“Trust the test.”
This is a world where the human being is charged with one task: living her life. That challenge consists of finding herself, coming upon her purpose and filling the fullness of her potential.
Tris (Shailene Woodley), in the first installment of the Divergent series -- a book now made movie – is charged with this universal undertaking.
Set in a post-war and barricaded Chicago all citizens are swept into five factions: Erudite for the intelligent, Amity for the kind, Candor for the order keeping honest, Abnegation for the selfless and governing lot and Dauntless for the brave and free.
There are the factionless, much like the homeless living without borders of our everyday lives. But the most dangerous is the divergent.
Each person is born into a faction, but, once they come of age, is granted the opportunity to choose their own path. There is a test to help guide them in this permanent, and sometimes devastating, choice.
Summit Entertainment brings Veronica Roth’s novel to the big screen for fans and the curious alike. The big question, much like “what is the Matrix”, looms throughout every theme, every reach for identity, every thrust of a fist, every relationship built or broken. What is divergent?
Adapted by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor and directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist), “Divergent” will intrigue many viewers, particularly the young. This movie is made for them. But, it is still a semi-focused look at how we relate to one another; how societies shepherd their citizens through co-habitation.
The idea of being different, of having opposing personality traits is huge for developing adolescents. It is the foundation of maturing, of transitioning from childhood to adulthood. But in this society it is the principal threat to peace, a peace defined by division.
“Divergent” utilizes a great veteran cast to support the young up-and-comers. Ashely Judd and Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn who play Tris’ parents are joined by Maggie Q and a ghostly and steely Kate Winslet.
A live action “Mulan” type, this movie gives us a warrior who is ill-prepared for combat, but works harder and better to improve and in the process gains the affections of the best male warrior, Four (Theo James) who can’t help but fall in love with her.
The love story is expected and is the cornerstone of YA books and movies of this type anymore.
But the bigger question potential viewers may ask is how similar to “Hunger Games” this movie is.
The answer is simple. Very. But only in that there is a passive, beautiful warrior living in a post-modern, divided society who ends up being the heroine to all. Her chief winning trait is that she is different.
The best part of the movie is its soundtrack and the worst is that each phase of the film comes in sections. You have the introduction where we learn about the factions, we have the test, we have the choice, we have the assimilation, we have the love story and then we have the crisis, but at no point do they really feel interwoven. They each feel separate, factioned.
The jokes are a little flat, but the performances are smooth, though this is another movie that doesn’t make the best use of Miles Teller’s talents.
Kids who read the books will enjoy seeing their favorite characters come to life and those who have not read them will enjoy this story of family, of love and of society complete with some killer hand to hand combat.
In the end, the lesson we learn is that fear belongs to us all, no matter where we do or don’t fit. The key is to see fear for what it is, an opportunity to be a coward or a victor. The first step in winning is choosing to live your life.