I initially ignored all news about Divergent because YA-novels-turned-movies are really not my thing. I’ve given a few a shot but between the intense teenage angst, the saccharine cutesy romance and the deathly serious tone of everything, there’s not much in there for someone who isn’t going through the same emotions in the same way. Translation: I’m too old for this shit.
A quick scan of the synopsis of Divergent changed my mind about going to watch the film – it is set in a dystopian future Chicago where society is divided into five factions, each based on a virtue. There’s Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peace-loving), Candor (truthfullnes), Dauntless (bravery) and Erudite (intelligence). The idea is that if people live in a faction that best reflects their personality, it will be beneficial to them and to society as well. There are two outliers to this structure – the Factionless (those that no faction wants, they are impoverished and homeless) and the Divergent (those that do not fit clearly into any one category; considered dangerous by the authorities because they cannot be controlled).
This last category is the one Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley) falls into, based on her aptitude test. Of course, it is dangerous to reveal that you are a Divergent so she conceals this fact and opts to join the faction Dauntless. A far cry from the quiet, no-frills Abnegation into which she was born, Dauntless is balls-to-the-wall, non-stop adrenaline. There is no room for mistakes and any sign of weakness will get you ousted. She meets an interesting array of characters as her initiation progresses and she must fight to stay in while making sure no one finds out the true results of her aptitude test.
So far, so YA right? Not really. From the start, Divergent keeps things moving deftly. The lore of the world is delivered efficiently without too much exposition and padding, the tone is kinetic and *gasp* funny! The wry, smartass lines come from Christina (Zoe Kravitz), a Candor-born Dauntless initiate who befriends Tris. Peter (Miles Teller) is acid-tongued and hell bent on making Tris’s life miserable. Eric (Jai Courtney, in fine form) is the cold-as-ice leader of the faction and is the one responsible for assessing the initiates. And there’s the hunky Four (Theo James), the silent-unless-he’s-being-scathing senior member of Dauntless who also supervises the training and assessment of the initiates. He’s badass but it’s clear there is more to him than appears on the surface. You would expect a ‘been-there, done-that’ feel to proceedings but Divergent consistently delivers ideas with imagination.
Final Analysis: With a strong ensemble, imaginative action sequences and a sense of humour, Divergent is more than your run-of-the-mill YA movie. Sure it experiences a bit of second-half slack but on the whole the movie is tight and enjoyable.
My advice: Definitely watch this one on when it comes to a theater near you. Go with friends, it’ll be a fun evening out.