A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
The first instalment of a dystopian Y.A book-to-film series, 2014’s “Divergent”, the prequel to “Insurgent”, “Convergent”, “Emergent”, “Resurgent” and the grand finale of “Detergent” (parts 1 & 2), is not something we haven’t seen before, but what did you expect?
If you read my review for 2014’s “The Maze Runner”, you’ll find plenty of similarities in this one, so you really don’t need to read on…
And for those of you didn’t read my “Maze Runner” piece, let me explain to you the plot of ”Divergent” as I attempt to not get my Y.A stories confused, wish me luck…
“Divergent” opens in a dystopian Chicago and begins to inform the audience about the world through narrated exposition.
Divided into factions (or districts like “The Hunger Games”), people are tested and allocated a faction accordingly (just like the sorting hat in “Harry Potter”), however they still have a choice (which is both like “Harry Potter” as well, and somewhat contradictory to the initial allocation method, but whatever).
Our heroin protagonist, Tris (Shailene Woodley) is special. In typical Y.A novel fashion, the hero is unique to the rest of the masses and proceeds to find out why. This character quality is both fine and necessary for such a story, so there’s no issue there.
Tris is what’s called ‘divergent’, and thus, doesn’t have a singular faction to belong to.
After discovering the evil governing body’s (just like “The Maze Runner”) plot to kill divergents, Tris attempts to look for answers in amongst the ongoing conflicts within her chosen faction, ‘Dauntless’.
Dauntless are a group of adrenaline junky thrill-seekers who undulate over rooftops, board moving locomotives and prove to be the ultimate bait and switch for people like Tris.
Nominating Dauntless due to their energetic, full-on and exciting appearance, Tris soon realises all is not what it seems from deep within the faction.
After suspicion and conflict arises through Tris’ relationship with fellow Dauntless members, a particularly incandescent connection sparks with Four (Theo James), a fellow divergent.
Why he’s named after a One Direction album is never explained within the film, however friends of mine inform me it’s because he has four fears that are repeated within the virtual tests undertaken by faction members. This in itself is a little bit silly, but nevertheless, the fact that the writers thought we’d just let that slide is ridiculous.
Four is a diverse character, but at the same time, there’s potential for him to be more than an emotionless, inked-up piece of eye candy.
The little drummer boy Miles Teller plays Peter, who is arguably “Divergent’s” weakest and most disposable, useless character. Teller is capable of playing charismatic, full-fleshed and challenging characters, which he has proved in films such as “Whiplash”, however he continued to bring forward the underwhelming and annoying supporting character profile associated with his name in “Divergent”.
Aussie Jai Courtney plays Eric; someone you’d find either in the leadership group of a dystopian faction or in the front row at Stereosonic.
His acting (like Teller’s) is perfectly fine, but his character’s motives seem unbelievable and too farfetched when all things are considered. He possesses a cutthroat mentality, but too often it’s taken to absurdly extreme lengths.
Where “Divergent” falls flat on its back is its structure and runtime. The film is at least half an hour too long, which sadly is a real discredit. A film shouldn’t make an audience comment on the overly lengthy runtime, it should do the complete opposite.
I use “Gone Girl” as an example. Not only is David Fincher’s latest masterpiece 10 minutes longer in length than “Divergent”, being 149 minutes long, I remember watching it unfold in the cinema, unaware of time and even space, begging it to continue on.
For a near-3 hour film to achieve that with an audience is a huge plus, but at the same time, it’s what movies should be all about.
I wasn’t completely over “Divergent” from the offset, but after the first act appeared to never end, agitation and restlessness ensued all too quickly.
“Divergent” is essentially an extended amalgamation of various Y.A novels’ first acts. The whole theme of division and allocation was established within the first half of “Harry Potter” and the first 15 minutes of “The Hunger Games”; at least those films had a larger narrative at hand.
Like “Mockingly: Part 1” and its ambition, there isn’t enough story depth to flesh out over 139 minutes within “Divergent”. Too often I was expecting the story to take the next step forward, but ultimately it seems as though each film will serve as a separate act in what will eventually become a 10 hour epic film.
Unless that’s the case, I can’t really excuse the fact that this film has 100 minutes of content stretched over 140…
“Divergent” confirms that there hasn’t been a better time to write young-adult dystopian adventure novels that will transition to film quicker than you can say ‘abnegation’.
I’ve said it before and I’ll unashamedly say it again; they are all the same.
These Y.A films have potential, some of which have even really impressed me, however “Divergent” is the worst I’ve seen of the lot thus far.
We’ll have to wait and see how it holds up against the endless slew of sequels and two-part finales, but for now, congratulations, “Divergent”, I guess…