uncover a sinister plan to overthrow the current rulers Abnegation, which is being implemented by Janine Matthews (Winslet) the leader of the Erudite. They are going to brainwash Dauntless and control them using the highly trained and brave individuals as an army to wage war. The serum they use doesn’t work on Divergent’s though and soon Tris and Four find themselves alone in the midst of a group of drones and it is up to them to thwart Janine’s plan with help from Tris’s family who it turns out have been hiding secrets of their own.
This ticks all the YA boxes. It has an extremely attractive cast (which should go down well with most audiences), the protagonists are all supposed to be mid to late teens (although James is actually 29 in real life), the antagonists are all adults and there is the compulsory slow burning love story. Perhaps for this reason there is a sense of déjà vu. We’ve seen all of this before in some shape or form.
There are numerous contradictions and plot holes which often happens when you try to cram an epic novel into two hours. One that particularly annoyed me is Abnegation apparently eschew vanity but clearly not a full head of highlights if Woodley’s usually brunette but now blonde flowing locks are anything to go by! At times this feels like it is trying to cram so much in that it doesn’t give you a chance to catch up.
With five factions and the factionless and the Divergents there are a lot of worlds to establish and some of them suffer. The script is also far from perfect and the words don’t always sit well on the characters. Woodley and James have a great chemistry and work well together but there is no disguising the sheer silliness of some of their dialogue. Ditto Winslet’s baddie. While she clearly relishes playing her, much of her dialogue is clunky. In terms of action a lot of this film involves the Dauntless training which is hardcore and brutal but does become tedious after a while.
This sets up the plot for the sequel (the book is part of a trilogy) however in doing so it leaves the story hanging somewhat. While it would just about work as a stand alone movie there is something deeply unsatisfying about the cliff-hanger style ending.
That said this is super stylish and has some lovely moments. It is watchable and if you are in the right mood it will entertain but it didn’t really leave me wanting more which is bad for a movie that has two sequels in the works. However, I’m not the target audience and fans of the books and the tweens will no doubt love this.
Categories: Movie Review, Movies
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