Universal studios bring us yet again another thought provoking film on the ‘human condition’ with their rendition of the best seller Divergent by Veronica Roth. Entertaining us with the concept of a broken world divided by fractions, and a society on the delicate verge of collapse, the story has us follow the young and beautiful Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) through her thought provoking excursion of self-discovery.
The term ‘Divergent’ in the story refers to the inability to conform to the law of fractions, which in the case of Tris, makes her a danger to the delicate balance holding together the fallen world she lives in. The fractions each hold a particular virtue to which their members specialize in, Abnegation (The Self-less), Erudite (The Intelligent), Dauntless (The Brave), Amity (The Peaceful), Candor (The Honest) and the Factionless. And it is this exclusion of traits that allows their society to function without war, or fear of total extinction.
The first time I viewed this movie I had no idea about the type of movie I was about to watch, so my preliminary response to this fraction concept was that it seemed a little ‘Hunger Games’-ish, with minor hints of the 2002 film ‘Equilibrium’ (directed by Kurt Wimmer) imbedded in its structure. The film however possesses its own original storyline, with the help of the well-cast Shailene Woodley (as Tris) and Theo James (as Four). It entices you into its world of secrets and danger, with its futuristic take on a beaten and ruined Chicago city. It had me thinking about what type of faction I would belong to myself, under the same circumstances.
The opening scene introduces us to a mysterious fence lining the outskirts of a broken Chicago, as well as a couple of well-placed aerial shots; we are promptly acquainted with the condition to which our characters are living in. The fence has us asking questions immediately, such as “Why is there a fence?” And “what are they holding at bay?” Sadly no specific answer will ever be given to these questions, which was a rather clever way of making me want to see the sequel. But it isn’t just Divergent’s overall mystery that had me captivated for the entire 139 minutes, as with any good film there must always be the cliché love story rooted somewhere in the story background.
The love interest between the well-cast crew was well… cute. I appreciated Veronica Roth’s take on how a girl from a reserved family would adapt to romance under the circumstances. It is not typical for an action film love interest to be described so lightly, but this doesn’t underestimate the type of sweet tension you get from watching two awkward youths fall into each other’s arms while humanity collapses around them. The only other movie comparison I can make to it is Twilight (the good parts), where any girl can place herself in the shoes of our lead character and let her dreams fly. And who wouldn’t? Theo James is a Babe!
But I digress.
The second underlying theme is Tris’ road to discovering her true self. She is Divergent after all, and in a world where everyone knows their place you can see why this leaves our main character a little confused. Her inner battle for identity has her striving to be the best, and after a few cliché training scenes, pep talks, and working her little fists to bloody ruins, we see her at the top of the leader board. Cue the story curve ball. She is now too good, and has to keep her Divergent abilities on the down low in order to stay hidden and alive, all through the help of her trainer/semi-boyfriend called Four.
I found this part of the story a little too cheesy for my liking; it had all been done before really. Mulan becoming a great fighter, Neo mastering the Matrix, main character is the under-dog… main character works hard… main character becomes the best… (Main character gets the babe’n hot guy to fall for them). And with the knowledge of Tris’ Divergent abilities we aren’t particularly surprised she’s getting good either, more just wondering why it’s taking so long. But once again, since I have mentioned Twilight already, this type of film has that ‘USA Highschool’ type of feel to it, so it is fairly obvious the target market isn’t serious, hard-core action fanatics.
All in all I would rate this movie as worth seeing, especially if you are set target market mentioned above. As a 3D animator I would rate the effects and environment well-polished and original. I loved some of the overhead shots of the city, and the subtle way everything reflected present day buildings and technology. The overall feel to the film is exciting and mysterious, most of the main plot isn’t introduced at all (e.g. the fence) and has you wanting more. There are a few cliché’s that you will have to forgive, but also a few golden moments you definitely weren’t expecting.
The overall theme was original, and the concept was clear to a certain extent.