Kyle J. Steenblik

My Angst Gland is Divergent and My Ears Hurt.

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tris-divergent-posterImagine if you will a late 1997-television teen-soap opera set in a post war dystopian society, written by Ayn Rand. That is how I would describe Divergent, except it isn’t that good. If this had been produced for television, there would be time to develop characters, and explain this new caste system before the breakneck crawl of a climax. For nearly 2.5 hours, I was waiting for any of the main characters to develop into someone compelling, about whom I could care. I waited for a reasonable exposition on the origin of the dystopian society. I waited for any explanation on the Divergent, other than they are Divergent, and perceived as a threat. I waited for Shailene Woodley to stop screeching like a 14-year-old chain smoker. Finally, I waited for the film to end, and I waited a long time.

There are some fundamental problems with this movie. It appears to be made for fans of the books, but not anyone else. Without the knowledge one would acquire from reading the story beforehand, it is very difficult to understand the dystopian society, and the caste system they developed. I’m sure anyone familiar with the novels experienced a very different film than I. The action and character development move in fits and starts throughout the film, again seeming to rely on audience knowledge to fill in the gaps. The events of this film unfold without elucidation or rationale. There is no sense that characters exist when they are not directly involved in any action, and there is no life outside the camera frame. There is simply no depth to the world, characters or the story in this movie. I was more engaged wondering which of the four factions of this society does all the construction, maintenance, and general manual labor.

In a futuristic dystopia where society is divided into five factions, Abnegation the selfless, Dauntless the brave, Erudite the intelligent, Candor the honest, and Amity the peaceful. When teenagers come of age, they are tested to determine for which faction they are best suited. They then have to decide which faction they will choose for the rest of their lives, possibly leaving behind everyone they know and love.

divergent - character posters - ericWhen Beatrice prior (Shailene Woodley), born into Abnegation, is tested, her results are inconclusive. She is a Divergent, she does is not suited for any one faction, but for multiple. This secret could prove life threatening if anyone finds out. When Beatrice chooses, she casts in with Dauntless leaving the relative safety of her family behind. She is tested beyond her limits during the Dauntless initiation process all new recruiters must pass, or they will be cast out into the faction less to fend for themselves. During this initiation Beatrice, who renamed herself Tris, discovers a plot by the Erudite faction to overthrow Abnegation for control of the government, and all other factions.

With all the shortcomings I see in this film it is hard for me enumerate them here. The whole thing is a mess and it just doesn’t make sense. It actually makes even less sense if you spend half a moment to think about each plot-point, which you will have plenty of time to do while you sit in a theatre waiting for something interesting to happen. The performances waver between uninteresting, to downright annoying. I genuinely feel bad for the performers in this film that actually practiced their craft and delivered acceptable performances. The best I can wish them is that this film recedes into obscurity and each actor is able to walk away from this franchise unencumbered. Except for Shailene Woodley, Her nails on a chalkboard performance was physically painful to endure and left me silently begging for Tris to shut up. My only hope is that she eventual matures and grows as an actor, as I believe she has the potential to do.

I would offer a recommendation to anyone that might be interested in this film; read the book, it could only be better. For those that know me, this would be the first time I’veu recommended reading a book I have not read, and reading the book instead of seeing the movie, as opposed to in addition to seeing the movie.

Divergent, 3 out of 10 stick to the book, if the book is as bad as the movie, at least you could have the pleasure of throwing it out the window.

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