Hollywood is all about keeping up with the trends, and in an age of the internet and fast technology giving us more options, that’s getting harder for guys like Warner Brothers and Universal Pictures. The intended audience for most movies is teenagers and young adults, so you know that the studios are going to look where their audience is going for ideas. One such source is books with large followings. Material like Twilight and The Hunger Games each have fans that no matter what’s presented to them, they will show up to see their favorite literary characters come to life.
While The Hunger Games and Twilight have become such large cash cows for Summit Entertainment, other attempts to recapture that audience like The Host, Beautiful Creatures, I Am Number Four and Vampire Academy have all tanked and left studios puzzling to why such known books turned movies have not brought a return. A lot of that can point to two major problems; the actors and love story. For a lot of people getting the said projects out, they’ll think that by getting a pretty woman and a pretty guy together is all they need to satisfy fans, not aware that chemistry is more important then looks. And that by repeating the love triangle scenario, they’ll have no problem getting a women audience, regardless that romance stories work better as a side plot and not the main focus. Divergent seems to avoid these mistakes, but does it still work?
In a dystopian futuristic Chicago, society is divided among five factions based on human virtues, Abnegation (selfless), Amity (kind), Candor (honest), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave). All new adults are free to choose where they belong, but if you quit or forced to exile, you become factionless, living among the outcast and homeless.
Beatrice (played by Shailene Woodley) takes a test about fear that determines where she belongs, but her results are found to be inconclusive or “divergent” which means she has traces of all virtues. Not telling her results to anyone, she makes blood ties and joins the Dauntless. Under the tough conditions of the no nonsense Eric (played by Jai Courtney) and committed Tobias “Four” (played by Theo James) Beatrice trains hard to impress both men enough to prove that she’s serious about staying with the Dauntless. She is able to succumb her fears to help win sparing matches in training, war games of capture the flag (it’s better then it sounds), and tougher simulations to test her further. She gains respect among her faction, but Beatrice starts to question her choices after speaking with her mother Natalie (played by Ashley Judd) and an intelligent scientist Jeanine (played by Kate Winslet) who may be after more control of all the factions.
Did I get that right? I hope so, because this is not an easy movie to transcribe. If anything, it shouldn’t as Divergent follows a formula similar to The Hunger Games where we follow a young woman growing up in a scary future. The big difference though is the system.
No matter how many times I think about or reread the Wikipedia pages on Divergent, I still cannot understand it’s faction system. I guess it’s to weed out any undesirables, but if someone like Beatrice really had virtues in other areas, why would the system look to eliminate her? If anything, they would probably be grooming her to be a leader. Wouldn’t the power in this world best be suited to someone who understands all areas? What about the factions? Would someone who is “brave” automatically also have to “intelligent” to understand their enemy? Wouldn’t the “Selfless” already be “kind” if they only care about others? I may not be seeing something, but I just can’t make heads or tails how this is supposed to work.
If the hole-ridden system is a major distraction, does the rest of the story fall apart? Surprisingly, I found myself caring for these characters more then I did for most of the other young adult book-turned-movies (excluding The Hunger Games which is still champion in my book). It helps that they have actually brought some good actors into the mix, especially Shailene Woodley who really brings a lot of personality to a character that would seem too cookie-cutter of Katness Everdeen. Plus, the design of Chicago in the future really works. It’s a world that’s still recovering from something (the movie never explains) that tries to mix it’s older skyscrapers with newer buildings that work around the fallen city.
I’ll give this movie three zip line rope systems out of five. If the faction thing would have been better thought out, I would have liked it better. Divergent seems to have a huge fanbase, who I hope understand this faction system more then I do. If anyone has a better explanation with how this is all supposed to work, please let me know. Otherwise, I’ll see this nothing more then popcorn entertainment.