Divergent follows the tropes of young adult based post-apocalyptic dystopian world to the T currently graced by The Hunger Games trilogy. It is a more sappy, less refined version of the Jennifer Lawrence franchise and while I haven’t read either of the novels, the films are beyond compare. Divergent can be sleep inducing if it wasn’t for a spirited performance from Shailene Woodley.
Divergent is set in a world divided by factions. These are Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite and Dauntless. Factions with fancier names for some everyday (albeit challenging and a little exaggerated in the film) qualities. People are given aptitude tests to determine which group they would fit in to but ultimately it is their choice where to go. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) is different and is slotted as a divergent, that’s looked upon as a threat to the world that goes by “Faction before Blood” directive. There could be different themes here with this fight of the underdog but the film clearly doesn’t go for such lofty heights.
Beatrice chooses Dauntless as her faction and Tris as her new moniker. The Dauntless are supposed to be the brave lot (duh!) and comprise the army, police of this world. They are a bit funny though with their random running, aimless climbing and over the top leaping from trains. The film’s interesting portions still come from the training Tris receives at Dauntless and the relationship she develops with veteran Four (Theo James). It follows the familiar arc of falling down a couple of times before rising to the challenge and a game of capture the flag is particularly enticing. Shailene Woodley is terrific in these portions and aces the part of the wounded – mentally and physically – protagonist.
The problem is these universe establishing sequences go on for too long and they are followed by an even stretched climax. The use of terrible music for some sequences don’t help the cause either. The film is imagined as a little too black and white to be consistently interesting. Then there is Kate Winslet in a role terrible for an actress of such high caliber.
It is Shailene Woodley who saves more than half of Divergent. But she still can’t do much about the fact that this one is more Twilight than The Hunger Games. At least the treatment makes it so.
(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)