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Movie Review: ‘Divergent’

“Divergent,” a film based on author Veronica Roth’s young adult series of the same name, attempts to carve its place among other blockbuster teen movies like “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter.” Unfortunately, the ways in which the film diverges from the movie standard for portraying young adult fiction are by far its greatest faults, followed closely by its fidelity to the book. Unlike “The Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter,” the “Divergent” film series fails to mature and to correct the ideological fallacies of its source. I wholeheartedly expected the movie’s director, Neil Burger, and screenwriters to write over some of Roth’s two-dimensional characters and motiveless plot threads, but instead they play low, toward the common denominator of audience. You could say they do the best with what they have, but for a film about individual identity, “Divergent” feels extremely mainstream.

Based on the idea that total conformity will eventually lead to the best kind of divergence within the population—smart, kind, brave, honest and selfless rebels—“Divergent” creates its own dystopian fantasy in a futuristic Chicago. The interplay with the city, including lovely shots of a totally dark skyline, a creepy marshland that surrounds downtown and extras climbing over every spare piece of the L, was very fun to watch. As a Chicagoan, I appreciated the film’s reverence for a very American-style ruin, as if the city were comparable to Rome. The special effects and electronic soundtrack that take the audience up and over the landscape, including a pretty cool zip-line ride at night, are a testament to what the film does best: really cool mini music videos for Ellie Goulding.

The rest of the film, being ever true to the book, follows Tris, played by Shailene Woodley, as she bucks against the system that created her. In Tris’ world, teens must choose to belong to a faction that will eventually supersede their families: the brave Dauntless, intelligent Erudite, selfless Abnegation, kind Amity and honest Candor. Woodley does a lovely job as Tris, managing to play up her faults as a naive and somewhat abrasive teenage girl against the Christ-like personality Roth hammers into her throughout the series’ three-book run. Kate Winslet as the evil Jeanine and Theo James as the love interest, brilliantly named Four, act as much-needed eye candy beside Woodley and offer some acting to get excited about. It is between these three characters that audiences will find “Divergent”’s unexpectedly humorous moments and its necessarily poignant ones—look out for Tris and Four’s knife-wielding skills against Jeanine’s razor-sharp wit.

Rather, razor-sharp as Roth and her hundreds of thousands of preteen fans will see it. As the logic and the fantasy that “Divergent” asks viewers to buy into fell flat for me, I imagine it will for most people over the age of 15. Anyone who understands that simply wanting absolute power isn’t enough motivation to destroy an entire society will leave the theater dazed and confused. Aside from the plethora of psychopaths in “Divergent,” its attack on what I can only call blind intellectuals was also jarring. Everyone—except for Tris and Four, of course—seems kind of stupid. A lack of intellectual thrust in a film is fine—“the Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter” series don’t attempt to root for good old-fashioned learning, as Katniss never really goes to school and Harry drops out his senior year at Hogwarts—but when a major category of the population in “Divergent” identifies as Erudite, I expect the razor-sharp wit to actually be razor-sharp. But for those who are able to suspend their disbelief (and education), “Divergent” will prove to be fun to watch.

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  • Asdf says:

    People. The reviewer is just giving her opinion. I moderately enjoyed the books, but I do agree that there are major loopholes in the plot. One of my pet peeves is when people act like crazed fangirls/fanboys: “OMG you’re so stupid Tris is so brave and Four is so hot!!!!!!!!!” Keep in mind that this movie-verse is fictional.

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  • Charles Morris says:

    It’s like you don’t even care about Tris. I mean she’s out there fighting for her life and you’re just like…what, writing reviews? You’re being so mean! They worked so hard and this movie is so important. It’s like you don’t even get what it means to be Divergent.

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  • Amy Sands says:

    “Anyone who understands that simply wanting absolute power isn’t enough motivation to destroy an entire society will leave the theater dazed and confused.” I feel like this is what makes the movie fictional. Obviously that isn’t enough motivation to destroy an entire society. Of course that’s fictional. I don’t think that aspect was meant to be realistic whatsoever, and that’s okay; movies are allowed to do that and that doesn’t necessarily make them bad movies. It’s a characteristic that we as the audience have to accept when we enter the fictional world of “Divergent.” While I agree that there are holes in this particular fictional world, and it is no where near as intricate and well thought-out as the world of Harry Potter, it’s important to recognize that there are artistic liberties that the authors get to establish. These artistic liberties are things that audiences must temporarily accept as “true” upon entering the fictional worlds authors create, regardless of how well the author constructs their fictional world.

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  • Anonymous says:

    TROLL LA LA LA LA

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  • Anonymous says:

    Julia Zasso, do you know how to read? Do you kknow how to analyze a movie? Clearly, you do not. What is wrong with you? I don’t think you even saw the movie, because you make broad, sweeping claims that really do not make any sense without citing any textual evidence.

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  • Anonymous says:

    I don’t think you understand. I think you thought it was confusing which it is in some parts but you can’t write a bad review based on just one thing. I for one, do not think it is “mainstream” but I strongly disagree with this interview. Keep in mind, this is just an opinion just like yours.

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  • Cassidy Smith says:

    The movie is a magnificent sci-fi action packed movie. I can see the
    Similarities but the plot and overall meaning of the movie is way different.
    I Definetly refer this movie to everyone!

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  • Kele says:

    I’m 16 and I watched it after reading the book. I loved the book and I loved the movie. I don;t know what you’re talking about. I don;t think you understand the movie (or the book) at all.

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Student Life | The independent newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis since 1878