UK Release Date: 4th April 2014
Runtime: 139 minutes
Director: Neil Burger
Writer: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney, Ashley Judd, Mekhi Phifer
Synopsis: A girl must struggle to fit into her society’s grouping system when her rogue classification marks her out as a threat to the established order.
With The Hunger Games making waves all over the world, every vaguely marketable series of young adult novels is being considered for the movie franchise treatment. Divergent is potentially as similar to Katniss’ adventures as it’s possible to get, but thankfully it’s a little more than simply an inferior clone.
In a society that divides people into factions by personality traits, one test during their teenage years decides which group suits a person best. But, for Beatrice (Shailene Woodley), the test proves inconclusive – she is “divergent” and therefore a threat to the system and its icy overlord (Kate Winslet). Camouflaged within the “Dauntless” faction, Beatrice rebrands herself as Tris and draws the eye of mysterious instructor Four (Theo James).
As a bit of escapism for the young adult crowd, Divergent is an awful lot of fun. There are some zippy action scenes, spiky banter and an interesting dystopian premise.
| "I don’t want to be just one thing. I can’t be."
Shailene Woodley is also really quite good in the central role. She’s no Jennifer Lawrence, but she is able to handle the emotional heavy lifting and the running around equally well. Less believable is her relationship with Theo James, with whom she has very little chemistry. It doesn’t help Divergent that the galaxy of supporting characters are universally bland, with the exception of a brilliantly icy Kate Winslet.
Thankfully, Limitless director Neil Burger injects great energy into the movie. His direction is kinetic, keen to ensure that the film keeps moving, even in its quieter, slower moments. The running time is a little bloated, but there is enough entertainment packed in to keep everything chugging along at a real rate of knots.
Unfortunately, odd decisions often hamper the film in its best moments. The soundtrack, composed of pop songs from acts as recognisable as Ellie Goulding and Snow Patrol, is intrusive beyond belief. Scenes that should play out poignantly or with great spectacle are immediately diminished by loud pop tracks that just dip in and out.
| "The system removes the threat of anyone exercising their independent will. Divergents threaten that system. It won’t be safe until they’re removed."
There’s a lot wrong with Divergent, but it manages to distinguish itself in an arena tarnished by such sub-standard fare as The Host and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. I probably wouldn’t count on Tris in a fight with Katniss though.
Pop or Poop?
Increasingly, there is enormous expectation around YA films. They have to be the next Harry Potter, or the next Twilight, or the next Hunger Games. Thankfully, Divergent manages to find its ideal place in the crowd.
Shailene Woodley is an exciting young star and, if the supporting cast take a step up in the sequels, this could be the strangest of phenomena: a YA franchise worth paying attention to.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.