Based off of the popular young adult series, Divergent takes place in a dystopian future where the world is divided into factions based off of virtues: Dauntless (bravery), Candor (honesty), Amite (peacefulness), Erudite (intelligence), and Abnegation (selflessness). In this society, teenagers take a test to see which faction they would best fit in – but then are still given the opportunity to choose, through a cultish ceremony that involves hundreds of kids drawing blood from the same blade. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is divergent, which means she would fit into more than one of these factions. This is evidently pretty rare, which seems ridiculous but allows you to easily identify with the protagonist as she’s the only one with any real dimension. The government, in a power struggle between Abnegation and Erudite, wants to kill the divergents because they can’t be controlled. The whole thing is pretty stupid, and I think the source material is to blame.
The movie itself isn’t too grating. It’s a pretty by-the-numbers adaptation. There are some pacing issues, mostly because the film appears to opt for chronicling the plot points laid out in the novel, rather than attempting to make the story it’s own. Despite some minor technical errors, it’s a competently put together film. The cinematography is beautiful (when not layered with CGI), and the score fits in well. However, it just feels like it’s a tie-in to some larger spectacle, rather than its own separate entity.
Shailene Woodley is one of my favorite female actresses, giving stellar performances in both The Descendants (2011) and The Spectacular Now (2013). She does a fine job here, and holds the movie together, but I feel as though she was miscast for the role. Woodley is a wonderful actress, but I don’t see her as the action star the film is trying to make her out to be. There was a lot of weird casting in this film in general. Miles Teller, who plays Woodley’s romantic opposite in The Spectacular Now, has a minor role as the token jerk who relentlessly attacks Tris throughout the film. Ray Stevenson has a cameo for some reason. And Kate Winslet is remarkably forgettable as the film’s overarching antagonist.
There’s a million and a half canned metaphors about individualism jam-packed into every scene, and the film desperately wants you to recognize that. The moral couldn’t be more shoved into your face if they tried. Subtlety is not this movie’s forte.
The biggest problem with the film is that it’s just kinda stupid; there are countless logistical inconsistencies and idiotic moments. Divergent isn’t self-aware though, so any humor at the absurdity of the situations is unintentional. It’s obvious that some real effort was put into the movie though, and that’s admirable. 5/10.