Another movie adaptation of a young adult book series based on a dystopian future? To the book’s credit, though, the movie plays it very closely. This movie (and book) follows the trend of movies in the last several years. They present young adults in bizarre or dangerous situations in which they have to make decisions, take risks, and go their own way. Non-conformity in a dystopian future appears to be the choice theme and hottest phenomenon these days. Just a thought…who’s to say that our future will be dystopian? Isn’t it just as likely that society may not be torn by wars of epic proportions or ravaged by zombies? I like to think society will blossom and improve. Oh well.
It’s ironic, if not a little predictable, that movies from books like these are nearly risk-aversive. With your producer breathing down your neck, why rock the boat and jeopardize a potentially wildly successful franchise if you don’t have to? “Divergent” is the latest movie in a long line of similar predecessors like “Hunger Games,” “Total Recall,” “Blade Runner,” yes and even “A Clockwork Orange.” Like in “Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter,” apparently only teenagers or young adults have the courage and honesty to stand up for what is right and challenge the system or order of the current world, which for all we know only consists of a future Chicago that resembles current Detroit.
Though its main appeal will most likely be to those who read the book and are young adults either chronologically or in spirit, “Divergent” does have something for the rest of those who will undoubtedly watch it; and that’s the chance to see the pair of performers who make that romantic music together. An early choice to play the lead, Shailene Woodley who plays Tris (hmm…where have we seen an underdog female protagonist in a dystopian future before?), is one of her generation’s most beautiful and promising young female actors. Picking her soul mate took a lot longer, but the studio’s selection of the devastatingly handsome Theo James to play Four has paid off. Both the actors have excellent chemistry on screen and serve as a glue for the film.
Although I have not read the book, from what I have been able to research, except for some minor nips and tucks, the screenplay follows the book fairly closely. The biggest change is the further development of the Machiavellian Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews, well played by Kate Winslet, into full-fledged villain status. However, her character’s position is unable to elicit empathy from the audience. And, an audience empathizing with the villain is important in a well-written story. Furthermore, the cause for the takeover by the Erudites (one of five main factions) is never fully explained.
Cinematography and editing wise, the film has a very instagram look; but, that is not entirely uncommon for these types of films. It was refreshing to venture out of the Dauntless caves every now and again to see other colors besides various hughes of black, brown, and red. Regarding the structure of the movie, most movies follow a classic three-act structure. But as the title suggests, this movie “diverges” from the classic structure of a cinematic narrative story. Act one lasts 3/4 of the film, and acts two and three are only 1/8 each. The slow pace in the beginning does pay off with the fast-moving pace in the last two acts.
All-in-all, this movie contains elements that are par for the course in this genre. But a well executed futuristic action-romance film. Definitely one that a family can enjoy together, and one from which young women and men can learn honestly, respect, and courage. A good way to spend 2.5 hours.