"Divergent" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
In the 2010's, YA novels about dystopian society took the world by storm, especially "The Hunger Games" series by Suzanne Collins. These novels took a relatable character and put him or her in an unfamiliar circumstance (for the most part), allowing them to not only find themselves, but find love in someone else. So, when a film adaptation of Veronica Roth's novel, "Divergent" was announced, fans of the series were obviously excited to see what the filmmakers come up with, hoping to bring another franchise into the world that will achieve the same acclaim and success as Collins' series. While it is definitely enjoyable and has all of the elements necessary to turn into a very successful film franchise, it is hard not to feel like this is sort of ripping off the plot from "The Hunger Games", as well as the filmmakers not including many plot points from the source material.
The movie opens with Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) having her hair cut by her mother (Ashley Judd), who is preparing her for the daunting test that will decide where Beatrice belongs in society. There are the Dauntless (Brave), Amity (Kind), Erudite (Intelligent), Abnegation (Selfless), and Candor (Honest). After the giant war that broke out many years ago, the so-called "Founders" decided to implement this faction system so a war like that doesn't happen again.
However, there are some people who don't score correctly on the test, putting them into multiple factions instead of one. This is referred to as Divergent, which is the category Beatrice falls in. When she decides to join the Dauntless faction, leaving her Abnegation family behind, she thinks this will be a fresh new start for her. However, she soon sees how joining this new faction will prove to be daunting (pun definitely intended).
She soon meets a man that goes by the name of Four (Theo James), who is very mysterious and unfriendly. She soon finds herself entangled in a web of deceit and lies as it turns out Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the leader of the Erudite faction, is attempting to overthrow and kill Abnegation's members, wanting to take complete and total control for herself. With Four, Tris (which is the new name she gives herself) is now trying to figure out how to save her family and her childhood faction, no matter what it takes.
There is no doubt this film is entertaining. It perfectly serves as a popcorn flick, while also being the latest craze that teenage audiences are obsessed with. So, in that regard, this film does everything right to be an entertaining film. However, when looking at this movie at a technical level, there are times where this movie is all over the place. In times where serious situations are brushed off, such as a suicide of a major minor character, or the tone immediately changes from dark to light, this movie doesn't allow itself to be a dark and serious drama. Sure, there are romantic feelings and loving embraces from friends, but at its core, this plot is dark as hell. And the filmmakers won't let this film reach that full potential.
I genuinely loved the performances given by Woodley and James. Woodley is just simply the likable protagonist, and she sells that very well. She is lovable and you want her to succeed just based off the way she acts and the charisma she oozes on the screen. Four, on the other hand, is probably one of my favorite characters in a YA film or novel, and James gives such a fantastic performance as him. He is very secretive, but he has that lovable side that he shows every once in a while. But, when you see that side of him, you know he's a good guy, and you root for him way more than you did at the start of the movie. At the same time, he is so charismatic and stunningly charming that it is hard to not like him, even before he shows his true side to Tris.
The plot is unpredictable, and it is hard to distinguish what is happening next. When you finally realize the direction the story is going, and the way that the ending is going, you're already steps behind and trying to catch up to what is going on. This whole movie kinda feels like that. It is more of a combination of plot points, rather than a fluid moving story. Is this bad in this sort of movie? It depends. If you are looking for a sort of cheesy romance action film, then this will not bother you whatsoever. But, in any other case, it is hard to follow the plot in a linear fashion and feel like the movie has a redeeming ending before it's too late.
I did enjoy watching this movie. I enjoyed it the times I've seen it before, and I will probably enjoy it the next time I watch this movie. This is not a bad movie whatsoever, but simply does not live up to its full potential. This is the perfect summer blockbuster film, and honestly, I don't really see anything wrong with that at all.