There, I said it. But, for a little context, my expectations for Star Wars: Episode III were probably higher. Divergent takes an independent, self-motivated young woman, throws her into a group of hollerin’ lunatics, and expects her to win everyone’s favour without the smidgen of a personality to help her. And it’s not like The Matrix’s Neo Anderson lacking a personality; you can tell this girl tries to have likes/dislikes, emotions/fears, but she’s either seriously bottling it all up or she’s a machine from the future come to spy on humans and kill Jon Connor. Divergent is a post-apocalyptic saga which challenges The Hunger Games but gets embarrassingly eliminated in the first melee. I’m glad I watched it so I could understand what the buzz was all about and so I’ll have an idea of what to expect when the next three movies are released. Goodness gracious, Hollywood, get your act together.
Divergent welcomes you to a dystopian city (because that’s what kids are into these days) where society is divided into five factions based on personality and interests (so… Hogwarts). Each teenager goes through a test to determine which faction they should join, thus deciding their future employment, social-surroundings, and all-around environment (so… The Giver). Even though the test is foolproof and will tell you with certainty that the life of a farmer is the life for you, these kids are still “free” to choose between happy wheat fields, brainiac science labs, and the adrenalin junkie police force. Our heroine, Tris (Shailene Woodley), takes the test only to discover she doesn’t fit into one distinct group: she is a bit of everything and thus called a “Divergent”. With no guidance to help her with her choice, she opts to join the police force, and enters a world of harsh physical tests and drug-induced nightmares (wouldn’t be my first choice). Most of the film focuses on Tris’ training, and only swerves to outer conflict right at the climax, when her group is used to help one faction overrule another. Subplot: the government is also secretly on the hunt for Divergents, because what’s a dystopia without a few ruling control freaks?
The story also leans heavily on Tris’ relationship with her commanding officer, Four (Theo James). There are several things wrong with this: 1) His name is Four, and he chose this name of his own free will. I can imagine it: “I’ll be Rogue!” “I think I’ll choose Blaze!” “My new name is FOUR!” Idiot; 2) Tris is about 16 and Four is about 30 – it’s weird and gross; 3) He’s her commanding officer in charge of her training and testing. Now, if that isn’t favouritism I don’t know what is. People condemn Tris for being a Divergent which essentially means she’s a creative thinker, but not a soul mentions her relationship with the cougar superior officer. Not even after they witness her deepest dreams/desires reflected on stadium-sized projector screens during a mental strength test (an awkward moment for us all). No, even after that, no one bats an eyelash at this objectionable affair.
Speaking of Mr. I Am Number Four, he seems to be the only distinguishable part of Tris’ life. Yes, she’s Divergent and that makes her special, but she has to hide this feature throughout most of the film. Her personality is virtually non-existent and she only acts bravely or with confidence after someone pushes her into a tough situation. The only rebellious, unrestrained part of her is her hair, refusing to be held back by even the tightest of elastics. Tris the person, however, is hollow – a sad feature for a movie with so much potential to showcase a strong female lead.
The plot isn’t bad – it’s just the characters I have a problem with. There’s drive, build, climax, and potential for further conflict, but I’m irritated by the faces running the show. It’s also a post-apocalyptic movie with very Disney-grade violence: gun shots are heard but not seen and cranberry-juice seeps out of fabric-covered wounds. One thing I can hope for in future Divergent films is that the gigantic fence our heroes are destined to cross is actually the entrance into Jurassic Park. 5/10.