Director: Neil Burger
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Kate Winslet
Release Date (US): 21st March, 2014
Company: Summit Entertainment
“You’re different. You don’t fit into a category. They can’t control you. They call it Divergent. You can’t let them find out about you.” – Tori
On the back of the monumental success of The Hunger Games franchise, director Neil Burger (Limitless) has been tasked with bringing to life the first book in Veronica Roth’s dystopian/sci-fi series. The movie stars Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) as Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior – a member of a futuristic society defined by what ‘faction’ you belong to based on your personality. When Tris learns that she is ‘Divergent’ and transcends all five societies, she is forced to keep it a secret – in the midst of ongoing civil tensions.
Despite the obvious comparisons to The Hunger Games, the concept holds up quite well onscreen, coming across as fairly unique. Screenwriters Evan Daugherty (Snow White And The Huntsman) and Vanessa Taylor (Alias) sculpt a complex society, plagued by civil tensions and its binding faction system. Unfortunately, the story’s complexity is also its greatest weakness, and it can often be quite bemusing to follow for non-book fans.
The most entertaining element of the plot is Tris’ training in the Dauntless faction. Harsh, fast-paced and often cruel, these conditions convey the brutality of the world Tris lives in. The central romantic plot between Tris and one of her instructors, Four (Theo James, Golden Boy) builds progressively, without ever being too cartoony. However, the quality does slip in the third act, which ultimately feels overlong and very tedious.
“The future belongs to those who know where they belong.” – Jeanine Matthews
A huge rising star in the film industry, it was no surprise to see Shailene Woodley turn in a confidant leading performance here. Combining Tris’ inherent kindness with her sheer determination, she creates a very likeable protagonist for audiences to root for. Perhaps more surprising was the strength of Theo James’ portrayal of Four – sharing some great chemistry with Woodley, and commanding an impressive onscreen presence as well.
The supporting cast is so full of talent, most actors are left with very little to do. Chief among them is Kate Winslet (Titanic), whose antagonist suffers from weak writing and motivation. Miles Teller (The Spectacular Now) and Ansel Elgort (The Fault In Our Stars) are also underused, but Zoe Kravitz (X-Men: First Class) and Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher) manage to make a big impression as the snarky Carina and the vindictive Eric.
Direction & Tone
Neil Burger does a solid job at adapting this piece and translating it onto the big screen. He applies some fantastic visuals to the training sequences that ultimately prove to be the highlights of the movie. The big criticism is over the movie’s runtime, which, at 139mins, is definitely too long, and is responsible for the pacing issues. Despite its unique initial concept, the final act shifts towards a more formulaic young-adult tone too.
- For all intents and purposes, this movie is still just Hunger Games: With Cool Tattoos
- I still find it hilarious that Ansel Elgort and Miles Teller, both former love interests of Woodley, had to watch her hook up with the much more physically intimidating Theo James in this movie.
- Love it or hate it, at the end of the day this movie makes you realise how well made the Harry Potter franchise was. We’re never going to see anything like that again, are we?
Thanks to the admirable efforts of Neil Burger and Shailene Woodley, Divergent is a fair young adult adaptation, boasting some stylish visuals and a great cast. The story, while at times a little ridiculous, is intriguing, but the stretched out runtime is unbearably long.