Movie review: Neil Burger's Divergent similar to The Hunger Games
It's not half as melancholic and terrifying as The Hunger Games and seems more like a half hearted defiance of a system that in itself is rather stupid but not really very threatening.
Divergent has The Hunger Games written all over it. And there is no way that this comparison can be avoided. Much like The Hunger Games, here too the story revolves around a bunch of young kids in dystopian Chicago where society is divided into factions named after nauseatingly sacherrine human virtues.
Different people are assigned factions based on their personality types. So we have Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (truthful), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave), out of which the first faction gets to run the government much to the displeasure of Jeanine (Kate Winslet) the head of the Erudite faction, who plans to overthrow Abnegation. Meanwhile, our young female protagonist Tris (Shailene Woodley), whose character seems to have been modelled after Katnis from The Hunger Games, chooses to be a part of the Dauntless despite her aptitude results suggesting that she possesses qualities from all four factions — making her a ‘divergent’ i.e. someone who doesn’t quite fit in anywhere and therefore poses a threat to the established status quo.
Dauntless ‘initiates’ then undergo gruelling physical and mental tests that prepare them for combat. Tris, the weakest and perhaps the kindest of the lot, slowly rises up the ranks to become one of the best fighters except that she must also cover up her true skills as a divergent if she wants to live. Between fighting, running, shooting and bleeding, the film also manages to pack in a teenage romance between Tris and her instructor who, (surprise!) turns out to be a divergent too.
While the story has its heart in the right place, its hard to take seriously most of what transpires on the screen. The setting is a bit too flimsy, while the characters are all bitchy little teenagers who shouldn't be saying things like “I don’t even know who I am anymore.” The idea of not having to conform to any particular box is great but when packaged using cliche dystopian stereotypes without really going into much detail, the resulting film doesn’t quite engage you as much as it should. If the world that Tris lived in was really so terrible, I’d have liked to see more of it — of all that lay behind the fences particularly. There is no clear sense of space or even a threat. It's not half as melancholic and terrifying as The Hunger Games and seems more like a half hearted defiance of a system that in itself is rather stupid but not really very threatening. The director, Neil Burger could definitely have worked on eliminating some of the unnecessary subplots and instead built upon the scale and immediacy of the danger at hand.
The only tragedy here is Shailene Woodley who is a fine actress stuck in a juvenile film. Shy and awkward at first Woodley gives considerable depth to Tris’s character, embodying each of the virtues the factions uphold. In one of the scenes when her nemesis Peter tells her, “You’re not going to shoot me,” Tris replies, visibly annoyed, “Why does everyone keep saying that” and promptly shoots him.
Though derivative, Divergent is yet another example of how female actors can carry a big budget film on their shoulders and if not for anything else, this genre needs to be given due credit for introducing strong and gutsy women as sole leads who can start revolutions if they wanted to.
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