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And so rises a new trilogy but, with this one, we get a more fleshed out hero to root for.
Trigger Warning(s): Violence against women & short scene showing attempted rape
Review (with Spoilers)
Let me first state I did not read the books and what first drew me to this film was Zoe Kravitz being in it, but after seeing The Spectacular Now, having the reunited Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller in the film was quite the bonus. Add on Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, and Kate Winslet, you pretty much have one of the best casted YA book adaptions, which follow the post-apocalyptic theme.
Characters & Story
In a Freudian-Oligarchy, people are split between five factions, at least in the hub of Chicago. You are either a Erudite, the highly intelligent; Amity, the farmers; the Canter, the white collar justice system; the Dauntless, the soldiers and police; the Abnegation, the social workers and government; or you are the factionless. In their world, there is no in between. Faction over blood, so if you decide to change factions from your family, there is a likely chance you may never see them again, and with the system as it is, leaving your family is almost portrayed as dishonor and disloyalty. However, there are those who want to break this system.
Enter Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) who is our heroine. She is what is known as a Divergent, someone capable of fluidity between the characteristics of all the major factions, which is a problem for Ms. Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet). You see, Ms. Matthews, being the head of the Erudite clan, seemingly wants to seize power for just being part of the technological movement isn’t enough. She believes the Erudite should run the government, so she decides to do two things: 1. Discredit the Abnegation faction by going after their leader and mounting support, and 2. Using the Dauntless, with their leader Max’s (Mekhi Phifer) help, to commit genocide.
All this leads Tris, Beatrice’s new name after joining the Dauntless, on a journey which has her tested in a physical confrontation, mental abilities, and being left with very few things to fight for, but for what is left she seems willing to give her life for.
Now, I don’t mean to put down other YA adaption headed by women, but to me Tris was the first one which seemed human and real. Katniss seems so devoid and drained of emotion that it is like she is a robot whose AI hasn’t been updated to emulate human emotions; and though I loved Beautiful Creatures, the heroine for that film seemed more so like she was made to fit some type of standard for the respectable woman.
With Divergent, though, Tris to me was a human character. She was written with flaws, fears, strengths and just enough of an awkwardness so that she doesn’t become something worth rolling your eyes at. And I think the credit must go to Woodley. Though The Secret Life of the American Teenager made me write off any talent she could have had, her film choices have really allowed her to blossom. She has the capability of playing someone who is vulnerable, and seemingly meek on the outside, yet can have this fierce passion which even if she gets her ass whooped, there is still a fire which makes you want to root for her.
Also, I must note that for a movie a little over two hours, I never felt like I was bored. Woodley’s co-stars and the Divergent universe is so interesting to the point the missing details bother you enough to want to pick up the book. And perhaps that is the biggest praise you can ever give in this day and age.
However, and mind you some of this criticism is due to not reading the book, I do wonder why despite all the technological advances, even with the apocalypse, there are no telephones? I ask this because each faction is somewhat secluded, and I could not understand how these people cut themselves off from their families? I mean, young adult rebellion from what you grew up in makes sense, but to seemingly do it forever? I don’t get it.
But, perhaps my biggest issue is that it Divergent follows a lot of the usual standards for Young Adult adaptation to screen. And I won’t spoilt too much of it, but as you watch nothing really does feel like you can’t guess the next move. I mean, as Tris goes through her trials you do wonder where her journey could go, but after a certain point you can see things are set in stone. However, perhaps my biggest issue is the fact they pair Tris with a love interest, and though said love interest doesn’t have someone to compete with, at the same time I would love for a movie like this with a Hayao Miyazaki type way of showing friendship between the sexes, instead of always having it go toward a relationship being endgame.
Overall: Worth Seeing
To me, this is better than The Hunger Games and so much easier to get into. Woodley seems very in her element, and between the action, the friendships, and the threat of domination, it is very satisfying. And though I doubt I will read the books, I will likely spoil everything for myself by checking the Wikipedia entry. So, with that said, go see it!