‘Divergent’ captivates the imagination


By Carina Snow

Assistant Editor

 

If the recent film history of “The Hunger Games” movies is any indication of future silver-screen success, then Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” is the next big book-to-film trilogy—and a good one.

Lionsgate-Summit’s “Divergent” film, directed by Neil Burger, hit theaters March 21 and stole the No. 1 box office spot, raking in $22.8 million on its first day, according to Forbes, and scored a “terrific $56 million debut” weekend.

The science-fiction novel turned blockbuster, which has a considerable fan-following around the world, has a 143-minute run time and cost around $80 million to make. The film rocks a hot, talented cast that truly embodies the book’s characters, and the sometimes real-world set brings Roth’s colorful story to life.

Shailene Woodley (left), author Veronica Roth and director Neil Burger talk on the set of "Divergent." (Jaap Buitendijk/MCT)

Shailene Woodley (left), author Veronica Roth and director Neil Burger talk on the set of “Divergent.” (Jaap Buitendijk/MCT)

 

Synopsis

The plot focuses around 16-year-old Beatrice “Tris” Pryor, played by 22-year-old American actress Shailene Woodley. Tris’ home is future post-apocalyptic Chicago, brilliantly rendered as the picture painted by the book, and the city is her people’s entire world.

Surrounded by an intricate, giant fence, this crumbling, half-ruined city is home to a society that has separated into five distinct factions, which categorize residents by personality—namely a virtue, and everyone can only have one.

Tris is born in “Abnegation,” which like all factions is true to its namesake. Abnegation is selflessness; Dauntless is fearlessness; Erudite is intelligence; Candor is honesty; and Amity is harmony. This faction system serves to keep the “peace.”

At age 16, everyone must take an “aptitude test,” administered with a serum that induces dream-like hallucinations, to determine which virtue they possess. They must make a choice that decides the rest of their life—which faction they will join, with the ultimate law in mind: “faction before blood.”

Each individual has the right to choose any faction, but there is no turning back, and failure to acclimate to a faction results in expulsion, becoming “factionless”––the equivalent of homeless.

On the day of the big test, Tris is dealt a huge shock. She does not have aptitude for one faction, like everyone should, but three: Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless. In this she has become a threat to the system—she is “Divergent.”

Tris is warned never to reveal the true test result to anyone, as it surely spells a death sentence. So she makes a brave decision to leave her family, including her mother, Natalie (played by Ashley Judd), and join Dauntless—the warrior faction that protects the city.

Tris finds opposition at Dauntless and has to shake the “stiff” label placed on Abnegation transfers, who are polar opposites of the rowdy and wild Dauntless. She makes some friends, including the “brutally” honest Candor-born Christina, played by Zoë Kravitz. They both quickly realize that bravery is mandatory; Dauntless members seem to have a death wish.

From climbing aboard moving trains and jumping off buildings, to zip-lining from a skyscraper, the film’s action keeps coming, and the small, meek Tris must face enormous challenges to keep her secret and “make the cut” at Dauntless. But, of course, she seems to have some help.

The handsome, tough, and mysterious “Four,” played by 29-year-old English actor Theo James, has immediate chemistry with Tris when she arrives as a transfer “initiate” in the Dauntless faction.

He oversees her and the other transfer initiates’ training, which is both physical and mental. From hand-to-hand combat and marksmanship, to facing their worst fears in simulations, the initiates’ performance is ranked.

And making the Dauntless cut is not Tris’ only obstacle; her Divergence gives her special abilities to manipulate the simulations she must

undergo, but it may also give her secret away.

And the highly intelligent antagonist, Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews (played by Kate Winslet), seems to be ever-watchful for flaws in the system and will stop at nothing to impose her will on society.

 

Shailene Woodley stars in "Divergent." (Jaap Buitendijk/MCT)

Shailene Woodley stars in “Divergent.” (Jaap Buitendijk/MCT)

Review

Tensions mount and excitement builds throughout the film with a steady pace that holds attention and strengthens the attraction between Tris and Four. But the last 20 minutes take the viewer on an action-packed thrill ride through twists and turns to the confrontational climax.

The film concludes with a somewhat satisfying resolution that leaves the door wide open for sequels; “Insurgent” is set to hit theaters March 20, 2015, and the final installment, “Allegiant” debuts in theaters March 18, 2016.

All-in-all “Divergent” deserves four out of five stars and a solid grade of B+ for its well-chosen, passionate cast; magnificent portrayal of post-apocalyptic Chicago; and brilliant screenplay that keeps true to the essence and spirit of the book.

 

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