Two things before I begin.
Spoiler warnings on! Yes, I know it has been out for a few weeks but there still could be people that haven’t seen it and I don’t want to ruin it for them.
No, I have not read the books. Yes, I know that makes me a horrible human being. I will, when I have time, read them. I just have a large list of books to read that I do not know when I will get to it.
With that housekeeping out of the way, on to the review!
Divergent is the Story of Tris’ coming of age. She lives in a society that has survived a cataclysmic war. To Survive, they have divided the population into factions based around virtues in th hopes of preventing another war. When a member of the society reaches a certain point they are given a test to help determine which faction they belong to but are given the choice of where they want to be.
Tris is a member of Abnegation which values selflessness. This factions job is to run the government. Tris is the voice that introduces us to the varying factions and we get to see how she doesn’t fit in. When given the test, she discovers that she fits in to several different factions which makes her divergent. The person who administered the test explains that this makes her dangerous to the system and that she must hide.
On the day of choosing, We watch as she agonizes over her choice and let out a sigh of relief when she chooses Dauntless. What follows is her journey of discovering both who she is and the grans conspiracy that threatens the world in which she lives.
When I heard about this movie I was intrigued. The idea of breaking down a post apocalyptic world into factions is not new but the manner in which Divergent does it pretty neat. It sets you up to believe that things are organized with the best interests of the citizenry. The flaw is easily seen as well because anything that purposely sets up a class of selfless people will end up either taking advantage of them or victimizing them. In this case, Abnegation cares for factionless and the Divergent which makes them an easy target for the head of Erudite that sees this as giving in to weakness and misusing resources.
The conspiracy provides a nice backdrop to main thrust of the story. Tris journey of discovery about who she is and where she belongs is the true heart of this movie. It is a simple story that is told well with solid imagery throughout. We get the introduction to abnegation where more than a minute looking in a mirror is seen as almost a sin and serving others is to be second nature. This is not who Tris is and her discomfort is palpable on the screen. When the test is inconclusive, the fear of not knowing where she belongs and having to make the decision on her own is powerful. It captures the essence of that fear which we all go through as we transition from child to adult. What will I do? how will I make it?
There are points in the movie where these types of feelings are just portrayed within a scene that are highly effective. The whole Dauntless Jumping idea is just one of these. Once Tris has joined Dauntless, She has to leap onto a moving train and then jump up off a multistory building into a dark whole. They show how each decision made during this time feels so momentous and dangerous yet exhilarating. We get to see these same scenes later in the movie as she has come to grips with the decisions she has made and they are much less frightening and easier done now she has accepted more of who she is and she given up on the fear that made the choices difficult earlier.
The movie ends in an expected fashion. It is how she is different that allows her to escape the programming that turns most of Dauntless into mindless drones. It even allows her to save her new paramour, Four, who has been captured and brainwashed by Erudite.
I enjoyed this movie. The ending was expected and nothing truly unique was done with the setting. Despite this, it did everything that id very well. The acting was solid and the cinematography was good. In particular, I liked the set design. We have a city that is devastated yet functional. It has this decrepit feel yet a sterility that is unexpected in a post-apocalyptic story. It takes a story about not fitting into society and makes it accessible without being boring or bland.
I both want to read the books now and am looking forward to see the next movie. If you have time, make sure to see this in the theaters because it definitely worth a matinee.