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'Divergent' review: A genre-attaching misfire

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"Divergent" will be released theatrically nationwide starting today, March 21.

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"Fifty Shades of Grey" began as a "Twilight" fanfiction and "Divergent" feels like it's a very blatant tribute to "The Hunger Games." Set in a semi-achievable near-future after a devastating war, society has been separated into five factions: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), Dauntless (brave), and Erudite (intelligent). At the age of 16, male and female individuals are given an aptitude test that will determine which faction he or she should align him or herself with. A Choosing Day is then held where every 16-year old decides in front of everyone where they either stay with the faction they were raised in or join the one they feel like they belong in.

In extremely rare cases, individuals can be considered "divergent" if their test results are inconclusive and if their aptitudes test equally for several different factions. This is what happens to Beatrice "Tris" Prior (Shailene Woodley). Unable to be conformed or brainwashed into doing every whim for one particular faction, divergents are hunted down and killed since they are considered too innovative for their own good. The only ally Tris can trust with her life is Four (Theo James), who is so cryptic with everything he does that it hurts your brain.

The comparisons to "The Hunger Games" are painfully obvious from the start since Tris seems to live in the slums, there's a public ceremony where young boys and girls are torn from their families, these young and unstoppable soldiers are forced to kill people against their will, and both have strong female leads that seem to be destined for something greater. The allusions to “Twilight” are also there as are the ones towards “Harry Potter.” That is what drags “Divergent” down the most; it’s this overwhelming dose of Twience fiction that is so reminiscent of everything else out there without much of anything of its own to offer.

This sci-fi action film based on the novel by Veronica Roth is a whole lot of fluff you've seen before, but there is something decent to take away from it tucked deep within the folds of fat found within its over excessive love handles. You can compare "Divergent" to many things, but the way it approaches fear is its biggest asset. The motive of fear and what it does to everyone is a huge selling point in the film; how all of that affects divergents is another. Having the ability to choose your own path and being the sole decider in whom and what you become is also touched on. Why would you only want to have one distinct virtue when you can flourish in all of them? These are the aspects the film briefly introduces before succumbing to bland ho-hum drivel.

The factions don't portray the virtues they represent very well in the film. Erudite are completely pompous and full of themselves and if you're Abnegation you apparently have to be poor because you put everyone else first. Dauntless has to be the worst of them all though since "brave" apparently translates to reckless bullies doing parkour. There's a scene in the film where Tris must face and conquer her fears, but her fears are just as lame as the obstacles on the island in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire."

If you were in a fistfight and lost, what would be the first thing you do after? Go home and nurse your wounds? Take a three day nap? Post a video to Youtube? In "Divergent," Tris gets pummeled and then runs out to get a tattoo before her bruises can fully ripen. The scoreboard in Dauntless is divided into three stages with the lowest stage being in danger of eviction and becoming factionless, but all of the discussion of the first, second, and third stages just makes you think of the underpants gnomes from "South Park."

"Divergent" is this sloppy amalgamation of "Inception," "Total Recall," and "Equilibrium" slammed together and forced to try to work together in the world of "The Hunger Games." The film isn't ambitious enough to be good and it isn't outlandish enough to be bad. There's always this safety net hidden from view like the one that welcomes Tris into Dauntless and because of this "Divergent" feels like a lite version of "The Hunger Games."


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