Review: Divergent fails to catch a fire
With the enormous success of young adult movies such as “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games” dominating the movie industry, it is not surprising that Veronica Roth's best-selling trilogy of novels, “Divergent,” are now being adapted into the latest franchise. Like "Hunger Games" it is a dystopian vision of a near future tailor-made for high school and early college-age audiences.
The first chapter in the new series and probable phenomena had its worldwide premiere on Friday.
Directed by Neil Burger, known for "The Illusionist" (2006) and "Limitless" (2011), "Divergent" takes place in a futuristic Chicago where the city which is known today as an architectural landmark has been destroyed after a great war. What is left has been divided into five factions where human beings are grouped together based on their personalities and survival skills.
The factions are divided into Abnegation (Selfless), Amity (Peacemakers), Candor (Honest), Dauntless (The brave protectors), and Erudite (Intelligent) Teenagers born int this world make a decision over which faction they want to belong in by the age of 16. They have two options, follow the results of an aptitude test where they find out what faction they belong to, or make their own choice.
For Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), who later changes her name to Tris, this decision will not be easy. After finishing the aptitude test, Tris finds out that she, along with a secret number of people, is classified as a “divergent.” “You're different. You don't fit into any of the categories [faction]. They can't control you. They call it divergent,” the character Tori (Maggie Quigley) tells Tris.
Tris decides to leave her family and become a member of a group knwon as the Dauntless where she endures a series of intense physical and psychological tests conducted by a pair named Four (Theo James) and Eric (Jai Courtney). Shortly after, Tris discovers that her life has been in danger when she uncovers a conspiracy, led by Jeanine (Kate Winslet), to kill all “Divergents” and overthrew the faction “Amity” in order to take over as the leading faction. From now on, Prior must keep her identity secret in order to survive.
There is much potential in "Divergent." With Burgers's skill and a talented roster of actresses in the cast, this movie could have become the new break-out title in its genre. But "Divergent" misses the mark and fails to impress as a movie. It is a two hour and 20 minute-long slog that lacks in detailed storytelling and believable action sequences.
During the movie, we follow Tris and her group members as they struggle in order to stay in Dauntless. They have to endlessly fight each other, throw knives, shoot guns, and go through harsh punishments. After one and a half hours of the same repeated action sequences, the eye lids started to feel heavy. I longed for something new to recapture my attention.
Another problem is that we knew that Tris’ life was threatened, but the film never reveals exactly why. The movie never truly explains the main character or what power a “divergent” has or why a vast conspiracy is being launched against them. It felt as if key sections or plot points were missing, and I found it hard to get an overall understanding of the story without the puzzle pieces in place.
However when it comes to the acting there were some stellar moments. Kate Winslet played the role of the villainess surprising well. Jai Courtney was also excellent as the heartless Eric.
As for Woodley she is a young and talented actress, but "Divergent" did not give her an easy role to embody. In fact, I am not quite sure if Woodley was the right actress to be Tris. Since her character development was nonexistent, Woodley’s lack of variable expressions did not make Tris to be more than a mediocre character who simply never felt real.
Despite it's flaws , the film's the soundtrack was notable and offered some unique soundscapes. The sounds composed by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL in cooperation with Ellie Goulding, along with other artists, gave the film some real texture. Pieces of pop electronica such as “Hanging on” and “Dead in the Water” fit perfectly with the scenes.
"Divergent" is far from being the next “The Hunger Games.” A great budget was thrown into the production, but it was a reminder that some bestselling novels are just that, and finding a decent translation into film is harder than it sounds.