Ever since the success of the Harry Potter film franchise, a lot of young adult book series have been adapted for the big screen to cash in on that popularity, most notably Twilight and The Hunger Games. The newest addition is Divergent, based on the novel by Veronica Roth. Given that the concept of the story, its characters, its intended audience, and even the overall plot structure are largely comparable to The Hunger Games. But the film falls flat in its tracks and trips over its own convoluted setup.
Enter Chicago at some point in the distant future. In a creative concept that is never expanded upon, the city has been split up into five factions, from the brainy scientists to the happy agricultural workers, and Tris (Shailene Woodley), a young girl in the Abnegation faction, devoted to kindness and charity, is getting ready to decide which faction she will belong to for the rest of her life. This is all that should be cared about; Tris barely has any personality or individual identity of her own, appropriately enough. In future-Chicago, people are given their intended faction by being placed in this surreal dream sequence, the meaning of which is never fully explained. She learns from the test administrator that her results are “inconclusive,” meaning she is secretly “Divergent” and could join any faction and excel. It’s a long, drawn-out storyline that could be so much better if the writers would make something of the possibilities presented, like showing how the factions interact with one another, but unfortunately such capitalization on ideas never comes to fruition and plot points introduced early on, like the factionless, are almost immediately abandoned.
This blandness is present on all fronts of the presentation, I’m afraid to say. Acting is of minimal note. Tris has already been mentioned, but her mentor in Dauntless, literally named “Four,” (presumably for the amount of facial expressions he’s capable of) isn’t much better, and their chemistry is practically nonexistent, which makes their romance seem unbelievable and even uncomfortable at times.
Nothing else stands out as remarkable; CGI effects look alright, but for a lot of them, they seemed to add nothing to the story, with the faction-deciding test early on being the gravest offender, alongside some tedious nightmare sequences around the mid-way point. Neil Burger, director of The Illusionist and Limitless, can pull off some great work, but here, nothing shines through in the presentation, and what action scenes there were looked generic and were shot decent at best, at least until the end where the PG-13 action just begins to get ridiculous and lose all believability or tension.
The way this film plays up almost everything, the unintentional campiness early on, and the almost insultingly poor emotional scenes late into the movie give one the impression the film could have been a clever satire, but unfortunately, Divergent is just a generic mess that will be quickly forgotten until the sequel rears its head.