'Divergent' - Movie Review

Veronica Roth wrote a successful series of young adult books called The Divergent Series, set in and around a dystopian post-apocalyptic Chicago. The movie series seems to be repeating the same success in the film medium.

Our heroine is Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) who, after going through the Choosing Ceremony, renames herself "Tris." She leaves the faction she was born into (Abnegation - the people who help others) to join the one she's always revered, Dauntless (the police force). But she's discovered that when she was tested, she tested as "Divergent" (not fully explained, but apparently "able to excel at anything") very bad news indeed in a strictly enforced caste system.

Much of the movie revolves around her training as Dauntless, but as they do this they're also building up the politics of the world she lives in, showing the characters of her fellow Dauntless recruits, and slowly moving "Four" (Theo James) from being the recruit's worst enemy to being her romantic interest. I have to give credit where it's due: it's well structured. Unfortunately, the ideas aren't anything new (dystopia, segregation, mind control, face your worst fears) and it's not done so well as to make the basic material into a brilliant story. It's also held back by being a fantasy: she turns out to be fantastically smart and talented, and the hottest and smartest boy in the world (who may also be Divergent like her) falls for her ... and I'm going to call it "fantasy" despite the darker elements, because that fantasy is delivered with the subtlety of a brick to the head.

I'm amused that an author would write a book about the Erudite (intellectual) faction being the evil, trouble-making one: after all, which group would writers be placed in?

Apparently I'm not the first to find significant similarities to both The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner - both of which are young adult dystopian SF series being turned into movies. Although I was more amused by a comparison I haven't heard mentioned yet: the test, Choosing Ceremony, and factions of "Divergent" are a lot like Harry Potter's "Sorting Hat" and Houses. And just like Harry, Tris would do well in more than one of them ...

I'll probably watch the sequel because I like science fiction, people with super powers, and black-and-white morality. Mildly entertaining, but so far from great art they had to change the time zone on their clocks when they made it.