US Release Date: 03-21-2014
Directed by: Neil Burger
- Shailene Woodley, as
- Theo James, as
- Ashley Judd, as
- Jai Courtney, as
- Ray Stevenson, as
- Zoe Kravitz, as
- Miles Teller, as
- Tony Goldwyn, as
- Ansel Elgort, as
- Maggie Q, as
- Mekhi Phifer, as
- Kate Winslet, as
- Ben Lloyd-Hughes, as
- Christian Madsen, as
- Amy Newbold as
Shailene Woodley and Theo James in Divergent
Divergent is yet another movie based on a young adult novel about a young person discovering they are somehow unique. It is set in a dystopian, post war time where society has been divided into five “factions” based on their virtue. When they turn 18, each teenager is tested for their aptitude into which faction they would best serve. The test does not decide for them but helps in their decision making. For some unstated reason, they can never switch factions once they choose one.
Beatrice was born to the faction that spends their life helping others but she chooses to be with the faction that acts as police and soldiers. She changes her name to Tris and goes through training and initiations. If she does not make it through training she will be kicked out of the faction, which would make her factionless. There is no going back to her original faction for yet another unknown reason.
All of this takes place in one large city with a huge wall around it. Tris’s original faction is in charge of the city as they are the givers. Another faction, the intellectuals, attempt a coup by using a mind control drug on Tris’s new faction. Yeah, that tried and true excuse employed in countless comic books and Gilligan’s Island is employed here.
So much of this film seems tired. The entire idea of a young person discovering that they are somehow unique amidst a conflict is such an extremely worn out cliché. Let’s start the list with Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, that boring chick from Twilight and that weird looking kid in Enders Game. We can go back to Luke Skywalker. Hell, we can even find this in the story of King Arthur and even Moses from the Bible.
With such a recognizable plot and set up, the success of this film will be determined by the ignorance of the audience and the sex appeal of the two leads. Shailene Woodley as Tris first comes across as sweetly nice looking. Later she has her hair down and her tank top is ripped making her suddenly smoking hot. Theo James as Four has devilishly good looks but is nothing more than the clichéd angst filled brooding young man that just needs a nice girl to make it all better. As this is based on a young adult novel, the sex goes as far as a kiss with Tris telling Four she wants to take it slow. Oh, and lest I forget, James (of course) has a shirtless scene.
The real failing of this movie is that I never found myself invested in anything going on. The arrangement of this society is ridiculous. The characters are as familiar as family members. The love story is uninspired. It has little action and even less passion. This film’s producers should have their fingers crossed, hoping that this film finds an audience as undiscerning as the ones that made the horrendously bad Twilight films a success.
I am not sure which is more depressing; the fact that Hollywood makes such crap or that some people will eat up this excrement and think it is caviar.
Shailene Woodley in Divergent.
While I agree that this movie isn't caviar, it's a long way from being as shit as Eric claims. And comparing it to the awful Twilight series, is a hit below the belt. Yes both series are based on young adult books with a female lead, but beyond that they are very different stories. Once you get beyond the slightly silly, simplified nature of the society, this movie is fairly entertaining.
The central premise that Tris is special because she doesn't fit into a specific faction is rather weak. Although on the surface people seem easy to classify, underneath we would all be divergent, exhibiting many different traits. However, given that these books are aimed at the young adult market with its target audience being still in school where social groupings of jocks, nerds, burn-outs and whatever cliques the kids are creating these days, are so strong, perhaps it doesn't seem so far-fetched to them. If you look at it strictly symbolically, it makes sense with its message of don't blend into the crowd and be your true self. However, like Eric, I did wonder about the seemingly arbitrary rules, such as no transferring between the factions.
Shailene Woodley does a good job in the lead, showing a nice range of emotion. Her transformation from sweet to hot isn't as dramatic as Eric implies and mainly consists of her changing clothes. Her character is a strong one who actively participates in the events around her. She's not quite Katniss, but she's no damsel in distress either. James's Four isn't as fully rounded as Tris, it's true, but then how many times have we seen a movie with a male lead where the woman is just along to be eye candy?
Eric wrote that, "the success of this film will be determined by the ignorance of the audience and the sex appeal of the two leads." But I say it's more determined by the likability of the leads and the audiences ability to empathize with them. I found them to be quite likable and many of the supporting cast as well. I was rooting for them to succeed and was invested in the outcome, even though it is never in doubt. The other aspect that makes this movie successful, is that much of it is simply entertaining, even if it isn't the most original.
Author of the books, Veronica Roth, is a self-professed Christian. While there are no overt Christian references in the book, it is interesting that the villains of the story are the intellectuals and scientists. The scientists, or Erudites as they're known here, attack the peaceful, selfless Abnegations, who spend their time thinking of others and feeding the poor factionless. It's rather vague, but you can definitely interpret it as science attacking religion.
Sure, this isn't a great movie, but it is a pretty good one. I can't say I'm waiting on the edge of my seat, but I am rather curious to see how it all turns out and will willingly go to the sequels. Maybe it's not caviar, but sometimes fast food hits the spot.
Theo James shows off his talent in Divergent.
Scott, I'll concede your point that this movie is fast food and not crap. But I wouldn't eat at McDonalds and then tell others it was a three star meal. The plot is completely unoriginal and not just because the central teenager is special. How many of these movies are set in some future post-apocalyptic society where the populace rigidly follow some set of seemingly arbitrary rules? The leaders of the society are almost always initially shown as good but you just know they are really evil, and that their dastardly plans will be revealed soon enough. Well in the case of Divergent nothing happens soon enough. At 2 hours and 19 minutes this movie is at least 45 minutes too long.
To Eric's list of movies from above I will add The Giver. Divergent may have beaten it to movie theaters by a few months but that novel was written long before the Divergent trilogy, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Veronica Roth grew up reading that Lois Lowry children's classic. Both stories are set in a self-contained future society and in both stories the young adults are given their place in society at a ceremony. Only in this movie the people have the right to choose Factions whereas in The Giver they are assigned a vocation. In both movies the central character doesn't fit into any one group and in both movies a strong female leader is the primary antagonist. Kate Winslet here and Meryl Streep in The Giver play practically interchangeable roles. One other thing they have in common is that I disliked both movies.
I certainly wasn't as entertained as Scott was by Divergent. On top of the ridiculous central premise, and the fact that it's all so very predictable and formulaic, I found it rather dull and slow-paced. The central characters are likable enough but the problem with Tris is one my brother alluded to. She is too similar to Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games and Shailene Woodley seems to be impersonating Jennifer Lawrence. Only Tris is no Katniss and Shailene Woodley is no Jennifer Lawrence (to tell you the truth I didn't really like The Hunger Games all that much either but it is better than this). The best compliment I can pay Theo James as an actor is to say that he looks good with his shirt off.
I'm with Eric on this one. I am definitely not looking forward to sitting through two additional movies in the Divergent series, even if Theo James is shirtless the entire time.
Photos © Copyright Summit Entertainment (2014)