- RatedPG13 /GenreAction, Romance, Science Fiction
Following the steady stream of films cashing in on young adult novels and making them into films, ‘Divergent’ has the hard task of shaking the pall of its predecessors, namely critically-acclaimed ‘The Hunger Games’.
It has all the dramatic elements: the “hero’s journey”, coupled with an attractive cast, a post-apocalyptic world and romance. There is even a subversive female lead who challenges the status quo (Katniss Everdeen, anyone?). But to compare it to ‘The Hunger Games’ is a compliment (as compared to the forgettable 'The Mortal Instruments' series or 'Twilight').
This action-adventure film, based on Veronica Roth’s bestselling trilogy of novels, is a view of a dystopian future in which people are marked based on their virtues and personality traits.
At age 16, everyone takes an aptitude test to decide what role in society they play. There are five “factions”, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue namely “Erudite” (the intelligent), “Candour” (the honest), “Amity” (the peaceful), “Dauntless” (the brave) and “Abnegation” (the selfless).
Society is organised as such to maintain order. Everyone fits into neat little roles, and those who don’t are considered a threat because they might instigate a revolt against the system, hence the so-called “divergent”.
Hollywood starlet Shailene Woodley (‘The Descendants’) plays Beatrice “Tris” Prior, a young woman who finds out in the test that she fits into more than one category. She is warned by her tester Tori (played by Maggie Q in a bit part) never to reveal the results to anyone as she is now effectively an enemy of the state.
Tori (Maggie Q, left) administers the aptitude test that determines what role Tris (Shailene Woodley) will play in society
Tris surprises her parents (played by Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn) and defects from “Abnegation” (she is born into that faction) to join “Dauntless”, where she meets Four (played by the smouldering Theo James), one of the trainers taking her through the initiation process and her eventual love interest.
A LOT TO TAKE IN
If it all sounds like a bit much to take in by now, you’re not alone.
Between trying to remember the names of the factions (though the outfits of inhabitants are colour-coded) and keeping track of the plot developments, there is a lot to take in.
While this may be helpful for newcomers to the series, it gets a bit heavy-handed at times. It also explains the 150-minute run time of the film, and then you are reminded that this is just the launchpad for two more films of the trilogy to follow.
CASTING HITS AND MISSES
Tris gets plenty of screen time to grow from meek outcast to butt-kicking heroine, and while Woodley is no Jennifer Lawrence, she is competent.
Making up the young, good-looking cast are Zoe Kravitz as the spunky Christina, Miles Teller as fast-talking Peter, and Jai Courtney as the hard-headed Eric. But it is Theo James as Four, with his wry humour, aquiline features, and charisma that the audience will likely remember most.
Christina (Zoe Kravitz, left) and Tris make a jump in one of the initiation rituals
'Divergent' is a palatable addition to the young adult canon of films, complete with a soundtrack that is laced with indie and electronica tracks by British popstar Ellie Goulding, DJ Zedd and Snow Patrol, among others.
Hopefully the follow up film, ‘Insurgent’, will rebel and break away from the pack a bit more as the title suggests.
Ellie Goulding’s ‘Beating Heart’ from the movie's soundtrack
'Divergent' is now showing in cinemas