Divergent is familiar, but still very entertaining

It seems like film­makers and stu­di­os are in­creas­ingly turn­ing to­ward the young adult nov­el genre, known as YA, in hopes of find­ing the next big block­buster movie series. The movies already have a built-in audi­ence — the tween and teen­age girl fans of the books are sure to head to theat­ers in droves, right?

Di­ver­gent is the latest YA ad­apt­a­tion to leap from book to big screen. Would it be the next big thing like Twi­light or The Hun­ger Games? Or would it crash and burn like The Host and The Mor­tal In­stru­ments: City of Bones?

Fans of the Di­ver­gent books can breathe easy. Though I haven’t read the three books by Veron­ica Roth so I can’t com­pare them, as a movie, Di­ver­gent is far from a dis­aster.

It does seem quite fa­mil­i­ar. Let’s see, there’s a dysto­pi­an so­ci­ety, five dif­fer­ent groups and one teen­age girl who es­chews au­thor­ity. That sounds a lot like The Hun­ger Games to me.

I can’t fault it too much for that, as an­oth­er strong fe­male prot­ag­on­ist is a good thing. Shai­lene Wood­ley (The Secret Life of the Amer­ic­an Teen­ager and The Des­cend­ants) more than cap­ably handles the lead role of Be­atrice Pri­or. Like Kat­n­iss, I think Be­atrice is meant to be a role mod­el for young girls.

Set in dysto­pi­an Chica­go after some sort of un­ex­plained up­ris­ing or re­volu­tion, there is a large wall keep­ing all of the people in­side. The people have been sep­ar­ated in­to five fac­tions: Eru­dite are the in­tel­li­gent ones, Daunt­less are the brave risk-takers, Candor are the hon­est, Ab­neg­a­tion are the self­less and Amity are the peace­ful folks. Di­ver­gents are the out­casts as they don’t fit in­to any fac­tion and are deemed a risk to so­ci­ety.

At age 16, every child must take a test to see where he or she fits. Most fit in­to the fac­tion they were born in­to, but are al­lowed to choose a dif­fer­ent group if they so de­sire. Though born in­to Ab­neg­a­tion, it is dur­ing this test that Be­atrice learns she is Di­ver­gent, fit­ting in­to three dif­fer­ent fac­tions.

She chooses to switch to Daunt­less and re­names her­self Tris for this fresh start. Un­for­tu­nately, since Di­ver­gents are such a “danger” to so­ci­ety, Tris must keep the fact hid­den and at­tempt to blend in nor­mally with Daunt­less. Dur­ing train­ing, she meets the sto­ic Four (Theo James) who winds up be­ing just the per­son she needs to help her along.

Trouble brews when Jean­ine (Kate Wins­let), the lead­er of the Eru­dites, de­cides to hunt and decim­ate both Di­ver­gents and those who seek to pro­tect them.

Kate Wins­let is one of my fa­vor­ite act­resses, but this isn’t go­ing to go down as one of my fa­vor­ite roles for her. She seems more like a mean school teach­er as op­posed to the evil vil­lain she’s sup­posed to be.

Theo James’ smol­der­ing good looks and the chem­istry between him and Wood­ley make the ro­mance feel a lot more genu­ine than that oth­er dysto­pi­an hit flick. And, thank­fully, there are no love tri­angles that of­ten plague this genre.

At al­most two and a half hours, the movie drags a bit, es­pe­cially dur­ing the middle “train­ing” scenes. Those who haven’t read the book will won­der if things are headed to a cli­max or not as the plot seems to stall. It even­tu­ally gets there, and the ac­tion scenes are fairly en­ter­tain­ing. ••

Movie Grade: B

You can reach at shorbrook@bsmphilly.com.

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