My brain is rather divergent regarding Divergent. It’s a beautifully shot rendering of the world made famous by Veronica Roth’s Divergent Trilogy. But there are times where the dialogue is clunky at best, and a source of unintentional giggles at it’s worst. The actors do such a great job inhabiting their characters that said clunky dialogue can be forgiven because the pain, join and sorrow on their faces is palpable. But the storyline suffers from Return Of The King Syndrome: there are many places where it feels like the film could have ended, only to shuffle on, and on. And at just over two hours and fifteen minutes? You feel every. Single. Minute of the last hour or so.
That cinematic schizophrenia aside, Divergent is a faithful adaptation that doesn’t get bogged down in slavish addiction to it’s source material. However, director Neil Burger (Limitless), a man who usually brings out the best in unconventional source material, needed a heavier hand with the editing software and a lighter touch with the dialogue. Will fans love it? Undoubtedly. I got lost in the world Burger brought to life. Will the non-YA hoi-polloi dig it? Well….
Years after a devastating war tore apart “modern society”, the United States becomes a small, insular group that divides itself into 5 Factions: Abnegation (Selfless), Amity(Peaceful), Candor (Honest), Dauntless (Brave), and Erudite (Knowledgeable). A torn and tattered Chicago is the setting for the film, housing all Factions. Things are done this way to avoid discord, but when 16-year-old Beatrice must make her choice, she finds that she doesn’t fit into just one category; she is Divergent, a type of person that the powers-that-be find threatening to the social order. When Beatrice — or Tris, after her Choosing — becomes a member of Dauntless, she finds that all is not as kumbaya as she had once believed.
Folks who have read the book will giggle happily at the storyline, recognizing much from the book. Folks who haven’t read the book may giggle excitedly at the action scenes and the hot guys. Folks who have a low threshold for cheesy dialogue may flat-out giggle at some of the lines the actors are forced to toss out. But there’s no denying a killer cast — Golden Globe winner Shailene Woodley as Tris, Oscar winner Kate Winslet as Erudite leader Jeanine, Ashley Judd and Scandal’s Tony Goldwyn as Tris’ mom and dad, and Bedlam’s Theo James as Dauntless leader (and lead hottie) Four. In fact, everyone does a fabulous job here, from Ansel Elgort to Zoë Kravitz (A to Z…oh fine.) Andy Nicholson’s art direction makes the dystopian future Chi-town look almost okay, but with a dusty, crumbling heart that’s hidden from most.
Is there a love story in here somewhere? Um, is this based a Young Adult novel? Yes, the love story between Tris and Four is no surprise, but this film doesn’t clobber you over the head with it. This ain’t no Twilight. Divergent instead focuses on the perils (and ultimate satisfaction) of being yourself, man’s quest for power before peace, and the good ol’ Bravery Uber Alles. And aside from the endurance-length climax at the film’s end, these themes are delivered in a way that’s both easy to understand and fun to watch unfold.
If I were a teacher, I’d give Divergent a B. A powerful story, with great actors and enough of the core tale from the novel to keep fans happy. Moviegoers may chafe at the second half and its strange pacing. Still, there’s more than enough in Divergent to hope that the entire trilogy gets the Hollywood treatment.