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