Following the box office success of fellow teen novel franchises ‘Twilight’ and ‘The Hunger Games’, ‘Divergent’ was under pressure to achieve similar success. Based on the first of Victoria Roth’s ‘Divergent’ trilogy, the film introduces us to Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) who lives in a faction-based society, each faction providing something different for the society. When you come of age you have to undergo a test to see which faction you belong in. However, if you don’t fit in any you are divergent, which Beatrice is. As a film, it has a similar feel to director Neil Burger’s previous hit ‘Limitless’ with its theme of hallucination and losing a grip on reality in a dystopic society .
To avoid capture Beatrice leaves her original faction Abnegation to join Dauntless, changing her name to Triss in the process. Dauntless now has to become her world. As a faction based on protection there is a lot of fighting which brings a lacklustre set of action scenes. It just seems to be too teenage friendly and easily slides very neatly under the 12A rating, as the only bit of gore is when Triss gets the tip of her ear nipped by a blade.
To conform to the young adult film cliché, there is a love interest which is Four (Theo James) which plays out very much as you would expect. To add further tension there is The Dauntless initiates instructor who warns if they fail to pass the tests they are out of the faction. He plays the character well and the chemistry between him and Woodley is believable. He is gorgeous and mysterious and is thus perfect as teen heartthrob material. It’s almost hard to believe he is the jerk from ‘The Inbetweeners Movie’ who gets shit on his nose.
The big name in the film is Kate Winslet who plays the villain of the piece Jeanine Matthews, leader of the Erudite faction who wants to destroy Abnegation. With a powerful head on her shoulders, she is convincing in the role and is a ray of light in this film among an otherwise somewhat bland cast. It seems refreshing to see her in such an evil role.
As a whole, the film is good at fitting the young adult film genre. Although some parts of the film are shot well, like the fear sequences which has some great CGI, the plot simply does not have that strong of an impact especially when compared to ‘The Hunger Games’. But to its credit the acting by James, Winslet and particularly Woodley is solid and believable. However ultimately the potential of this film seemed to be lost by the wayside of the flashy action shots and copycat love story