Divergent (2014)

Divergent (2014)

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"Stop stroking it and punch the damn thing!"
“Stop stroking it and punch the damn thing!”

Twitter Plot Summary: In dystopian Chicago, the populace is divided into 5 factions based on personality. but if you’re Divergent, you’re a threat.

Five Point Summary:

1. So far, so Hunger Games.
2. Initiation tests in Dauntless.
3. Will she make it through? Of course she will.
4. The plot thickens. Slightly. Like custard.
5. Knife throwing skillz.

We’re once again sailing the Young Adult (YA) novel adaptation waters as Divergent joins the likes of The Hunger Games and Mortal Instruments in an attempt at being the next big thing in the lucrative teen cinema market after Harry Potter and Twilight made big impressions at the box office. Based on the series of novels by Veronica Roth, this time round we’re in yet another dystopian future set in Chicago – half the city is in ruins but a massive wall protects its remaining citizens from an unnamed and unseen enemy that may or may not exist out there in the wider world.

But for now, any consideration of bigger threats is on the back-burner for a potential sequel. The focus here is on Beatrice Prior (yay, a character with my surname at long last!), later shortened to Tris, a teenage girl who discovers that she is Divergent – basically she doesn’t fit neatly into any of the five factions established a century ago to maintain order and is subsequently a threat to said order. Conveniently this all takes place at around the same time that the Erudite faction (the clever ones) are plotting to take over governmental responsibilities from the selfless Abnegation faction. This gives Kate Winslet opportunity to skirt around full-on ice queen territory as Jeanine, the not at all scarily named leader of Erudite. Shailene Woodley is acceptable as Tris, although she doesn’t have the ability as yet to make it through some of the more cringeworthy sequences without receiving some flak.

There. Are. FIVE. Lights!
There. Are. FIVE. Lights!

Divergent is yet another example of a young girl butting heads with authority, experiencing romance with a fellow Dauntless faction member and trying to work out who she is in a world that is harsh and generally out to get you. So far, so generic young adult fiction. As Tris chooses Dauntless as her faction, she has to demonstrate that she is brave and fearless and undergo an extensive and painful training regime, which provides the bulk of the narrative in the second act. Her Divergent skills come to the fore and she has to learn to hide in plain sight in order to survive. It’s from this angle that the young adult plotting comes to the fore as this is a recurring theme throughout the genre.

Whilst it lacks the impact and polish of The Hunger Games, the world is nicely realised and the escalating threat is kept relatively low key, fitting in nicely with the rest of the narrative and not feeling the need to resort to big epic explosions in order to finish off the story. In this respect, I tip my proverbial hat to the script – it didn’t need a Marvel style final act, and wisely chose to avoid repeating the oft-used “bigger, louder, more Michael Bay” trap that many such films fall into. It will be interesting to see how the sequel develops and expands upon the themes presented here. I doubt very much that Tris will ever be considered in quite as high a regard as Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, but she can at least hold her own in this world.

Score: 3.5/5

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