Divergent is the most recent (and surely not the last) trilogy of young adult novels to get the big screen treatment.  We have already been blessed with Twilight, Percy Jackson, and The Hunger Games (which I actually enjoy), and now we get to see the world author Veronica Roth created in the widely popular series.  Divergent is the first story of the trilogy where we are introduced to futuristic post-apocalyptic Chicago.  Society has split into five factions based on personal attributes.  The factions are Abnegation the selfless, Dauntless the brave, Erudite the intelligent, Candor the honest, and Amity the peaceful.  Each faction runs a different part of the society, all working together so that there is never a war again.  When teenagers turn 16 they are forced to select which faction they will be in for the rest of their lives.  They may choose to leave their faction, but if they do, are never welcomed back to their families (Like the Amish).  Our protagonist Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) is in this predicament as she must chose which faction she will join.  The problem is that during her entrance exam, its discovered that she does fit into one specific category and doesn’t easily conform.  As you would imagine, the powers at be don’t like people thinking for themselves, and hunt down all that don’t fit into a faction, known as Divergants.

The premise for the film sounds interesting enough, as it’s relatable to what goes on in our society today.  While certainly less extreme, we all are put into specific categories through state-sanctioned standardized testing, and put into a box much like the characters living in this world.  The problem this movie has is that it asks these important questions, but choses not to answer them.  Instead we follow Beatrice “Tris” from her transformation from caregiver to protector of the city.  We have to watch her boot camp at Dauntless (brave), as she goes from the worst to best in class.  Everything that happens has been seen before, as the film adds nothing new, and chooses instead to ride what successful films have already done.  I found it difficult and tedious to watch this movie-enduring the love interests, friends turning on each other, and Tis’ incredible improvement in her fighting ability was painfully dull.  The action is spread out and what action scenes we do get, are so forgettable,  I’m having trouble remembering the film from one day ago.

It’s a shame to see Kate Winslet and Mekhi Phifer used almost solely for their name on the poster, and not properly utilized.  Shailene Woodley does a good job at having to carry this film, which was an incredible amount of weight for her to support.  She needed help but was left out to dry.  Director Neil Burger (Limitless, The Illusionist) struggled at putting this film together as one cohesive story, and instead it feels like a ton of scenes just thrown together, as the flow of the movie never materials.  You just don’t believe, or don’t care about the story the way you should, as the scope of the film seems big but never comes into fruition.  The filmmakers had this huge playground of a city to play with, but 80% of the movie takes place in a dimly lit room or narrow corridor.  If the story and script are weak you hope for a visually beautiful film, but in Divergent they missed on all parts.

Fans of the books may enjoy seeing the movie brought to life, but other than the real fans, I don’t know who will enjoy this film.  Just because you have successful novel/movie franchises doesn’t mean that it will always work on film.  Divergent, while having a fairly good cast, delivers nothing in the way of thrills, fun, entertainment, or uniqueness.  Coming in at 139 minutes, Divergent feels even longer, and with two more sequels in the works, lets hope that they can right this ship.. or train (Yeah I guess in the future our main mode of transportation will be trains).

Directed by Neil BurgerDivergent stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller, Zoë Kravitz, Mekhi Phifer, Kate Winslet, and is in theaters now.

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About the Author

Peter Towe
Peter Towe
A graduate of UMASS Boston, I have successfully put off getting a "real" job, and continue to watch, produce, review, and obsess over movies. I lived in Boston while I completed my degree, and now live in Chicago trying the improv thing.