Movie Review – Divergent (2014)

Divergent, 2014.

Directed by Neil Burger.
Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer and Kate Winslet.


In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late.

Divergent has an uncomfortable, bizarre sense of swagger. As the leaders of Divergent’s world scream down upon its citizens to conform to societal norms, as do the producers, briefly dipping their toes into unchartered waters before panicking, fleeing into the paint-by-numbers YA tosh so evident throughout recent film memory. Director Neil Burger flirts with complex ideas of genocide but the incessant need for turgid romance fails to ignite any sort of spark.

Based upon Veronica Roth’s incredibly popular series, Divergent depicts a Chicago ravaged by war. Society is divided into five factions: Amity, Erudite, Candor, Dauntless and Abnegation. Tired of the drab paradigm of Abnegation, Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) falls in with the Dauntless, a group of seemingly impossibly obnoxious “soldiers” who feel it necessary to woop and climb everything in sight. From there, a series of never-ending montages show the newly crowned “Tris” sparring with Peter (Miles Teller), befriending Christina (Zoe Kravitz) and forming an awkward sexless sexual relationship with the absurdly named Four (Theo James).

The training montages move so rapidly to all-out-war that it is almost impossible to distinguish between what it the true threat. Watching Miles Teller “American History X” Shailene Woodley carries far more threat than watching Woodley run from point A to point B in order to save point C. Ideas of genocide and racism are flirted with throughout yet are abandoned before they can develop into anything interesting.

There’s a glorious sense of irony in the attempt, and failure to move away from traditional genre tropes. In tackling ideas of genocide, there’s an underlying intelligence rarely evident in YA adaptations but romance prevails once again. The film hangs entirely on the chemistry between Theo James and Shailene Woodley and to their praise, it succeeds; up until they are forced into a relationship. From there, pregnant pauses and intense staring result in unintentional laughter and a tired, predictable finale.

Decent ideas run through Divergent. Flirting with genocide and racism can only go so far before teenage girls force their way through the fourth wall, demanding turgid tired romance. Whereas The Host fell at the first hurdle, Divergent at least has a brickwork to build from.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★

Thomas Harris

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