Divergent Review

Divergent is a 2014 science fiction action film directed Neil Burger, starring Shailene Woodley, Kate Winslet, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz, Maggie Q, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Mekhi Phifer, and Miles Teller.  Set as the first installment in the The Divergent Series and based off the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth, the film is set in a dystopian and post-apocalyptic Chicago where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Beatrice Prior is warned that she is Divergent and thus will never fit into any one of the factions. She soon learns that a sinister plot is brewing in the seemingly perfect society.


Positives:

  • Good performances
  • Memorable characters
  • Good score
  • Great cast
  • Woodley is great as Beatrice
  • Interesting story

Negatives:

  • Small plotholes in script
  • Forgettable characters
  • James performance could use some work

Plot:  Set in a dystopian and post-apocalyptic Chicago where people are divided into five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave) and Erudite (the intellectual). Beatrice Prior is warned that she is Divergent and thus will never fit into any one of the factions thereby a threat to their society. Joining Dauntless she soon learns that a sinister plot is brewing in the seemingly perfect society.

The story is a bit of a slow build but the world is interesting enough to make the watch enjoyable.  Beatrice’s character development was one of the highlight’s of the film as we see the character become stronger and more head strong.  The “sinister plot” of the film is an interesting twist though the story doesn’t really support it.  There doesn’t seem to be a power struggle in the film so what is the point of Erudite’s bid for power.  The story seems to label the Erudite faction as a bunch of jackass who will mow down hundreds of people without any regard for life.  In some ways, it is an original idea that can be compelling at times, but it can get bogged down with subplots and characters that don’t go anywhere. (3 out of 5)

Characters:  The main protagonist of the film is Beatrice Prior, who takes an aptitude test where she discovers that she is Divergent.  She’s a likable character and watching her develop over the course of the film is good.  She ends up developing a relationship with her initiates’ instructor, Four, and despite being pretty serious, he shows himself to have depth.  Beatrice’s family consists of Caleb, Andrew, and Natalie Prior.  Another character who I liked but definitely didn’t get enough screentime is Christina, who is literally given nothing to do.  Would’ve liked to have seen more development with her character.

The main antagonists are Max and Eric Coulter, who run Dauntless.  Max isn’t really standout but Eric is the bigger of the two douchebags.  He’s intense, he’s serious, he’s just an asshole and obvious the most unlikable character next to Erudite leader, Jeanine, who’s manipulating events behind the scenes.  There is also another initiate, Peter, who takes it upon himself to be Beatrice’s nemesis for some reason, and he is a douchebag. (3 out of 5)

Cast: The performances are good and the casting does include some A-listers.  Shailene Woodley does a pretty good job of portraying Beatrice.  Loved Kate Winslet’s performance as Jeanine.  Jai Courtney even shows some skill playing the douchebag Eric Coulter.  It always seems like Courtney plays better villainous antagonists.  One of the few performances that I thought wasn’t so grand was Theo James as Four.  Sure, I can see him as a tough guy but it is the emotional moments with Woodley that makes his lack of emotion more prominent. Yet, somehow the two actually have pretty good chemistry. The casting also consist of Ansel Elgort (Caleb), Zoe Kravitz (Christina), Christian Madesen (Al), Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Will), Peter (Miles Teller), Tony Goldwyn (Andrew Prior), Ray Stevenson (Marcus Eaton), Maggie Q (Tori Wu), Ashley Judd (Natalie Prior), Mekhi Phifer (Max). (4 out of 5)

Visuals: The movie is actually pretty good to look at.  There are some really good shots of the city and the action sequences are done pretty well.  Things like the characters’ clothes, their homes, the presentation of their “culture”, definitely showcases their faction’s themes, which definitely helps differentiate them.  There are some moments where the CGI is alright but the use of practical does help push it along. But it is a good looking film. (3 out of 5)

Score: The soundtrack is surprisingly good but not really memorable.  Can’t really think of a track that caught my attention but it does give the movie depth.  Thumbs up to Junkie XL for the music. (3 out of 5)

Writing: The writing is decent though there are some problems.  Firstly, there is little exposition on the Beatrice’s family so when things go left, you really don’t care about their relationship.  Next, there is literally no time given to Beatrice forming a relationship with Christine.  How their friendship blossoms, we’ll never really know.  Also, it would’ve been nice to see some internal fighting among the factions so that the coup could’ve been built up to. And I know the story is told from the perspective of Beatrice, but this is a movie and that kind of exposition would do wonders to make it better.  Now, there is a good mix of drama and action, that keeps the movie entertaining but for viewers who aren’t particularly interested in the setting or the characters, it can be a bit of a bore.  Neil Burger does a good job with the movie’s direction, especially with its presentation.  Though it itsn’t quite on the level of first installments like The Hunger Games or Harry Potter, it’s still done with enough style to make it enjoyable. (3 out of 5)


The Verdict: In the end, Divergent is a pretty good film and definitely worth a watch.  Despite some of the small problems with the script, characters who aren’t really active, and performance by James; the film does feature good performances, memorable characters, good visuals, and an interesting story.  Divergent gets 4 out of 5.

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