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Review: Divergent


So many dystopian America, female-lead, Young Adult book adaptations to watch and so little time.Divergent, based on Veronica Roth’s novel of the same name, is the most recent ‘next’ Harry PotterNarnia Twilight Hunger Games Mortal Instruments Hunger Games and if I’m honest, it’s not that bad.

In the future, Chicago is walled up because America has long-ago been war-ravaged. The remaining inhabitants have been divided up into super conformist groups of Nice Government, Parkour Police, Lawyers, Farmers, Intelligent People and The Homeless. When Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley) turns 16 she, like all coming of age, is given an aptitude test to see which Faction she will reside in, mate with, work for and basically dedicate the rest of her life to. However, during her test she (gasp!) doesn’t fit any one Faction and must hide this fact, as those who don’t fit in are Divergents and must be hunted down because as Evil-Kate Winslet always says, “if you don’t fit into a category, you can’t be controlled.”

Sure, the plot is still teen angst, identity-seeking, romance blah but when the film really gets into its tonal meat, it does it well. Of the film’s two hour forty runtime only about thirty of those minutes focus on Shailene Woodley’s borderline paedophile-romance with her Faction instructor, Four (Theo James) – no, seriously, that’s his name – spending the rest of the film exploring its adult themes in a remarkably serious manner.

Part Equilibrium, part Bee Movie (YEP!) and part Schyeah, Stephanie Meyer wishes…, Divergent gets stuff done. Director Neil Burger (Limitless) and writers Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Vanessa Taylor (Alias) have a handle on their source material and are confident in their rich and realistic adaptation. In a genre saturated with below-par product, Divergent explores its socio-political and coming of age themes in a completely natural way. Where The Hunger Games gets caught up in being insanely to-the-book, where Mortal Instruments chases the cheese or Twilight the… well, whatever that was all about, Divergent spends its time developing an ensemble of characters that just feel genuine, letting you sit back and take in what the film has to say without qualm.

That said, unless you are a hardcore fan of the ‘Divergent’ books or the YA genre there is only so much of a film like this that the average cinemagoer can take, meaning Goodwill/’Fight da power’/Identity-exploration fatigue sets in around the 90-minute mark. No matter how pleasant the myriad of Ellie Goulding tracks are or how great the production value is you start to wish for an intermission once the semi-repetitive character building montages kick in. I say intermission because you feel bad for not giving the film the 100% it deserves, which you would do if you could recharge halfway through.

It’s hard to say no to the sequel that is coming in 2015 as – what with the franchise’s premise – there are many more places the story can go. So long as future instalment(s) can keep up the degree of quality established in this first film, count this Average Joe in… just don’t stare and point at me as if I shouldn’t be there like that group of girls did, the sexists!


Divergent is in UK cinemas now.


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