Rated: M (in Australia)
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Miles Teller
Directed by: Neil Burger
Genre: Action, Adventure, Thriller
Divergent is set in a dystopian society where the world is grouped into five different categories called factions. These factions are based on personality traits: Abnegation, for the selfless; Amity, for the peaceful; Candor, for the honest; Dauntless, for the brave; and Erudite, for the Intelligent. People live in the faction that they were born into until they are sixteen years old when they undertake an aptitude test. The test helps them to decide which faction their personality is most suited to. Once they receive their results, they must decide whether to remain with their family’s faction or transfer to a new faction and leave their family forever. Once they choose their faction they can never change it. For some people the test doesn’t work, as they cannot be categorised into just one faction, these people are called Divergent. Divergents are considered a threat to the government because they do not fit neatly into one faction like the rest of society and therefore are harder to control.
Tris is the main character in the film and she is Divergent. Originally she came from Abnegation but chooses to transfer into Dauntless. The film follows her struggle to fit into her new faction as she undergoes a series of tests to officially become a Dauntless member. The more tests she undergoes the harder it is to hide that she is Divergent. Amidst her struggle to stay hidden Tris uncovers a conspiracy that threatens to change society, as she knows it.
The film is based on the first book in a young-adult trilogy written by Veronica Roth. There are already plans to adapt the remaining books into films, with the last book split into two movies.
It is easy to draw comparisons between this movie and The Hunger Games and I believe that it is completely justified. Most of the time the media refers to movies as the “new Twilight”, the “new Harry Potter” or the “new Hunger Games” and it frustrates me to no end. Movies like Vampire Academy and Beautiful Creatures were supposed to be the “new Twilight” but obviously lacked the widespread appeal and phenomenon. Divergent is a movie based on a teen novel and is set in a dystopian America where the government is corrupt and young people need to fight to survive. This synopsis and the synopsis for The Hunger Games are practically interchangeable. This however, should not deter people from seeing the film. The tone and underlying themes in The Hunger Games and Divergent are similar but the plotline is very different. I thought Divergent was fun, exciting and suspenseful and an overall good film, as long as you remember what it is. It was based on a teen novel and reflects that….beautiful young actors, playful sexual tension, heartthrob love interest etc. It is not quite as thought provoking, dark and serious as The Hunger Games but Divergent isn’t weak either (they didn’t mind killing off a few characters!). I think that Divergent is like The Hunger Games’ little sister, the essence and tone is there but not quite as intense.
The soundtrack in the film was amazing which is not that surprising as Hans Zimmer (12 Years a Slave, The Dark Knight…) is the executive music producer for the film. The love story between Tris and her love interest Four (yes he really is called Four) is decently evolved. It seems like her initial attraction to him was purely physical because he acts like an arsehole for a long time. It is not until he shows concern for her and acts as a protector that the relationship truly begins to form. It wasn’t the greatest love story but it was decent enough considering Tris has a number of other issues she needs to be focusing on.
One of the only issues I had with the film was concerning a weird underlying issue with Tris and sex. When Tris and Four first kiss she pulls away from him and says that she doesn’t want to take things too fast, despite the fact the kiss was mutual and had remained very PG. Later she is made to do a test where she is put to sleep and she must fight against her subconscious fears. One of these fears is Four raping her. Is this weird sex theme a reference to the importance of consent? Is it a reference to the importance of abstinence? I am still unsure but it was very odd.
Overall I loved the movie, as I am a sucker for teen novel adaptations. I am not sure that the film is quite as gender neutral as The Hunger Games and therefore guys mightn’t appreciate it as much. However, it isn’t as female targeted as Twilight or Vampire Academy. I would consider watching this one again at the cinemas as I feel like I might pick up a few extra things during the second viewing. I will give Divergent an 8 out of 10. I am looking forward to the sequel!