Despite the phenomenal successes of Harry Potter, Twilight, and the Hunger Games franchises, most recent YA films have flopped spectacularly. Divergent is attempting to change that trend, but will it succeed? The books have a very passionate fan base, and while the movie may not reach the heights of fellow Dystopian series The Hunger Games, it looks like it’ll have a solid debut. But putting the box office potential of the movie aside, it it actually any good?
The film’s currently wavering at around 40% on Rotten Tomatoes at the time of this review, which is not as bad as some YA adaptations but still on the lower end of the barometer. Having seen the movie, I can definitely attest to the film’s appeal, especially among young girls, but there really isn’t enough substance to last a two-and-a-half hour movie. Honestly, I kept thinking the entire time that this would actually make a pretty great videogame, but as a movie, it just doesn’t hold up.
That’s not due to the faults of lead actress Shailene Woodley, who’s actually pretty great in the lead role and lends a lot of emotional pathos in scenes that otherwise come off as contrived or silly. And the supporting cast is pretty great too, led by Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Theo James, Jai Courtney, and the always reliable Kate Winslet. But the central idea behind the film is so difficult to buy that it was hard to suspend my disbelief during much of the movie.
For those who don’t know the story, society is divided up into several different factions based on personality traits. When teenagers reach a certain age, they take a test that tells them what faction they belong in and they make their decision on where they want to live the rest of their life – whether they want to stay in their faction, or leave their family and join another one.
Our lead character, Beatrice Prior, takes her test – but there’s a problem. Apparently, the test didn’t work on her because she’s ‘Divergent’, i.e. something that’s never fully explained, but it’s hinted that it’s because she possesses more than one predominant personality trait. This somehow means that fear doesn’t control her, and some more random exposition that makes absolutely no sense. Then, there’s some exciting action sequences once Tris chooses Dauntless [the adrenaline junkie faction], where she’s supposed to hide the fact that she’s ‘Divergent’. Of course, she falls in love with another member of Dauntless, but the whole movie then devolves into random gun battles and government conspiracies, and it just felt like a series of interconnected short stories that didn’t make much sense when coalescing together.
Overall, I would recommend it if you’re into YA and dystopia, but pass if neither one of those appeals to you. This is no Hunger Games, but it’s a solid enough film if you’re willing to look past the silly premise.