The question of “When will it end?” will probably be asked in more than one context (the other two regarding the teenage girl vs. dystopia subgenre’s popularity and merely living during it). The Hunger Games’ new opponent for the crown, Divergent, still deserves opening and subsequent weekends before gauging what adoration and profit it accumulates for comparison. The upcoming sequels may also provide the chance to reveal locales and inhabitants more captivating than those in the first installment. But Divergent’s flaw is that it gives off a hesitance in picturing a more complex universe.
The story deals with our hero, Beatrice “Tris” Prior, having to choose between five factions despite not having a mental match with any of them. The choice she makes will evolve into situations of great risk to herself, as well as revelations of greater risk to those she cares about.
The world presented here, however, is nothing more than rust and regurgitation of class tension. Nothing about the costumes and structural design showed a new flavor. And the supporting cast is underutilized in development beyond the story’s main character couple, Johnny Rico… sorry, Beatrice and the cold but then(!) understanding Four. The Dauntless co-recruits are one-quip entourage whose moments of peril are blink and miss, Kate Winslet’s chance to flesh out (pun not intended) her villain’s motivation is barely followed through, and the roles of several fathers could have been greater despite the future setting being hinted as female-dominated. Only Miles Teller’s Peter is able to pull off dynamic chemistry playing against the lead thanks to being the biggest threat to her conditioning.
The plot is attention-keeping but lacks key situation resolution, with several scenes falling short of built tension pay-off. Finally, the CGI effect impressiveness is limited and occurs early (during a sharp hall of mirrors sequence), despite more realistic effects (FOR A CHANGE!) showing up throughout the narrative; especially one scene during which I shamefully couldn’t resist an under-breath song of “Use your jacket to plug the pipe.”
So where do the positives arise? Mainly through Shailene Woodley, who manages to present Rico… Tris as the driving force behind each dialogue scene. The actress is able to sell her character by having her embrace the situation instead of lamenting it; and at the same time express good transition between moods that Katniss would sulkingly sharpen arrows over. The most fun example of this comes when she’s accused of bluffing behind an aimed pistol, and channels Ash Williams on us all: “Why does everybody say that?”
The action sequences were another plus for coaxing a reaction of “Wait, this could end several ways” on several occasions.
The main romance benefits from post-liplock revelations instead of the teases of “They’re going to, but they might not” throughout the movie, but the best gift of all was providing a conclusion that throws out the element of foreshadowing, leaving the future in question for both the characters and viewers about what will come next and whether it will come at all.
The core character elements are barely different from The Hunger Games and its ilk, but the character of Rico – okay, I’m sorry for being confused by future Nazi references, co-ed quarters, tattoo parlor trips, characters getting knives thrown at them for not shutting up, AND the main character getting thrown out but allowed back in without qualm.
Anyways, Woodley’s Tris saves the film from disconnected flow caused by the “wow, ruins” backdrop and cast’s limited involvement by being the accelerator of what happens up to the end. The future may not be clear, but as it was for Tris, continuing the trilogy’s journey is what matters right now.
Update: 3’s too nice. 2.5/5