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'Divergent' embodies the young female warrior paradigm

'Divergent' Movie Review

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The young-adult trilogy, ‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth will be in theaters for your pleasure this weekend. The film stars Shailene Woodley as Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior a young woman who lives in future Chicago where at age 16, boys and girls are divided into separate groups, or ‘factions,’ by their individual strength or quality.

(Foreground L-R) Theo James, Matt Mullins And (Background L-R) Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz.
(Foreground L-R) Theo James, Matt Mullins And (Background L-R) Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Shailene Woodley and Zoë Kravitz.
Photo: Jaap Buitendijk © 2013 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.
What faction will you join?
© 2013 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All rights reserved.

The factions are divided into: Erudite · (intelligence), Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peacefulness), Candor (honesty), and Dauntless (bravery). To determine which faction they will commit to for life, they must take a mandatory test. Upon receiving the results, they may choose a different faction, but all choices are a life commitment. If they fail to live up to their commitment, they are deemed faction less and shunned by society.

Tris learns that she does not fit the cookie cutter mold of any particular faction. In fact, she fits the profile for three factions. She is termed ‘divergent’ and is warned to hide her true identity or be killed for being different.

At the naming ceremony, Tris changes from her family faction of Abnegation, and becomes a member of Dauntless where she meets the covert instructor (and love interest), Four (Theo James). Together they work to save humanity.

‘Divergent’ is the latest in a string of young-adult films adapted from successful novels that feature a strong protagonist female who fights against the status quo. Yet, it is hard to bring beloved characters to the big screen. Quite often what the reader imagined and the subsequent film fail to meet their expectations.

Whether it is fair or not, this film will be judged by it successful predecessors, ‘Hunger Games’ and ‘Twilight.’ The truth is young girls often dream of stories where they are strong and brave, and grow into self-discovery and experience first love. But, instead of having Prince Charming rescue them, they have changed their version of the fantasy to include a strong heroine who is able to fight as an equal (if not better) alongside the handsome prince. This new warrior paradigm has become the standard for young adult females.

‘Divergent’ is full of high stakes combat and harrowing situations. For example, there are scenes where members of Dauntless have to run to hop on a fast moving train (Shailene actually did her own stunts). But, the movie borders on sappy with its sugary dialogue and young hearts yearning to be close. At times, it looked as if they were going to break out in song in ‘Westside Story’ fashion.

Despite its failings, strong performances are delivered by both Shailene and Theo. The chemistry between the two actors enhances their screen presence. Theo James is sure to be the next Hollywood star that is inundated by adoring screaming fans.

Shailene Woodley who starred opposite George Clooney in ‘The Descendants,’ is also an actor on the rise. She skillfully transforms into the fearless heroine that young girls long to see on screen. Despite the weak dialogue, she is able to provide a solid performance.

The cast also includes Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Christian Madsen, Amy Newbold and Kate Winslet .

‘Divergent’ is a movie filled with the essence e of young girls’ hopes and dreams of a new heroine. It will be in theaters on March 21, 2014. It is Rated PG-13.