directed by Neil Burger
(Lionsgate, 2014)

It's almost impossible to watch Divergent without thinking of the Hunger Games series. The similarity of themes -- a gifted teen taking on a dystopian society -- makes it hard to appreciate Divergent's pedigree. It's meaningful in its way and has a certain resonance, more easily seen in the second half than the first, but it does well as easygoing entertainment.

Tris (Shailene Woodley) is a teenager living in a futuristic Chicago, walled off from the world after an apocalyptic war and divided into five factions: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite. At a certain point in adolescence those born into a faction must choose whether to stay with their faction or go to another one. Those rare individuals who don't fit into any category, the truly gifted who can be all five at once, are known as Divergents, who are made to disappear due to being an obvious threat. If they aren't exterminated by the shadowy government, they are made to live with the Factionless, a lost group of people living in misery at the fringes of the city.

Tris, who discovers she is a Divergent during her testing phase, fakes the results and chooses to be a Dauntless, the easiest one to hide behind. While she's training at war games (the Dauntless are the peace keepers -- the muscle, so to speak, and so train constantly), there is the expected, attendant love story with one of her trainers, Four (Theo James), definitely a kindred spirit, and of course the revelation that the world they know contains rebel factions that want to pull that world apart. Turns out it's the Erudites, led by the icewater-in-her-veins Jeannine Matthews (Kate Winslet).

While the first half of the movie is visually stunning it requires a bit too much scene-setting. The second half is more focused and action-oriented. The revelation of the story's internal theme takes place almost too late to make it meaningful or to lend any real weight or tension to the drama, but it's definitely set up for a sequel so there is a chance for it to develop into its own, impressive story.

review by
Mary Harvey

17 May 2014

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