A young woman, small and troubled, faces off against a totalitarian dystopia bent on control of the remaining world after the disaster of total war. It may sound achingly familiar, but we haven’t quite been here before. Divergent, based on the popular book series by Veronica Roth, follows the story of Beatrice-turned-Tris (Shailene Woodley), a young woman existing in a world divided by Factions, castes based on different human temperaments rigidly upheld to preserve an everlasting peace. When an aptitude test fails to assign Tris a Faction, even the one her family comes from, Abnegation, she is told she is Divergent, a secret she must keep or lose her life. Choosing to enter the warrior class, Dauntless, instead of remaining with her family, Tris is subjected to a rigorous series of training tests both mental and physical to determine if she is allowed to stay in her chosen Faction or to be cast out as one of the homeless Factionless. But trouble is brewing between the governing Abnegation Faction and the coldly intelligent Erudites , and soon Tris, and those close to her, are drawn into a conflict bigger than themselves.
I have not read Divergent or any of its accompanying sequels, and so entered the theater with fresh eyes, if a skeptical heart. What I found was a troubled film, one held up on weak foundations, and with a poor finishing job to match its underlying structure. No amount of beautiful CG landscaping can hide the flaws in Divergent’s grand design. Here we’ve got a knotty premise coupled with issues of casting, clarity, and what I assume is interpretation of original material. Though the film tries to make something out of what it has to work with, the results are, ultimately, unsatisfying, and speak to the larger picture of its particular genre.