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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Movie Review - Divergent

Divergent (2014)
Starring Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, and Kate Winslet
Directed by Neil Burger

I feel like it's wrong that I didn't hate Divergent.  In reality, it's a bit of a carbon copy of The Hunger Games franchise -- dystopian society in a ravaged United States, different segments of the population broken off into distinct groups, girl savior tries to take down the evil governmental figurehead.  Much to my surprise, however, I found Divergent an interesting enough start of a series of films.  Unfortunately, I'm not quite sure from this point forward how the films progress into something worth watching, but the first flick is at least moderately appealing.

As mentioned, the overarching premise of Divergent is that the residents of the United States -- or at least the residents in the walled city of Chicago -- are broken up into five groups.  Each group represents one of the following qualities -- smart, kind, honest, selfless, brave -- and when teens reach the age of sixteen they must choose which quality they will follow for the rest of their lives after taking a specially designed test that helps them hone in on where they most likely belong.  Teen sister and brother Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) and Caleb (Ansel Elgort) have grown up with parents (Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn) who belong to the community of Abnegation which controls the government, but at the Choosing Ceremony, Caleb joins Erudite (the "smart" clique which desires to run the government) and Beatrice joins Dauntless (the "brave" group which is essentially the law enforcement aspect of the society).  Upon joining Dauntless, Beatrice shortens her name to Tris and soon discovers that she may not be cut out for this new life.  However, once you've chosen your community, you're stuck there and if you don't fit, you'll be forced to become homeless out on the streets.

Tris is also faced with the notion that her initial test to determine which group she belonged in came back showing that she was "divergent" -- meaning that she doesn't belong to any one group.  Divergents are not looked upon in a positive light by Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) who sees Divergents as too independently-minded and unwilling to kowtow to her wishes.  While Jeanine seemingly has everyone's best wishes at heart, her only goal is to push Erudite to the forefront of the community and she'll stop at nothing to see that happen.

Admittedly, it's all a bit ridiculous.  And it's all a bit of a rehash of The Hunger Games.  However, I did find myself intrigued by the plot.  Yes, Tris's training goes on for a bit too long and a romance with one of her fellow Dauntless colleagues seems forced and unnecessary (at least this early in the game), but I can't really say I was ever bored.  The acting is more than acceptable for a film like this -- meaning a film appealing to a youthful audience who may not care about such things -- and it elevates the flick to a higher level.

As I mentioned above, however, I can't quite see how this storyline carries on for three more films.  Quite honestly, the film concludes in a way that the story could've just ended and I'd have been fine with not discovering anything else about the community.  How they craft a tale that holds my interest in the future will be difficult and seemingly not possible.  I hope I'm proven wrong.  While Divergent isn't quite The Hunger Games in quality, it's certainly head over heels better than the Twilight saga.

The RyMickey Rating:  C+

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