The newest offering in the Hunger Games mold is an entertaining romp called Divergent that borrows heavily from the H.G. franchise in a by-the-numbers rendition of the dystopian genre. Its heroine is a physical and psychological clone of Katniss Everdeen. She evinces the requisite qualities of naivete, compassion and girl-power in predictable doses on a predictable schedule, and wins us over just as predictably.
In fact, virtually without exception, the actors acquit themselves well in their stock-character roles. Led by Shailene Woodley as Triss (think Katniss) and Theo James as Four, a smoky-eyed beefcake straight out of a Marlboro ad, the actors make the best of very familiar lines.
Predictably, the enemy is a standard-issue insane social order with the standard evil goal of enforcing absolute conformity. (Don’t evil future societies ever crave a unique goal, such as creating giant lobsters or rivers of beer fed by the bones and blood of their enemies?)
Refreshingly, this evil society features Kate Winslet as its twisted leader. Her antiseptic Jeanine pursues world domination through delightfully understated menace. Just to prevent any confusion for the tween audience, the beautiful Jeanine sports light blonde hair to remind everyone she is Divergent’s version of H.G.’s delightfully understated villain, President Snow.
The story involves a future Chicago split into five function-based factions, one of which plots to seize control of all power and free will. This raises the cry, Who will diverge from the brainwashed masses to fight for humanity and save the day (and win a boy’s heart in the process)? The future’s only salvation lies in a little divergent Everygirl named Triss. She alone holds the promise of rescuing the world from mindless submission and of teaching young girls everywhere to be strong and confident and assertive.
That is a worthwhile message for girls suffering in the apocalyptic present day as much as for those suffering in the apocalyptic future. It is a forgiving grace that makes up for the film’s predictability, and elevates it above the other tween genre flicks.
Divergent lacks only a Humane Society advisory at the end stating that no werewolves or vampires were harmed in the making of this movie.