Neil Burger directs the screen adaptation of Veronica Roth’s blockbuster-hit novel, “Divergent.” Roth, a native Chicagoan wrote the novel and its two sequels while attending Northwestern University at the age of 21. The book is set in a futuristic and vastly dystopian society. After a devastating war that supposedly consumes the rest of the world, the survivors form a society in which each member is separated into five factions: Erudite (smart), Amity (peaceful), Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (brave) and Candor (honest).
The movie focuses on the life of Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley). Beatrice and her brother Caleb have reached the ripe age of 16; thus they must decide which faction they would like to join. Beatrice learns she is Divergent after her aptitude test results in an inconclusive marking. She is warned that she must keep this a secret. As reminded several times throughout the movie, being divergent is a bad thing. At least in the minds of the “bad guys.” While normally an aptitude test allows the candidate to learn the identity of the faction they belong, Beatrice fits into the Dauntless, Erudite and Abnegation faction.
Beatrice stuns her family during the Choosing Ceremony when she chooses to shun her parents and join the Dauntless. There are many tests that initiates must pass before they can become members of the faction. In this society, there is no going back to your old faction (FACTION BEFORE BLOOD). If you fail to pass the tests; you will fail to live in any faction. You are ousted to a life of homelessness.
Having finished reading the novel just a couple of days ago I was moderately enthusiastic to watch the film (despite learning the film was receiving tepid reviews). While a bit slow in the beginning, the novel peaked and kept my attention about midway through my reading. I expected the movie to be more or less the same. Unfortunately, the movie was a run of the mill adaptation of a YA book. I left the theater emotionally bereft. Many of the climatic sequences were altered. There were several emotional scenes in the novel that were undercut and devoid of significance or empathy because Burger decided to make the ending more glamorous. Sometimes, less is more.
The movie has been compared to the Hunger Games trilogy. While there are many similarities, the harsh truth frankly is that Divergent isn’t as good as the first Hunger Games movie. While the actors did a fine job, they could not compensate for the weak script. What’s even more disappointing is that Roth was a producer on this project. Not really sure what went wrong.
I don’t have problems with adapting film versions of popular books. However, when the end product is average, at best, one has to ask if the movie was simply gratuitous. If you aren’t going to do it right, why bother at all?
This is not a movie I recommend you see in theaters. Save your money. It is a second-rate film that warrants a rental, only and I mean only, if you are into the genre.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (thematic elements, some sensuality, intense violence and action)
Running Time: 139 minutes
My Grade: C
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