Check out our male vs. female perspective reviews of Divergent, which is based on the post-apocalyptic young adult novel by Veronica Roth! Divergent is directed by Neil Burger, and stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Mekhi Phifer, and Zoe Kravitz. Read on as Josh and Violet give their his and hers reviews of Divergent!
His Review of Divergent:
So this weekend I was required by my better half to see the next movie based on a young adult novel, titled Divergent. Since the first Twilight, these types of movies have been churning out with a couple a year now, it seems. There’s the four Twilghts, The Host, Mortal Instruments, and the higher quality Hunger Games, and now there is Divergent, and likely two more movies to follow it.
So what is Divergent about? Well after having 12 hours to think about it, I am still trying to figure out exactly what it is about. Here’s what I got from it: It’s a post apocalyptic film, that takes place in the now destroyed Chicago, and for some reason, society thought it would be a good idea to break the population into five artificial “factions”, based on five qualities of human nature–Abnegation, Erudite, Amity, Candor, and Dauntless. For some reason or another, Erudite, the “intellectual” faction, has decided that they should be the governing ruler of the city of Chicago, over the “selfless” Abnegation. Meanwhile, we have the main heroine, Beatrice, (who decides to shorten her name to “Tris” later in the film), who is caught up in her “coming of age moment”, when she is made aware that she is “Divergent”. In an effort to hide her “uniqueness”, Tris joins Dauntless, the “courageous” faction. Meanwhile, the other two factions remain in the background, with the exception of meeting a couple of teens that switched from them to join Dauntless, as that is where the majority of the film takes place once Tris joins them.
I have a real hard time with the premise of this movie. What event could take place in society that would “one-dimensionalize” people so much that they could fit into 5 roles, to where they basically are unable to participate in the other aspects of society? It really doesn’t sit well with me. How did Abnegation rule for so long without the knowledge that Erudites have? Does every other faction aside from Abnegation have to be selfish then? Can an Erudite not perform brave tasks? Are Candors required to speak out at every moment they can? Then you have Amity who is supposed to be “kindness”, doesn’t overlap with Abnegation? Where does the madness end?! I understand when artificial “rules” or “conditions” are set up in post-apocalyptic worlds, but in order for them to work, they have to be believable. We have plenty of instances in both literature and film to show well this can work–Minority Report, Equilibrium, 1984, and even The Hunger Games‘s world is more believable than Divergent. I could go on, but I think the point is made.
So what is this Divergent business? The movie doesn’t explain a whole lot, other than these people do not fit into the five factions of Chicago. Oh wait, so they’re actually what a normal human being would be! How dangerous! We only meet two known Divergents this movie–Tris and her love interest, who also decided to hide in Dauntless–Four. Yes his name is Four. Despite the title of the film being Divergent, this is about all that we learn about them–oh and they are able to be self-aware in the dream-like scenarios they are in for their “tests” they go through. So why Jeanine from the Erudites is hunting them down is still a complete mystery–other than her saying they don’t fit their society and are dangerous. This is just one of many very odd, very poorly conveyed parts of the film.
If I am able to take myself away from basically the whole main storyline of the film, and just look at the movie scene to scene, Divergent does have some merits to it. There are some fun scenes, a big one that comes to mind is the capture the flag game played about halfway through. Then towards the end, there is a power-play made by the Erudites that involve Dauntless which is fun in its own little way . And throughout the movie, I didn’t hate the acting. Shaliene Woodley, who plays Tris, is miles better than Kristen Stewart, and Theo James surprised me as actually playing Four pretty well. Jai Courtney played an excellent jerk-ish leader as Eric, one of the leaders of Dauntless, and Kate Winslet was certainly hate-able as the main villain of the film.
While the film certainly had the poorly placed, teen romance moments in Divergent, they were not the worst part of this film, which is generally the case with these young adult novel based movies. The world set up for the story is completely unbelievable, and the actions of many of the characters in the film just completely do not make sense. There is a pretty big spoiler midway through the film I would like to discuss, but I won’t to keep this review relatively spoiler free. I will just say this–it was a very good idea in general terms, and if done right could have made the movie really good. In the context of this film however, it makes zero sense.
To wrap things up, I will say this–This movie is better than most of the films that fit into this genre. I can sort of see why teens would be into this book–it mirrors what many teens and young adults feel about society–they don’t quite fit into the “norm”, but will do their best to try to. Now, maybe I am an “old man” who just doesn’t get it anymore, but outside of the Divergent trying to wrestle with this, I see very little redeeming qualities in the movie as a whole. And what makes this film bad isn’t the same reasons that the other “Young Adult” films are bad. The biggest problem with this movie is the world itself it is set in, and then, even if I could ignore those flaws, there are gaping holes in the story that simply make the story unbelievable, and really un-relatable.
Overall I think I would give this film a 5. The poor storyline really made me just not care about this movie. There were the moments in the film that I thought were “pretty cool”, but the majority of the film in the movie chair, staring at the screen I just could not stop thinking, “so what is this movie really about?”
Her Review of Divergent:
Divergent, directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless), is based on the first book in a trilogy by Veronica Roth, and stars Shailene Woodley (The Secret Life of the American Teenager) as Tris, our protagonist, Theo James (Underworld: Awakening) as Four, Tris’s instructor, Ashley Judd (Double Jeopardy, Kiss the Girls), as Natalie,Tris’s mother, and Kate Winslet (Titanic) as Jeanine, the Erudite faction leader.
I hadn’t heard about the Divergent novels until last July, when it was announced that there would be a panel at San Diego Comic-Con for the Divergent film. It sounded interesting, so I went ahead and read it. I usually like to re-read a book right before I see the movie it’s based upon, but in this case, I unfortunately have not read Divergent since last July, so all of the details were not fresh in my mind. However, I started to remember a lot as I watched the movie.
Like the book, the film takes place in post-apocalyptic Chicago following a war that took place a long time ago. There’s a tall fence set up around the perimeter of the city, and many of the buildings are crumbling and in poor shape. The city is divided into five factions: (1) Abnegation, which values selflessness, and to which Tris’s family belongs, (2) Dauntless, which values bravery, (3) Candor, which values honesty, (4) Amity, which values kindness, and (5) Erudite, which values intelligence. There is also a group called the Factionless, made up of people who don’t fit into any of the five factions, who are the equivalent of homeless people.
When children reach the age of 16, they must take an aptitude test which indicates to which faction they are most suited. However, despite the results of the test, they are free to choose which faction they want to join at the Choosing Ceremony. Most teens choose the faction from which they came, but for the ones who don’t, they must immediately leave with their newly chosen faction, never to return home again.
When Tris takes the aptitude test, the results are inconclusive, with her showing traits of Abnegation, Dauntless, and Erudite, which means she is “Divergent.” Her proctor, Tori, played by Maggie Q (Nikita), warns Tris not to tell anyone about being Divergent, and manually enters her result as Abnegation. Tris ends up choosing to leave Abnegation and instead joins Dauntless, where she goes through a series of training exercises, and struggles to make the cut. Otherwise, she’ll have to leave and become Factionless. During Tris’s training, she gets to know her standoffish instructor, Four. They find themselves caught in the middle of a plot to expose Divergents and overthrow the government, and together they fight back.
I thought this was a good, though not great, adaptation of book to movie. Most of the key elements were there, and I actually enjoyed the movie overall. The filmmakers did a good job setting the scene of post-apocalyptic Chicago, as it was much like I imagined it would be, and I think anyone who has been to Chicago would enjoy the portrayal of several of the city’s landmarks. The acting was good. The clothing for each of the different factions was spot on. I especially enjoyed the zip-lining scene, maybe because that’s something I could see myself doing, and because it seemed so much more thrilling and dangerous in the movie than it did in the book.
What I did not like was how things started becoming confusing toward the end. Even though I had read the book, I was a little unclear as to what exactly was going on. This is because they changed things up a bit for the ending. From the perspective of someone who has read the book, even I was having trouble following the movie, so I’m sure that those who have not read the book were struggling even more! I felt like some important explanations were being left out, so if I didn’t have the book knowledge to fall back on, I might have been totally lost. As far as action sequences go though, it was pretty good for a teen movie, and Shailene Woodley did a great job portraying Tris as a powerful female character.
Another rant I have is that the film didn’t do a very good job portraying Al’s character. He was a much more important character in the book, while I was barely aware of his existence in the movie!
My biggest rant is the casting of Theo James as Four. Don’t get me wrong, I thought as far as acting goes, he did a great job playing Four. However, in the book, Four is supposed to be 18 years old, while Tris is supposed to be 16 (though I don’t remember their ages being revealed in the movie). Although Shailene Woodley is 22, she can easily pull off looking age 16. In contrast, Theo James, who is 29, looks his actual age. He just looked too old to be playing Four, so much to the point where I would cringe every time any romantic notion came up between Tris and Four, because it looked like a 29 year old with a 16 year old. What’s more is that he was her instructor, so it kept feeling like a teacher hitting on his high school student, which just felt wrong and creepy on all levels. Because of this, I was unable to enjoy any of the romantic scenes between Tris and Four. I think they should have cast someone younger looking to play Four.
One final nitpicky rant is that Tris was noticeably wearing eye makeup while still in Abnegation, even though, according to the book, she is not supposed to wear makeup. They make it a point in the movie that she’s not supposed to look in the mirror very long, so they should follow through with their point about vanity being frowned upon in Abnegation, and left off the makeup. It’s supposed to be a big deal when she starts wearing makeup in Dauntless, but she didn’t look much different to me.
Overall, Divergent was enjoyable enough, but not great, and was a bit confusing.
My rating: 6/10.
Insurgent, the sequel to Divergent, is set to hit theaters March 20, 2015, and Allegiant, the last of the trilogy, is scheduled to be in theaters March 18, 2016.