Divergent May be Derivative but It's Not a Dud
- Friday, March 21, 2014
Release Date: March 21, 2014
Rating: PG-13 (for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality)
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian, Action-Adventure
Run Time: 139 min.
Director: Neil Burger
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer
Let's get the obvious out of the way, shall we? Yes, Divergent shares several things in common with The Hunger Games, but that won’t bother the film's target audience one bit.
From the dreary dystopian setting to themes of class warfare and the cost of rebelling against authority, bothThe Hunger Games and Divergent were based on a series of bestselling young adult books with a strong female protagonist. Unlike, say, Twilight's angst-y Bella Swan, getting the guy isn't the main priority of the lead characters in The Hunger Games or Divergent. In one perilous situation after another, these young women can take care of themselves while saving others in duress, thank you very much.
Making up for the gulf in originality and plotting that often stretches the realms of believability, however, are exceptional actresses who are part superhero, part everywoman. Following in the footsteps of Jennifer Lawrence (not exactly the easiest of endeavors), Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) also lends genuine emotional transparency to such a physically demanding role.
It's not the fights or feats of strength that ultimately stick with the viewer (although many are entertaining, given her decidedly diminutive stature), it's the quieter, more vulnerable moments where Woodley shines the brightest. Rather than giving her a script full of clever one-liners, director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) brings out an openness and approachability in Woodley which helps her carry the film. And thanks to an impressive supporting cast, including Kate Winslet (Labor Day), Maggie Q (Mission Impossible 3) and Woodley's Spectacular Now co-star Miles Teller, Divergent is never a dud even when it feels derivative.
When we're first introduced to Beatrice (Woodley), she's basically in the midst of making the biggest high-stakes decision of her life. Now 16 years old, she's got the dreaded Choosing Ceremony on her calendar. After submitting to a series of disturbing tests that help sort out which of five societal "factions" would best suit her personality, she's got exactly one opportunity to decide whether to stay with her family in Abnegation (the faction of the selfless) or permanently carve out her own path in Erudite (the intelligent), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the brutally honest) or Dauntless (the brave).
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