<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Neil Burger. Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn, Jai Courtney, Kate Winslet
Having no idea what this film was about I was pretty open-minded when I went in. Had I known it was going to be a very poor rip-off of ho-hum films like The Hunger Games and Ender’s Game I wouldn’t have bothered going.
Divergent made me wish I hadn’t wasted two and a half hours of my life watching it. What’s apocryphal is this whole shit genre of ‘young adult’ fiction that seems to appeal to teenage girls who bury their heads in books about fantasy romances with vampires and werewolves and all sorts of men they’d probably never find in real life.
Why on earth these studios green light these films I do not know. Oh wait a minute, I know, it’s probably because they know the books (by author Veronica Roth) already have millions of loyal fans so they’re pretty much guaranteed a good opening weekend and fans who will likely love the pretty boys and strong female lead, thus making it a worldwide box office hit. And of course we have to sit through two more sequels so the author can make her millions. And I thought people who read books were smart. The writers seem much smarter.
In a dystopian future post a world war (not too many details given) we arrive in Chicago, one of the only cities remaining, fenced in by what looks like some electric towers with turbine engines stuck to some dilapidated skyscrapers to make it all look suitably dystopian. Factions have been formed: the Erudite (intelligent folks), Amity (peace loving), Candor (really, you should get this one), Dauntless (the brave protectors) and Abnegation (selfless). This is so that everyone can perform his or her tasks and order can be maintained.
After they reach an age of maturity the young from each faction undergo a test to see which one faction they’re most suited for. They can, of course, also choose to join another faction thus causing lots of trauma for the parents. But all of them seem to want to join Dauntless. This is because they’re much more fun than all the other ‘peaceful and dull’ factions. They get to wear black, jump out of trains, run very fast and climb buildings. Oh and they get to have tattoos too. Needless to say they’re a good-looking bunch. Surprising no one in Erudite figured them to be the major competitor and not the ruling Abnegation, who are targeted by extremists who want to change things a bit.
Our hero Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior is a ‘divergent’. She tests positive for three different factions, a rare case that seems to be a threat to some of the factions lead by the sinister Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) who wants to rid the city of divergents, those free-thinking, mutli-tasking individuals.
Most of the film is dedicated to showing us Tris’s initiation in to Dauntless and her growing bond with the unbelievably good-looking Four (Theo James). Reminded me of the juvenile but very violent boot camp-like training in the atrocious Ender’s Game (also based on a book).
How can America aim to stem the youth violence and aggression that plagues their society if Hollywood continues to churn out films that glorify teen violence and lend it a cool and almost aspirational aura?
Over an hour of just training scenes makes you want to doze off. The production seems cheap with an abandoned factory used as the primary location of the movie.
Kate Winslet, who was pregnant during filming and you can tell, has to look cross all the time; it really is sad to see her wasted in this role since she can add nothing to the one-dimensional character. Shaileen Woodley as some critics have said is no Katniss Everdeen (from The Hunger Games) and certainly isn’t Jennifer Lawrence.
Also, the romantic angle between Four and Tris doesn’t really take off till the last hour and isn’t very convincing. It’s also sad that Jai Courtney’s wicked Dauntless leader Eric is relegated to the background as he would have turned out to be a much better adversary than Kate Winslet’s lacklustre and plodding Jeanine.
I’d have given more attention to the film had Ashley Judd as Tris’s mother kicked ass for more than 10 minutes. Zoe Kravitz as Christina, Tris’s buddy at Dauntless, is also an interesting character that I could’ve gotten behind. Alas Miles Teller, who is a good actor, proves to be another grey character in a grey setting that labours on and on ultimately going really nowhere (other than another two sequels called Insurgent and Allegiant).