In this review, I will be covering “Divergent”, the movie version of the (bestselling?) YA book by Veronica Roth. Having never read the series, this review will most likely contain one detail or another that happened in the book that I didn’t understand. However, in my opinion, a movie should be detailed enough to hold its own and reach all audiences with no confusion. Basically, even the slowest person should be able to catch on at some point.
With that said, let’s do this! Dun dun DUN! ENJOY!
The movie opens up with a scene of the landscape, the camera panning and zooming until we see a fifty-story tall fence surrounding the post-apocalyptic Chicago area. As the voice-over begins, explaining the whole “war story” about one thing or another, this raises the first red flag for me. If this is some poor, destroyed city with minimal resources, then how did they build the huge fucking fence? Was that where all the materials went?
We then are told about each faction: ABNEGATION, CANDOR, DAUNTLESS, AMITY, and ERUDITE. The main character, Beatrice, is seen bragging about each faction, specifically DAUNTLESS. At this point, we already know that Beatrice is a fan of that particular faction, and when she goes on to talk about the “choosing ceremony” or something like that, we already knew that she would choose DAUNTLESS.
The whole lineup scene felt like empty camera time to me, showing just a few closeups of Beatrice and a short scene of a faction member bullying a young ABNEGATION member. The DAUNTLESS suddenly arrive on a train/trolley and leap from it like gazelles. My thoughts at this point were, “Why are they even there? DAUNTLESS seem so overly-obsessed with acts of badassery and daredevil situations, I can’t imagine any member of that faction leaving.” There wasn’t a need for that, but it’s probably in the book, so…
Beatrice’s brother ends up choosing a different faction than their parents (shocker!) Beatrice chooses DAUNTLESS, yadda yadda yadda. We cut to the DAUNTLESS exiting the ceremony and climbing up a bridge to catch the train. The scene cuts to the newest faction members going into the DAUNTLESS’ territory to train. Turns out, in a twist turn of events, not everyone will stay in the faction. Woah, what?!? I know, stay with me. Take a breath. The “candidates” are posted on a scoreboard of rank, with Beatrice being the, surprise, weakest candidate.
The movie now falls apart and turns into predictable scene after predictable scene. We know that Beatrice–or Tris–will make it to the next level of training. We know that when the male candidate refuses to receive a thrown knife during training, Tris will stand up for him and volunteer herself. We know that when Tris is rejected from further training, she will continue on, anyway. We know that there is something “evil” about the DAUNTLESS leader. We just KNOW that the movie will squeeze in a pathetic attempt at romance between Tris and Four, even though it just feels clunky and awkward.
So we get some mediocre training with cheap-looking paintball guns, a useless zip line scene to waste more CGI and special effects money, and here we are at the big scenes involving the mental/psychological aptitude test.
My disappointment came out full-force when the aptitude tests happen. I feel like they could have done so much more! I know that Tris is a Divergent and therefore can pass the tests in record time, but it still felt like the “fears” were there and gone before I could even focus on one thing. Why was Tris scared of birds? Or fire? Was this explained in the book? I’m confused.
Four and Tris continue their awkward moments of love through the rest of the film, when Four teaches Tris how to control her reactions in the aptitude tests so the Head Honcho doesn’t discover her. We learn that Four is a Divergent (shocker!) and he knows the same about her. Of course, he doesn’t tell anybody because that would destroy the awkward romance and trust built over three weeks! Tris gets a small scene where she and Four are inside Four’s mind. We learn that Four’s dad was the man that everyone was talking about; the one that beat his kid. Well, the kid is Four, and the “suspenseful” reveal scene with his dad holding a belt lasts ten seconds. I honestly felt nothing, other than confused. Were we supposed to be surprised or scared? Didn’t happen. The two then stand on a balcony and Tris admires Four’s tattoo of the factions. He mutters some “deep” stuff about how he doesn’t want to be just one thing. Biceps, back muscles, and an ab shot. Teen girls probably screamed during this part. We are treated to a kissing scene where Tris whispers, “I don’t want to go too fast.” Thank god…
Tris visits her Brother in ERUDITE and learns that ERUDITE is looking to overthrow ABNEGATION. Alrighty, then. Why? Because ERUDITE is smart and can take better care of it? No, because the people in the faction are drugging the rest of the factions into thinking by suggestion. We see more of this when the DAUNTLESS leaders inject the faction people with the drug, turning them into sleeper soldiers. This whole shabang is just stupid, using mostly silence and robotic movements to convey the mind-control.
Tris and Four are captured by the Head Honcho, a blond Kate Winslet. Tris predictably escapes, and is rescued by her mother, who, surprise, was a member of DAUNTLESS. Tris and her super mother shoot off enemies with cheesy-looking paintball guns for a couple of seconds until her mom is shot. An uncomfortable and awkward scene ensues with Tris bawling and wheezing over the dead mother’s body before she runs off to find her father and the ABNEGATION survivors.
The group breaks into the DAUNTLESS territory and shoots more people before Tris goes back to the main aptitude-testing area. She finds Four under the trance of the test drug, and the two get involved in an unrealistic fight-scene, where Tris should have broken her back at least four times…Tris manages to wake Four up, and the two go after Jeanine, the person in charge of the entire test/government blah blah blah. The big “shutdown” scene has Jeanine simply pressing a “cancel” button on a huge touchscreen. Seriously? That was it?
The movie ends with Tris, Four, her brother, and Four’s father traveling on the train, heading beyond the huge fence. Another voiceover starts, which is cliché enough, and ends uncomfortablly at best, obviously aiming at the sequel. I’m already dreading it.
All in all, a movie full of plot holes, clichés, and awkward scenes mashed together. The romance just wasn’t there, and the acting was sub-par. Most of the money seems to have gone into…what? Special effects? It certainly wasn’t in the acting. A good million was probably spent on the Botox for Four’s pouty lips.
There we have it, Divergent. Hope you enjoyed reading. Feel free to tell me your thoughts if you’ve seen the movie/read the series. I give it a 4.5, what have you?