By Jess Lomas
April 8, 2014
The world has crumbled following a world war, yet again, and this time the key to society’s salvation lies with one teenage girl, yet again. Based on the bestselling novel by Veronica Roth, Divergent will invariably draw comparisons to The Hunger Games for its dystopian narrative, roots in Young Adult literature fandom, and attractive leads brooding for one another. Despite its similarities, Divergent expertly creates the world of a futuristic Chicago and its controlled inhabitants, setting it apart from similar tales and making it worthy of your time.
We meet our hero, Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), on the eve of her Choosing Ceremony, where she will decide her destiny. After the war that is said to have destroyed most of the world, peace is established by dividing society into five factions: Abnegation, the selfless, Erudite, who value intelligence, Dauntless, the brave who guard the city’s border, Amity, the peacekeepers, and Candor, who are honest above all else.
Beatrice, born into Abnegation, undergoes a test ahead of the ceremony to help determine which faction she really belongs to. Beatrice’s results are inconclusive, placing her in three factions and labeling her as ‘Divergent’, a person who defies the government’s ideology and threatens their supremacy. Warned to keep her results secret, Beatrice leaves her family for a new home.
Along with the other initiates, Beatrice, now called Tris, undergoes a series of tests to see whether she deserves to remain in her new faction. She meets new friends, Four (Theo James) and Christina (Zoe Kravitz), as well as foes Eric (Jai Courtney) and Peter (Miles Teller). When Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) leads a revolution to overthrow the Abnegation, it is the Divergent who are left to fight for freedom.
Directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist), there’s a lot of world-building in Divergent that contributes to its two-hour runtime. Thankfully the length never feels like a chore and the assembled cast delivers true-to-the-text performances that will delight fans of the novel and newcomers. Woodley proves once again she is a force to be reckoned with and Teller nails the mischievous bad guy, making you wish his character had more screen time.
Tris is no Katniss Everdeen, and Divergent is a better film for not trying to impersonate a similar trilogy. It won’t excite the world to the extent of The Hunger Games but this more humble offering is nevertheless exciting, fun, and, above all, satisfying.
Divergent arrives in Australian cinemas April 10, 2014.