When I sat down last night with friends to watch Divergent, I knew three things. (1) My wife Bethany really liked the book. (2) With a two hour and twenty minute run time, it is long. (3) It’s a futuristic distopian society that breaks people into separate factions. Needless to say, I was intrigued. I’m a huge fan of distopian future films. One of my favorite of all time is Equilibrium, an overlooked Christian Bale film from 2002.
What I find interesting about this genre of film is the recognition that something needs to change in our world. There is a recognition that in the heart of men, there is the possibility for evil. This genre tries to answer the question “how can we fix this?” Veronica Roth, the writer of Divergent, answers this question with factions. Humanity, at least in futuristic war torn Chicago, has been separated into five groups: Abnegation (The Selfless), Erudite (The Intelligent), Dauntless (The Brave), Amity (The Peacful) and Candor (The Honest). Through a “coming of age” test that resembles the “Sorting Hat” of Harry Potter, factions are chosen for children. The following day they choose the faction they want, sometimes leaving family behind – “Faction before Blood.”
I wonder, what faction would I choose? Could I choose? At its core, Divergent is a film about discovering who you are and where you fit in the the world. These questions set off an adventure that will change Tris’s life and possibly the lives of an entire civilization.
Divergent stars Shailene Woodley (Secret Life of an American Teenager), a girl searching for her identity. She has grown up in the Selfless faction but has always felt a little out of place. Unlike the majority of the populous, she is a Divergent one who cannot conform to any specific faction but holds ideals of each of them. This makes her a danger to the system and a target. This is also why we like her – she is like us, or at least an idealized version of us. Theo James (Underworld Awakening) plays Four, an initially guarded but eventually kind “drill sergeant” for the new Dauntless recruits this movie follows. Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard) is one of the unnecessarily angry Dauntless leadership overseeing the new recruits. You will not like this guy, which I suppose means Courtney did a great job. The acting was overall enjoyable, believable, and engaging.
The majority of this movie takes place in the Dauntless training camp. In most respects this is good; the other factions are much less exciting, but it would have been nice to get more of a feeling for how the factions worked together. One of the issues with this approach though is that the majority of the movie felt like a training montage building to a huge climax that then lasted twenty minutes. It was an enjoyable twenty minutes and shows promise for the inevitable sequel, but I wanted more. Though, wanting more is not necessarily a bad thing.
My complaints are few, so I’ll be brief.
- (1) At times the soundtrack felt as if it seeped in from Secret Life of an American Teenager. It took me out of the action several times.
- (2) At times the screen writing seemed a little predictable and weak.
Families, be aware the majority of this movie takes place in the Warrior faction, meaning there is a lot of fighting and violence. When you take into account that boys and girls are brawling it can be difficult to watch the violence. There is also a scene that depicts a rape scenario in which Tris fights off her attacker. For a full breakdown on content check out the plugged in online article. Be wise what you take your children to. This movie portrays many wonderful ideals and lessons, but it may not be suitable for young audiences.
The world of Divergent was compelling. The action was enthralling and the characters were sympathetic. I’m looking forward to learning more about the Divergent universe. Seeing this movie made me want to read the books. Any movie that makes me want to read is good in my book (see what I did there? read…book?) Sorry…
What did you think? Did you enjoy Divergent? Did the differences from the book ruin it for you, or did you enjoy this new take on the story? Let me know!