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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Divergent’ sets standard for rest of film series

    Summit Entertainment
    Summit Entertainment

    There’s a new challenger in the ring of bestselling-young-adult-novel film adaptations. Joining the ranks of the “Harry Potter”, “Twilight” and “Hunger Games” series, while landing somewhere in the middle of these three, is “Divergent.” Led by the consistently great Shailene Woodley, “Divergent” is an entertaining, if not a very even, premiere of a new series with promise.
    “Divergent” is based on Veronica Roth’s 2011 novel of the same name.
    In both the film and the book, citizens of a futuristic, dystopian Chicago are divided into five different factions: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave). Your faction determines what occupation you have for the rest of your life. Every child belongs to their parents’ faction until they turn 16 years old. On that day, they take an aptitude test where they’re hooked up to a machine that reads their personality, kind of like if Aldous Huxley crafted the Sorting Hat in “Harry Potter.”
    This test tells them which faction they’re best suited for, and then they must decide whether to stay with their parents’ faction or blaze their own trail. As you can see, there’s a fair amount of world building, and those unfamiliar with the books may need some time to get the lay of the land.
    Of course our protagonist, the soft-spoken Beatrice (Shailene Woodley), is the exception to all of these rules. She hails from Abnegation, but her aptitude test tells her she has a personality fit for not only Abnegation, but also for Erudite and Dauntless. People who have an aptitude for more than one faction are known as divergents. They are considered a glitch in the perfect matrix of social hierarchy and predestination. On choosing day, Beatrice abandons the faction she was raised in and chooses Dauntless, which is essentially a standing army that’s tasked with protecting the city. For the most part, they actually just do a lot of really cool-looking parkour.
    Beatrice, who gives herself the name Tris, must now learn to navigate and survive her new faction, members of which live and train in a subterranean barracks. Everyone’s all a bit cartoonishly macho, making the ascension of our young protagonist all the more impressive.
    Woodley, as usual, is stellar. Much like Jennifer Lawrence, she’s an incredibly likeable young female lead. She has an unadorned beauty, which is a concept that flies in the face of the many Hollywood actresses whose looks are almost alien. Woodley’s Tris, like most of Woodleys’ characters, is steeped in straightforward honesty.
    Joining Woodley is Theo James as the enigmatic Four, the instructor of the new Dauntless initiates. He does “hardened leader” pretty well and then he eventually softens up.
    A criminally underused Kate Winslet also appears in the film. She plays Jeanine Matthews, the leader of Erudite faction. She fully believes in the stringent nature of the faction system, spouting clichéd lines about how human nature needs to be controlled. For an antagonist, she doesn’t get a whole lot of screen time, which may be a good thing, since her character feels so canned and one-dimensional.
    What really got me on board with this film was the third act. After all of the exposition and Tris developing, the film delivers. The hints of conflict and conspiracy that it had sprinkled throughout eventually explode. There are enough harrowing moments and twists to make for some good cinema.
    Have we reached carrying capacity for these dystopian young adult fantasy films yet? There are certainly similar motifs between “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games.” However, distributor Lionsgate has already greenlit the sequel “Insurgent,” and I can say that, largely due to Woodley’s efforts in “Divergent,” I will not dread watching the sequel.


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