After the insane success of ‘The Hunger Games’, every studio in Hollywood is looking for the next young adult book with a female heroine to turn into a hit. So, it’s no surprise that a movie like ‘Divergent’ was being heralded as the next big blockbuster before anybody had even seen the thing. After seeing it myself, I’d say it’s a decent bet that the thing will make some money, but I have a hard time believing it’s going to be a word of mouth sensation like ‘The Hunger Games’. Reason being, it honestly isn’t very good.
It’s certainly not a bad movie and I’m sure that fans of the novel will swoon over it, but I have a hard time believing that most audiences will enjoy it enough to bother talking about it long after they walk out of the theater. It would have to be a movie that’s worth talking about or feels like it’s got something interesting to say. This movie thinks it has something interesting to say, but mostly it’s just a story about childhood cliques and fitting in with the cool kids. In other words, it’s a high school drama with a bigger budget and a lot of training montages. So much training!
I swear, watching the training in this movie is like watching someone play a tutorial in an action video game. You know, the part you just want to skip so you can get to the real game. If I had to quantify it, I would say that the movie is about 1/3 plot (action, character development, world building, etc.) and 2/3 training. The best way to think of it is to imagine watching ‘The Hunger Games’, but they have cut the beginning down by half, cut the actual games by half, and made the training section like 90 minutes long. No joke, there is about 90 minutes of training in this movie.
After a brief opening of establishing the rules about the various factions (which I’m still a little confused about) and letting us know why everyone lives in Chicago, the movie quickly moves it’s heroine into her new faction for training. Before this ever happened I was already a bit annoyed because apparently if you choose to do something different from your parents in this world you lose them for life. The silly way that everything goes against human nature is explained briefly by an evil Kate Winslet, but it still makes little sense. I can’t imagine any society allowing this much control over there lives. Hell, most third world countries have more freedoms than these future Americans.
As stated before, the middle of the movie is devoted completely to training. Our protagonist, Tris (played well by Shailenne Woodley) decides she wants to leave her parents faction of weaklings and become a bad ass in the Dauntless faction. However, she sadly didn’t know she would have to compete to be one of the best bad asses or she risks living as a faction-less bum for the rest of existence. Oops. So, she fights, throws knives, plays capture the flag, and makes gooey eyes at her trainer (played by a standardly handsome Theo James). His name is Four and represents the only other person in this story that could be considered a fully fledged human being.
After the long training stuff, we finally come back to a plot about over throwing the governing faction and there is a bunch of action. The first little bit and the last bit are enjoyable, but the middle bit is such a drag that it prevents me from even giving this thing a partial recommendation. I mean, there are some scenes in the training that are entertaining and the love story is not that bad, but it all feels so dragged out. You know there are issues when you just wish something would end or you are longing for some more swooning to remove you from the monotony.
Still, on the bright side, I am interested enough in this world that I do want to know what happens next. I like Shailenne Woodley and she makes Tris a character worth caring about. So, while I can’t recommend you even watch this thing in the dollar theater, you should catch it on cable some time in the future or rent it at the Redbox. That way you can leave during the boring parts and still get caught up on the story. Then, we will hopefully get a far superior sequel. Hopefully.
Review by Nathan Ligon