Hunger Games Light – A review of Divergent
Production Company: Summit Entertainment
Run Time: 139 minutes
Director: Neil Burger
Stars: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Jai Coutney, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn, Maggie Q
Summary: Viewers new to the Divergent universe will recognize elements from a number of teen oriented novels, including Hunger Games and Harry Potter. It’s still a compelling tale and is well worth viewing.
Ah, the dystopian future.
What will we have to look forward to once the Earth has ceased fighting itself and we’re left to rebuild what’s left of society? Even today, many people find themselves characterized and categorized, but if we strive to change our path, the tools are there to do just that.
This is the world into which the movie Divergent takes us. Based on a novel directed at youth and young adults, the story revolves around a young girl who comes of age and is about to take an aptitude test that will help her decide into which one of five factions she should choose to belong with.
Unfortunately for Tris (Shailene Woodley), the test is inconclusive. When she makes her choice, she will be flying blind with no guidance for her selection.
The faction from which she was raised is Abnegation. Members are selfless, working on behalf of society to make the community a better place in which to live. They are the leaders of the society since their collective actions are designed to be without ulterior motive.
The other factions include Amity, which are peace lovers, tending towards the colony’s maintenance and sustenance. Dauntless are the protectors. Members are brave and trained in the art of combat in order to protect the colony. Candors are the brutally honest, always telling it like it is whenever disputes are lodged.
The fifth faction is Erudite. The leader of that faction, Jeanine (Kate Winslet) is heading a plan that will transfer colony leadership from Abnegation to Erudite since the latter faction tends to house the most intelligent, and that, by extension should provide better leadership.
It’s Jeanine’s belief that any Divergent (a person who shares the traits of several factions, thus an inconclusive fit with any one group) represents a threat to the stability of their society as a whole. Therefore, all Divergents must be expunged.
Fortunately, Tris’ choice to join Dauntless, while seemingly being a poor fit for the girl with limited fighting experience or strength, is actually a catalyst for her, allowing her to gain not only the skills necessary to be a defender, but the determination to uncover what is going on around her before things go too far.
As a movie, the strength of the story is defined by its casting. Woodley brings just the right amount of determination and conviction to make a compelling heroine much in the same way Jennifer Lawrence captured our hearts in The Hunger Games.
As Four, Tris’ companion and mentor, Theo James proves that he too is more than just a young hunk with a nice physique and a pretty face. Everyone needs a rock on which to stand, and he is Tris’.
Kate Winslet brings gravity to the role of Jeanine. She’s an amazing actress who can layer her performances with subtle nuances that allow her to easily shift from being benign to an overt threat. She’s a great foil for this tale.
Jai Courtney, however, is such a one-note actor that he screams ‘bad guy’ from the moment he appears. He really needs to learn to get a new facial expression.
The one thing, though, that will always irritate me about movies like this is how the adults always play second fiddle to the kids. Not so much in The Hunger Games, but noticeably in the Harry Potter stories and here, it’s up to the kids to save the adults and the universe. Enough, already!
Overall, though, this is a fun and compelling story which, I would imagine, many adults won’t get. But allow yourself to become immersed in the tale and you’ll come out of it feeling like a part of the redeemed society that you’ve just had the pleasure to have witnessed.
Even with its underlying themes of self-discovery and redemption, Divergent isn’t preachy, nor is it stuffy. I enjoyed it and give the film 4 out of 5 stars.