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To enjoy ‘Divergent,’ ignore comparisons to ‘Hunger Games’

Published 1:11pm Saturday, April 5, 2014

by Lauren Bradshaw

It irritates me that I even feel I need to write a review in defense, because no matter what you’ve been reading, “Divergent” is not a bad movie. Sure it isn’t “The Hunger Games,” but it isn’t fair to compare ANYTHING to that series; it will always be a losing battle. As long as you go into “Divergent” appreciating it for what it is and resisting the urge to compare it to its dystopian cousin, you will have a fun time.

As you can see from my pro and con list below, if you enjoy this genre of film (like I do), there are more reasons you should see “Divergent” than skip it. I address the things that totally worked for me, and admit to the things that didn’t.

Pros

The Underlying Story

The dystopian plot of “Divergent” is as entertaining as it is intriguing. After a war, society is now centered in a deserted Chicago, surrounded by a fence. Humans have been split into five factions, Dauntless (the fearless soldiers who guard the fence), Candor (the honest faction who acts as the judicial branch), Erudite (the intelligent knowledge-base), Amity (the peaceful farmers) and Abnegation (the selfless leaders of government).

At the age of 16, all children must take an aptitude test, which helps them choose whether they will stay in their faction or transfer to another; this is just an aid, though, and each teen can pick whatever faction they feel suits them best. Our brave heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) takes the aptitude test and discovers she’s “Divergent,” meaning she doesn’t fit any of the faction molds. Regardless, she chooses to leave her Abnegation faction behind and switches to Dauntless; she wants to actually live, constantly pushing herself and testing her fears.

Now it’s up to Dauntless to “choose” to keep her through an intensive training program. With the help of some fellow recruits and her instructor/love interest Four (Theo James), Tris must maneuver her way through the Dauntless ranking system; if she is kicked out based on poor performance she will suffer a fate worse than death, being factionless.

Meanwhile, Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the leader of Erudite, is planning a coup against the Abnegation-led government. However, in order to successfully carry out the coup, she needs all of the “Divergents” eradicated. After all, how can she build a strong army when she has individuals that subvert the system? Will Tris be able to survive her Dauntless training and prevent Jeanine from finding out her secret?

Kickass Heroine

Tris is the heroine every girl should want representing them in a movie. She is strong, courageous and most importantly, unlike “Twilight,” doesn’t need a man to complete her. Of course it’s nice to have eye candy like Theo James, but Tris would certainly do just fine on her own. With Katniss (“The Hunger Games”), Elsa and Ana (“Frozen”), and now Tris, I am really excited to see strong female characters in film. Hopefully, this trend continues.

The Cast

Not only does the film feature Oscar winning actress Kate Winslet (“The Reader”), it is also a showcase of the young talent currently rising through Hollywood’s ranks. Shailene Woodley is one of the best actors working today, and even with an all-star cast, is responsible for carrying the entire movie on her shoulders. It was also exciting to see Woodley and Miles Teller reunite for another movie, though their relationship in this film won’t make your heart flutter. We are also introduced to Ansel Elgort, who plays Shailene’s brother in “Divergent,” but will play her love interest in the upcoming adaptation of “The Fault In Our Stars.” Theo James, Zoe Kravitz, Jai Courtney, Maggie Q, Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn round out the stellar cast.

The Chemistry

For those of us worried that Shailene Woodley and Theo James wouldn’t be able to live up to the romantic chemistry of Shailene and Miles Teller in “The Spectacular Now,” fear no more. The relationship between Tris and Four was enough to make any fangirl (or fanboy) excited. If you aren’t already shipping “Fourtris” after the book, believe me, you will be after the movie.

Kate Winslet Being Flawless and Throwing Shade

Everyone knows I am a Kate Winslet diehard, so this shouldn’t be too shocking. Kate is the best actress working today, and in her first role as a villain, she OWNS it. Of course I would have preferred that she be in the movie more, but that wasn’t the way the script (or book for that matter) was written. They needed to cast a strong actress in the role for the following films, where Jeanine has a much larger role.

Ashley Judd is back!

I have been a longtime fan of Ashley Judd, so I was happy to see her back in a big budget film. Also, like many of her roles in the 90s, Ashley kicks serious ass!

Cons

Dialogue Issues

What hurts “Divergent” the most are its moments of poor dialogue. Quite a few times, the lines were hard to stomach. It seems the writers were going more toward the cheap romantic cheesiness and less toward the substance.

Transferring Inner Thoughts

Being that the book is in first person, a lot of Tris’ struggle is internal. Unfortunately, the script adapters did only a so-so job at bringing Tris’ feelings to the big screen.

Fans of the book will have better insight about what is going on in certain scenes than movie-goers that have not been exposed to the material before.

Changes from the Book

The writers of “Divergent” take liberties with the overall storyline, but not always for the better. For example, without being too spoilery, I was disappointed that the filmmakers seemed to lighten a few of the darker moments in the film: no one dies jumping from the Dauntless train, Tris isn’t attacked as brutally as she was in the book, and they took some of the heroism away from Judd’s character. The end of the film will also slightly surprise “Divergent’s” biggest fans. I didn’t dislike it because it gave us more Winslet screen time, but I’ll be interested to hear what diehard fans have to say.

Again, as long as you can keep your “Hunger Games” comparisons to a minimum, “Divergent” will not leave you disappointed. Due to the strong cast, interesting storyline, and romantic chemistry, I am already ready for the sequel. Hopefully. the second try will shush the haters.

My Review: B

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