Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Far be it from me to upset the Young Adult reading faithful, not that they would care what I had to say anyway, but after sitting through Veronica Roth's movie adaptation of her novel 'Divergent', this is a film I could've skipped.  It's not a bad movie, not by any stretch, but just one I had trouble making any connection with.  Let's just call it a function of old age.  I have a young adult in the house who wanted to see this, so I took him.  Apparently the changes to the novel, especially to the conclusion, did not please him.  On the positive side, I didn't care for the first 'Hunger Games' either, but found the second film to be a bit of a revelation, so assuming this one gets a sequel, which it looks like it will, maybe that will happen here, for me, as well.  I sure hope so because at least in the sequel the character Tris should be finished with training.  Thank God.

The war was terrible.  They always are.  And from what we can see, the only city left standing on the planet Earth is this facsimile of Chicago.  Without getting too deep into it, the current society is divided into five factions, and young Beatrice (Shailene Woodley), who is part of the benevolent abnegation faction, and at this time is the ruling class, needs to choose a faction that she will be part of for the rest of her life.  All the kids take a test to see which faction they fit in best, but Beatrice's test reveals her to be divergent, a free thinker.  This is frowned upon in this society.  For real.  Fortunately her test administrator (Maggie Q) tells her as much and ushers her out the room so no one would find out. 

Now in the choosing ceremony, while Beatrice's folks would've loved for her to choose her family faction, Beatrice on the other hand chooses the warrior faction of The Dauntless, because they look like they have all kinds of fun with their running and jumping and parkouring and whatnot.  Plus they get to shoot guns and throw knives.  Why every single one of these kids don't choose this faction is beyond me. 
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Oh… I know why… because they have to train, and train, and then train some more.  I mean this incessant training would really, really suck, especially if I were the soft, un-athletic, slow, weak Beatrice, now calling herself Tris, but I would soon find that training sucks infinitely less when there's a really  cute guy around.  Say like Four (Theo James) who will be training Tris and the rest of the recruits.  But quite honestly, he's only really there to train Tris… in the ways of young love.

Tris needs to get really good really fast, because if she's not good, she will be drummed out of Dauntless and be factionless.  No one wants that.  But here the rub… if she's too good, then the powers that be will spy her out as one of the divergent, and that would be way worse because at least they don't murder the factionless.  Also, while training, because Tris will train, and train and then train some more, she will get word that the Erudite faction, led by the completely ice cold Jeanine (Kate Winslet) has plans to take over leadership of New Chicago from the Abnegation Nation.  Violently. 

Now Tris has a lot on her plate.  She has to pass her tests in a way that won't let the world know she's divergent, she has a boyfriend who is sweating her about her tests results who she's not sure she can trust, and there is a conspiracy about to happen that she needs desperately to stop.  The good thing is that she's trained for this.  Oh my… has she ever.

Instead of 'Divergent' maybe a better title for this movie would've been 'exposition', since the filmmakers went to great pains to make it clear that I completely understood, without confusion, exactly what was going on in this world that they have created.  To that end, they succeeded.  Man… I know so much about the world of New Chicago and the factions and the breakdowns and the political setups that I could take a test on this and pass with flying colors.  I get it.  And if my bonus exam was to discuss the training regimen required to become a Dauntless member, I'd pass that too.  I will say this about 'Divergent'… there is absolutely no confusion about anything that's going on in this film.  It's crystal clear.  Nothing is left to our imagination.

So you can probably see where I'm heading with this.  A little imagination isn't a bad thing in some cases.  The minute we see the character of Eric (Jai Courtney), we know he's up to no good.  Because he's an asshole.  The minute we see Jeanine… we know she's part of a larger conspiracy, because she's cold and calculating and that's what these types of people do.  Theo James' Four and Shailene Woodley's Tris are so rote in their presentation that nothing they do could possibly shock or surprise us.  They just do what characters in a movie like this are programmed to do.  While my son was describing the parts of the book that they altered, those parts actually sounded better than what they went with, which might've gone a little way in breaking the lengthy predictable monotony that this movie ended up being for me.

But of course this is just one man's opinion.  Perhaps Tris's wide eyed adorableness and Four's surging male hotness is enough for the YA Novel fan out there.  I, personally, needed just a little bit more.
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