Green-lighting projects involving young adult fiction novel adaptations is a no brainer for studios. Look at the 'Harry Potter', 'Twilight' and 'Hunger Games' series for proof that a film version of a successful tween book will cause people to mindlessly flock to the cinema likes moths to a flame. But should they have green-lit this project?
'Divergent' is a terrifying look into a dystopian future society that divides the population into segments depending on their traits. People are either brave, selfless, intellectual, honest or peaceful. The government tests the youth to determine which faction they would be best suited to. Tris (Shailene Woodley) is told that she is divergent after taking this test, a word used to describe someone who doesn't fit neatly into one faction. Tris chooses to live with the dauntless faction, a group of daredevils trusted with defending society, but before she can join them, she must go through a series of extremely demanding mental and physical challenges, with the secret of her divergent nature ever threatening to be exposed.
Let it be said that the themes in 'Divergent' are more complex than most teen-targeted films dare to deal with. It starts off with a heavy dose of suppression and conformity, before slowly introducing things such as the use of propaganda to brain-wave citizens and the psychology behind genocide. The ambitious nature of the script when it's dealing with these elements is what quickly earned the script my respect. That being said, I felt as though the pacing was off. The viewer's introduction to this world was well dealt with well, presenting the audience with a lot of information in a relatively short amount of time. However, the initiation sequence seemed to last for 70% of the two and a half hour running time. I don't think I cared enough about Tris to actually want to watch her adapting to life in her new faction. The amount of time they spent on this section of the film made the ending feel rushed, which is disappointing, because it was a solid finale. Perhaps it was just my perception of time, but it felt like they went from finding out about the government's plans to kicking their ass in about twenty five minutes flat.
My friend's one negative comment on the film was a pretty major one.
"You could see that they were acting."
She definitely had a point. There were a couple of line deliveries that fell completely flat, despite being a powerful statement. Although I thought she did a good job in the leading role, Woodley fits into this category. There weren't many moments of comedy in the film, but when there was, I felt as though her comic timing was completely off. Dramatically speaking however, she did great, particularly in the last half an hour or so. I had to try not laughing at what I call the 'obligatory shirtless scene' that appears to be written into every attractive actor's contract. Theo James is an attractive man, but that scene felt so sexually objectifying, it just hurt. What else hurt was the non-existent moral reasoning behind some of the 'bad guys'.
The fucking zipline, URGH