Much like The Hunger Games, Divergent is based on a trio of books that includes Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant. I’m proposing a fourth one called Detergent, to wash the bad taste out of my mouth. These are being brought to the screen in four parts, with Allegiant split into two movies to, eh, go for a money grab. These books are apparently highly popular with the ‘tweens and depict a dystopian future, again, much like Hunger Games. If you see me compare to Hunger Games repeatedly it’s because there’s quite the similarity between Katnis (HG) and Tris (Divergent), but only superficially.
In short, this movie is not good. The acting is okay, set work and costumes are fine. But the story doesn’t make sense. In fact, there’s really not much of a plot other than loose incidents that are used to move from one task, test or challenge to another. The movie made a lot of money and so the sequels I’m sure will be made.
Shallene Woodley (Tris, aka, Beatrice) and Theo James (Four, aka Tobias) star, with a supporting cast that includes Ashley Judd and Kate Winslet, and is directed by Neil Burger.
A quick plot summary: In the future, there are five factions: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite (I had to look them up). If you don’t belong to one of these factions, you are “factionless” and have no social status. Much like Harry Potter, at age 16 you are selected for a specific faction based on a psychological test.
Beatrice’s brother Caleb (played by Ansel Elgort, who costarred with Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars) is assigned to Erudite. Beatrice gets Dauntless and sets off to pass the necessary skills to be inducted into this group, starting with jumping off of a moving train! What follows is a number of pointless fights and psychological tests.
The Dauntless training starts interestingly enough with a leap into a (bottomless) chasm and some fight training, but immediately becomes lost in silly tests and feats. There’s odd psychological training to test your tolerance to your own fears while a trainer watches through a monitor. And there’s repeated references to Divergents, who have special powers (I guess?) and are unaffected by a specific mind control serum. It becomes clear and obvious that “Four” (aka Tobias) is falling for Beatrice, now known as Tris. There’s bad kids, good kids and an odd plot to overthrow the Erudites and kill off the Divergents. The movie lost me on why this is going on, who is leading this, and to what end other than control? Why do they want control? Is something wrong with the current setup with various factions? And why do they cast off the factionless? Why can’t they have another faction for folks who cannot make it in the regular factions? Confusion.
And the movie ends with a nod towards a sequel, obviously so.
Some of the acting is genuine, but Shallene Woodley spends most of her time reacting the same way, with a concerned look as her slightly oversized (but beautiful) eyes widen as part of a serious stare. Other characters have no depth, especially her eventual love interest Four (Tobias). And you can see that coming from a mile away. Tris tells Four that she doesn’t want to move fast and then, eh, what happens next? Doesn’t make sense. At one point they make it obvious that the Divergents don’t succumb to the truth serum. So when Tris realizes this, she just tries to blend in as if she is impacted by it, but another (idiotic?) Divergent just runs around saying “hey, what’s going on? why are you guys acting like this?” to the people affected by the mind control serum. Guess what happens to him? So heavy handed.
In the end, it’s a groan-inducing movie that’s better suited for Mystery Science Theater 3000. My daughter and I basically mimicked that TV show by calling out the ridiculous things we were seeing. She told me that she made it halfway through the first book and then stopped because it seemed pointless.
On a scale of one to five bananas, this movie gets one banana for trying. It’s not quite a stinker, but there’s smell. Oh there’s smell. Monkey suggests checking out Hunger Games instead. Better acted (Jennifer Lawrence is a beast) with a lot clearer story line and intelligent dialogue.