By Melissa Platero, CCNN Writer
If we’re judging the dystopian (dark future) story of Divergent by the quality of the Hunger Games movies, because they both have tough female main characters surviving in a world ruled by unfair authority, then it would definitely fall short. After all, despite Shailene Woodley’s solid – albeit low key – performance as Tris, she doesn’t have the Oscar-winning and charm-gushing star power of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen.
However, despite the somewhat run-of-the-mill rebels vs. empire story, in a future where being different means you’re a threat to the political system, the movie’s intense action sequences, believable chemistry between Tris and love interest Four (played by hunky Theo James), and exciting climax are worth a view at the theater.
Since Divergent was made by Summit, the studio behind the mega hit Twilight movies, and Summit is owned by Lionsgate, who makes the Hunger Games flicks, it’s surprising that Divergent often spends too much time telling the story with dialogue rather than showing it with tightly-paced action, subtle scenery, and self-explained events.
We also don’t ever get a good reason for why the futuristic Chicago runs a society split into five factions – Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent), Dauntless (the brave), Candor (the honest), and Amity (the peaceful) – but Kate Winslet does a good job playing the evil scheming Erudite faction leader Jeanine Matthews, who’s trying to take over the government from the Abnegation faction by manipulating everyone against each other.
However, once the 16-year-olds of the dystopian Chicago take a test to determine whether they’ll stay in their current faction or move to another one (like some wacky kind of driver’s test, except with hallucination-creating drugs and psychology), the adventure picks up speed as Tris has to hide the fact she’s Divergent – meaning she’s a blend of several factions. Choosing the Dauntless faction to conceal her multi-talented self, Tris befriends warrior tough guy Four, who eventually reveals that he too is a Divergent when they begin bonding. As they fight to stop Matthews from taking over, in a mind-bending storyline that involves illusion-causing drugs turning the Dauntless into mindless soldiers for the Erudite, the movie finally kicks into high gear and gets exciting – even if the mind control stuff is a bit too convenient and silly.
The visuals throughout the film are definitely stunning, albeit not terribly imaginative, and it’s clear that lots of cash and effort was thrown into creating the crumbling cityscape, the stylish faction costumes, and the epic action sequences. Woodley and James are likeable and exciting as Tris and Four, but the rest of the actors and actresses put in rather forgettable performances, even with top talent like Winslet and Ashley Judd. By the time the credits roll, you’ll see Divergent as basically an appetizer to help pass the time in between each Hunger Games movie release – so, our final verdict? We give it a respectable “B-“.
Images courtesy of Divergent Facebook.