The young adult book to movie adaptation genre has been exploding. It’s hard not to acknowledge the popularity these films have had in the past decade. Some could make the argument that this genre could become the new “comic book” genre of film if the trend keeps going the way it is. The monster success of franchises like “Harry Potter”, “Twilight” , and “Hunger Games” cannot be ignored. Now we have “Divergent”. I got to see this movie a few days late. So, I had a chance to see the opening weekend box office which looks like another nice success for the genre of 54 million opening. This could be another hit for the genre, but does the movie’s quality justify the money it’s making? While there are more than a few familiar elements to those who have spent some time in the genre but there is enough to separate it to stand on its own with solid acting from its young cast and a very interesting world that takes its time with a smart script and steady direction. I am interested in what comes in next in the series.
In a dystopian future where everyone is divided into different fractions based on a single test to find their place in their society. However the very few don’t fit into one single faction. This is called Divergent. Considered dangerous to society, a Divergent fear for their own lives. A young women learns that she is a Divergent but can’t let anyone find out. She joins up with the Warrior clan, the Dauntless faction. Here she has to grow through intense physical and physiological tests all while protecting her secret. She also learns of a power struggle that could threaten their entire society.
For full disclosure I have not read the books. I have no idea how close this follows books in the least bit. It is my understanding from a few friends that this follows the book well. Not that following the books makes a good movie or not. But anyways let’s get back on point here.
Many here will also start comparing it to “The Hunger Games” because of some of its similarities to it and other contemporary young adult counterparts. Certainly there are a few similarities between this movie and others, especially “The Hunger Games”. While there is some precedent to these comparisons but I feel as though this story has enough of its own material to stand on its own and not feel too redundant.
What’s really surprising about this film is how nice of a buildup it takes with the main story and characters. It doesn’t rush nor jump around but moves at a very calm pacing that never drags and kept me invested in what I was watching. In doing this, it develops the main characters into more than typical “stock” ones. Most of this build up is centered around the main character, Tris played by Shaliene Woodly. She does a great job at playing the character. She brings a likeability, and believability to the role. Also she has good chemistry with her co-star Theo James, who is the stoic and sometimes emotionless solider Four. She has been continuing to grow as an actress and this is just another bright spot on her resume.
Another big strong spot of the film is director Neil Burger. He shows a steady hand at directing and getting good performances out of his actors. He also gets the movie to hit it’s emotional beats as well. The moments that were supposed to be emotional were emotional. It’s exciting when it wants to be exciting. It was touching when it wanted to be touching, which honestly surprised me. The trailer didn’t strike me as anything special. He did a good job at elevating the material. He’s not going to be the next Christopher Nolan by any means but he did a good job with the film. The movie did at times feel a bit too much like “Hunger Games” and that’s one of the biggest flaws with his directing. Other than that I thought he did a good job.
One of the gripes I have with the film is you can tell these young actors are not proficient in fighting or handling firearms. It would have been nice if the actor went through a little bit more training before the film because their inexperience is noticeable from time to time. Also some of the younger actors who play Tris’s friends are a little bland and forgettable. Maybe the film could have been a bit shorter or perhaps using that screen time to show more of Kate Winslet character more. She did a good job with her role in but as a character I thought she needed more time to firmly establish her character. It also seems strange that this society is being protected by a bunch of young adults instead of adults. Which is just you just have to ignore that logic and roll with it.
The movie ends with a note of uncertainty. I’m not sure exactly where the next entry will go, however I am more than willing to go out and see it. This is a movie that does borrow from its counter parts and isn’t as good as “Hunger Games” or “Harry Potter” but it’s a solid foundation to continue from. I’d say at a fair price I would buy it on Blu-Ray. It has solid acting, good directing and a great pacing and interesting plot. This is a good addition to the young adult genre and should be given a shot.