As a fan of the young-adult fantasy/sci-fi genre, it comes as no surprise that “Divergent” has much to offer. Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Zoe Kravitz, Jai Courtney, Ashley Judd, Miles Teller, Kate Winslet, and more, this film is a thrilling, action-packed, complex adventure.
Set in a distant dystopian future, “Divergent” creates a world of its own centered in the post-apocalyptic city of Chicago. In this world, people are split into five factions based upon a different trait or virtue: intelligence, bravery, honesty, peacefulness, or selflessness. Each faction is charged with contributing to society in a specific way, and once a child turns sixteen, they are given a test that shows which faction they are destined to be a part of. They must then decide whether to join that faction, or choose a different path for the rest of their lives.
When sixteen-year-old Beatrice Prior (Woodley) is given the test, a secret is revealed that she is divergent, which means she thinks differently than others and is not as susceptible to conformity or control. This also tells her that she could potentially belong to more than one faction, and eventually, she makes a decision that surprises everyone, including her family. Once "Tris," as she is soon called, makes her choice, she goes through a rigorous and competitive initiation process. At the same time, she realizes her secret is ultimately life threatening, and she must do everything she can to stay hidden while forces around her are trying to rid the world of her kind.
In “Divergent,” much like other films of this genre and products of Lionsgate/Summit studios ("The Hunger Games," "Twilight"), there are similar themes, ideas, positives and weaknesses. For example, we see a group of people (or person) in charge looking to take or keep control, as well as a mostly fictional world with its own rules, ideals, and ways of life. There also exists a new and fast-growing love connection between the main characters. While “Divergent” does exhibit much of this stereotype, it does turn out to be a fairly exciting and entertaining movie.
One of my favorite elements of this film is the use of illusions, alternate worlds, and dream-type sequences, which occur either through being knocked out in a fight or by taking one of the mind tests present in the story. These sequences usually involve some sort of worst fear where the character must figure out something, like how to survive or overcome a challenge by using their skills or moving from one reality to another. The execution of these are very well done and usually filled with multiple special effects, abnormal circumstances, and mind-bending experiences.
The film is filled with a combination of fresh faced, young actors and a few more recognizable ones. It contains a good amount of playful humor ofen dripping with sarcasm, as someone speaks their mind or makes comments about something/someone in often times a negative or confrontational way. Like similar films, there are several borderline corny and over-the-top actions, dialogue, and events that occur. As this is a fictional presentation with a made up world, there are numerous special effects, fake backgrounds and environments, but the film does a good job at creating “real images” that enhance the film and blend in well.
“Divergent” is extremely predictable, but the filmmakers keep you engaged throughout. The action and hand-to-hand combat can be quite violent at times, and they are several questionable and emotional deaths, but as the film uses a different form of firearm, the killings are less bloody and fierce than other movies may present. On the same note, as it is meant for teens and young adults, the violence is somewhat suppressed through techniques like panning the camera in a different direction instead of showing the full kill shot.
In the end, “Divergent” is simply what was expected – a decently entertaining and new fantasy action-adventure. Although based upon a trilogy, it is presented as a possible stand-alone film and there is much story still to be explored. I have a feeling this film will be popular among readers of the book and those who enjoy this genre, and I am excited to see where this franchise goes.
Rated 3.5 out of 5 stars.
“Divergent” is rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality. Running time is 2 hours and 29 minutes.
Hayden Pittman is a special contributor to WFAA.com and a freelance film critic and entertainment blogger out of Dallas. More of his content can be found on YouPlusDallas.com and his author archive here. He is a film, TV, and sports enthusiast, and hopes to pursue a future in filmmaking and screenwriting. As an average, passionate film lover who rarely misses a film, his reviews are straightforward and his way with words will let you know in a simple way what he thinks. Don’t like what he has to say? Let him know at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @HPMoviePitt.