Sometimes it’s really nice to know where you belong. Knowing your place in the family, your job at the office, your responsibilities and what is expected of you. However, it can easily become a yoke around your neck keeping you from exploring beyond what we’ve come to call your “comfort zone”. Are you comfortable because it’s all you’ve ever known or are you seeking more because you were meant for more? Divergent, the new blockbuster directed by Neil Burger, aims to explore what happens if we turn society into rigid and distinct comfort zones and don’t let anyone reach for more.
*** Disclaimer – I have NOT read the books. *** I had no clue what the series was about beyond the trailer when I went to see it. So any conversation about how the movie compares to the book or how the casting was off will not be coming from me. This might mean I might slip into spoilers, but it’s not really a movie that has spoilers, so if you’re a book lover, go see the film and come back and see how wrong I am.
Regardless, this was a great movie. Based on the trailers I fully expected to spend the whole film comparing it to The Hunger Games, and the lead actress, Shailene Woodley (from The Descendents and The Spectacular Now) to Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence. Thankfully, this movie stands on its own. There are extreme similarities, but the filmmakers have obviously taken great care to create a different atmosphere. The world we meet is post-War Chicago. A wall has been constructed to protect the people in the city from whatever lies outside. Society has been divided into five factions – the truthful Candor, the know-it-all Erudite, the brave and crazy Dauntless, the helpful and self-righteous Abnegation, and the peaceful hard workers Amity. We only really meet people from the first 4. If you’re not taken into one of these factions on your “choosing day” (slightly less scary than the Reaping), you live your life factionless.
Many movies about this kind of dystopian society might focus on the factionless (Demolition Man comes to mind), but instead Divergent focused on a young woman who doesn’t know what or who she wants to be – because she is all of those things, which makes her divergent from the normal outcome of the aptitude tests. She chooses Dauntless and goes through rigorous training to prove she has what it takes to be brave and crazy, making good friends along the way, particularly her trainer, “Four” (Theo James – seriously hot) who she eventually falls for.
The big danger in the film that is fairly hard to buy into – being divergent means you don’t fit into society. The Erudite (led by a cold Kate Winslet) are trying to take over society from the Abnegation, which means this faction system doesn’t really work, so why get rid of the divergents? The whole film sets up the idea the being different is bad, but it’s hard to actually follow their understanding of why, given that people are wacky within their individual factions. I bet if I read the book, that part will make more sense and feel like it matters.
However, in terms of enjoying the film, it totally doesn’t matter. Ashley Judd, as Woodley’s mother, makes it clear that people will kill any divergents, likely to keep them from taking over since having a well-rounded personality probably does make you a threat. So I was totally with Woodley when she wanted to fight the good fight. The action sequences were terrific – she’s very believable as a woman coming into her own – fighting skills, knowing herself, falling in love, etc. Good role model, good heroine. Good movie.
I will totally see any future entries in this trilogy.
Good review. The YA novel adaptation genre is starting to get a bit old and stale now in my eyes. Although you can’t tell Hollywood that!
Your main issue about wondering if the divided society is even working if there are divergents is the central theme to the entire trilogy. The only important thing they left out of the film is that Marcus knows something big that will have a huge impact on the city’s way of life and that’s the real reason Jeanine wants to overthrow Abnegation, because she wants everything to stay the same. It’s all hidden on a disc Tris also gets her hands on at the end and must protect. It’ll be easy enough to smush that into the beginning of the second film, but it would’ve been nice to let non book readers know there was definitely something bigger going on in this world.
As a reader of the trilogy, I dug the first film. I like the books, but don’t love them. Roth was clearly a first time writer when she started this, and boy does it show. However, I was pleased they mainly stuck to the books (esp. casting), except something they throw in at the climax, but clearly for cinematic purposes that won’t cock up the rest of the story.
I’m sure we’ll have lots to discuss during our next RI recording 😉
Nice review here Jess, glad to see I’m not the only one amongst bloggers who enjoyed this. “Thankfully, this movie stands on its own” I feel that way too, and felt that the filmmakers care about Veronica Roth’s vision of dystopian society, instead of just making this an action adventure. I really like Woodley and James here, despite the flaws I was entertained and am looking forward to future movies of this franchise.
Top work. Still on the fence about whether to catch this.
Will this be the making of Shailene Woodley. I was impressed with her in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants – she’s definitely got star quality.
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