REVIEW: DIVERGENT / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: NEIL BURGER / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: SHAILENE WOODLEY, THEO JAMES, KATE WINSLET / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 11TH
Beatrice (Woodley) lives a simple life with her parents and brother, caring for the unfortunate of the once great city of Chicago, but no matter how hard she tries to fulfil her destiny as one of the selfless, she can’t shake the feeling that there’s more to life.
Luckily for her, the rite of passage of every resident of the self-contained city approaches and as Beatrice struggles to accept her own hopes and dreams, she discovers that simply choosing one vocation is no longer an option. While the city is split into very separate factions (in order to maintain peace), Tris – as she goes on to call her bad self – appears to be all five of them. In a word, she is Divergent. And in this brave new world, that’s very, very bad.
Since the emergence of Twilight the literary and film world have been besotted with the pulpy mix of female teen angst and the selection of a path that is both more dangerous and more exciting than the life the average girl is supposed to lead. Divergent is no different. The cookie-cutter narrative borrows heavily from the same trials endured by Bella and Katniss (in The Hunger Games) as Tris turns her back on her former life and is both terrified and intoxicated by her new one. And then, of course, there’s love with a steamy monosyllabic guy who plays hard to get but succumbs at the end.
On the surface, this isn’t a terrible film (Hollywood certainly don’t seem to think so, ordering up two more instalments). The performances are acceptable, the effects and ambience are appropriately up to standard and this ensures that it ticks all the right boxes to get the tweenage generation swooning over Tris’s troubled yet exhilarating life. But beneath all of that there’s really very little which warrants praise.
Divergent is often mentioned in the same breath as The Hunger Games, but that’s really only because this lifts so heavily from it thematically. Divergent exists purely because of the popularity of The Hunger Games, which in turn owes its success in no small part to Twilight’s triumph both on and off screen. That being the case, there really isn’t enough originality here to get even vaguely excited about. Aside from the obvious, everything from The Matrix, through Inception and 1984 are tapped in an effort to be the ‘next big thing’. For all our sakes, let’s hope the trend doesn't continue as before long we could end up with further watered-down variations on this theme with even more convoluted script mash-ups.
Extras: Audio commentaries / Featurette / Deleted scenes / Gallery