IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 138 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In a futuristic dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candour (truthful), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave), based on their personalities. There is also Divergent, but these free-thinkers who have attributes of more than one faction are considered threats. Beatrice Prior is in Abnegation, the faction that looks after the poor and the Divergents, as well as runs the government. She takes an aptitude test which all 16-year old citizens have to undergo to indicate which faction they would really fit and which they would need to choose on the Choosing Ceremony, and it shows she is Divergent. At the Choosing Ceremony chooses Dauntless and finds herself having to perform tasks of bravery like jumping off from a running train at full speed, and leaping from a tall building into a large hole….
With the exception of The Hunger Games, the recent trend for filming Young Adult novels seems to result in poor or at best mediocre movies. Divergent, the movie adaptation of the first part of a popular trilogy by Veronica Roth, has been rather unfairly called a rip-off of The Hunger Games, but the only major similarities are the tough female heroine, the repressive future society, and a couple of minor plot elements, and lots of these Young Adult novels, which do seem to be increasingly cloned, have these elements anyway. In fact, it’s closer to Twilight, though if you have a brain don’t let that put you off seeing it. Though unashamedly aimed at every teenager who doesn’t seem to fit in, it is quite an enjoyable science-fiction thriller if you don’t think about it too much. Some of the early scenes of the Dauntless group members running and jumping around are both funny and excruciating, but as time goes on the film gets surprisingly involving. The pacing is pretty swift for a 138 min film and even the obligatory romance, usually one of the most paimful parts of these kind of films if you’re not a 16 year old girl, is handled well and not dwelt upon. The coming-of-age tale sometimes seems to be little more than an extended training session, but some of these scenes are surprisingly tense, especially those that take place in people’s minds. These scenes are especially well handled by director Neil Burger. Unfortunately, the switch to full-blown action towards the end is jarring and unconvincing, and Burger indulges in the quick cutting/ shakycam crap that is too prevalent these days, though there’s not enough of it to ruin the film.
Divergent seems to have better lessons for young people than some of these pictures, such as the fact that its heroine seems to fail as often as she succeeds, while Shailene Woodley proves to be quite a strong young actress in the lead role even if, and this somewhat laughably goes for several major characters, she finishes the film a totally different person than when she began it without us really having seen much in the way of character developement. Most of the characterisation is thin and the plotting is increasingly ridiculous, while the film doesn’t really make the most of the world in which it is set in. At times it seems restricted by the desire to conform to what its audience expects, which rather ruins its main message, and overall comes off as a bit bland, but it passes the time inoffensively enough. When Divergent finished, not on an annoying cliffhanger but in a way that makes it feel like a film that can exist on its own, I began to rather look forward to the sequel.