Divergent Review

So I watched Divergent…

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I actively avoided watching this movie for as long as I could. I remember after watching the trailer for the first time thinking, “wow, are the Hunger Games people gonna sue this movie for copyright infringement or what?”. The trailer seemed unoriginal, the plot ridiculous and I had absolutely no motivation to go see it. I eventually conceded when a friend told me I had to see it because it’s “so amazing” and actually invited me over to their place to do so. I’ve seen it twice now and all that’s changed is the level of trust I place in my friend’s taste in movies.

Okay, basic plot: In post-apocalyptic Chicago, members of the city are divided into one of five factions based on various personality traits. There’s Abnegation – the selfless; Dauntless – the brave; Erudite – the intelligent; Amity – the peaceful and Candor – the honest. A person can only belong to one faction because apparently people in the future only have one personality trait. Sigh. So people in the future only have one personality trait? WHAT? What does that even mean? How’s that even possible? But anyway, those who exhibit aptitude for more than one faction (like any normal human being would) are called divergent. Divergents pose a threat to the faction system, so the government hunt and kill them because they exhibit more than one personality trait…seriously, did anybody proofread this script before greenlighting the movie? But anyway, our hero Tris (Shailene Woodly) is a divergent and yeah, she diverges stuff.

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You know I’ve come to accept the ridiculous, non-sensical premises of YA books and movies. I came to terms with a battle royale where teenagers fight each other to the death; I’m even making my piece with putting a bunch of kids in a maze to figure out why they’re immune to a virus but I cannot accept the premise of this movie. I think if the faction system depended on anything other than people’s personalities I could have been on board; but how do you expect me to believe that people only exhibit one character trait? So no one is brave and intelligent? No one tells the truth and is selfless? I cannot wrap my head around this.

This movie’s main problem is that it allows you too much time to dwell on its inconceivable premise. If you look at movies like Hunger Games and Maze Runner, they feed you this unbelievable idea but then put so much action and drama in front of you that you don’t have time to question the flimsy premise that it’s set on. Divergent (in terms of plot, not quality) is a lot like the movie Antz. Both are predicated on the idea of free will and an individual choosing who and what they are instead of conforming to the pre-conceived structures of what society has laid out for them. Unfortunately, Divergent doesn’t delve into this theme fully and stays far too superficial for my liking.

Another problem this movie has is its lack of originality. The novel that this movie is based on came after both Hunger Games and Maze Runner. Now I don’t know when author, Veronica Roth, started working on her idea for this book but because her book was released last, it just seems like a giant ripoff. There are elements of Hunger Games and Maze Runner throughout this movie; from the post-apocalyptic setting, to the division of people, to some unknown toxic wasteland beyond the city’s walls, to the totalitarian government that despises free thought; this movie is about as original as a photocopy of a photocopy.

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Shailene Woodley’s performance in this movie is incredibly bland. There’s no heart in her performance and if I didn’t know she was this movie’s protagonist, I’d have absolutely no reason to root for her or hope she succeeds. But it isn’t entirely Woodley’s fault, her character is just so poorly written. Like the rest of this movie, she isn’t much of anything. She’s a by-the-numbers, cookie-cutter hero who feels like she’s a spectator in the plot rather than an active participant. She isn’t memorable, in fact, she’s just a watered-down version of Katniss from Hunger Games. The number of times I refer to other movies when describing this movie should tell you everything that you need to know.

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Theo James puts in a competent performance as Woodley’s character’s love interest – Four and I also liked Zoë Kravitz. Kravitz seems to really have that supporting role as a side-character with minimal lines down. I also liked her in the latest Mad Max movie. I think Miles Teller and Kate Winslet are probably this movie’s best actors but even they can’t save the drowning ship that is Divergent. 

Overall, this movie isn’t a bad movie exactly, it’s just doing the bare minimal in every aspect. I’ve seen everything in this movie done better somewhere else and there’s really nothing to get excited about. I wouldn’t recommend watching this movie but if you must, I’d suggest not spending any money or exerting any energy to see it. I’m talking about sitting on your couch, someone turns on the TV for you and props your eyelids open and you just passively lay there waiting for it to end. 5/10

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