With The Hunger Games catching fire at the box office, Hollywood has been eager to find their next Young Adult action adventure. Well, they settled on Divergent. The problem is, it is, in every way, a poor “Young Adult”‘s version of the Jennifer Lawrence blockbuster. Fans of both series will probably protest me saying it, but the setup of Divergent is shockingly similar to The Hunger Games.
We are presented a futuristic world where society has been split up into sections. In The Hunger Games, they are called Districts. Here, they are called Factions. Even though they grow up in one faction, when they are teenagers, they are forced to choose their faction that they will stay with for the rest of their lives. A test helps guide them, but that test really doesn’t matter cause they just get to choose themselves (what a waste of test tubes). Our main character, Katniss…I mean, Beatrice, is a strong, independent young woman who seems unsettled being in the Abnegation faction. She’s always been intrigued by the Dauntless, which is the brave, strong faction that acts like the protectors for other factions. She chooses to switch factions and become a Dauntless.
She leaves her family (played by Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn, and Ansel Elgort), changes her name to Katniss…I mean, Tris, and begins her training. If you thought the training sequence in The Hunger Games was too long, then settle in, we’re gonna be here a while. Her training is endless. It’s over an hour of the film. I lost track of time and started wondering what Mockingjay is going to be like. With Divergent, there just isn’t much at stake. It’s just like watching a young woman go through police training.
Eventually, she’s sedated and has to prove herself in dream sequences inside her mind. The film thinks these sequences are tension-filled. They are apparently forgetting that we know it’s a dream and she can’t die. Tension lost. So why do they present them as so suspenseful? The stakes are finally raised in the final act of the film, and it has a great twist with a character that we meet early in the film…but that reveal lasts about 5 minutes before the character is killed off. Lame.
It’s a shame because the film has a decent cast. Shailene Woodley proves herself to be an effective leading lady, and Theo James has the presence to be a major action star. Someone cast him in a better vehicle pronto. Judd has more sparkle than she’s had in years, and the solid cast is filled out by Zoe Kravitz, Jai Courtney, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, and Miles Teller. Oh, then, there’s a little star named Kate Winslet who pops up as the film’s main antagonist. Winslet does what she can with the paper-thin role (she’s captivating as always), but even she struggles to register with her limited screentime.
Divergent just comes off as a lesser The Hunger Games. If it went into a battle with Katniss Everdeen, a cannon would go off in no time to mark its appropriate demise.