A good YA franchise is paved by good setup. Divergent is too good to be an opening that mostly paved the road for the sequels, not for the film itself. Only Shailene Woodley’s performance could salvage it.
“If you wanna survive, follow me,” said Four.
Year 2014 is certainly the year of Young Adult films adapted from bestselling YA novels; as we have Ender’s Game, Divergent, The Fault in Our Stars, The Maze Runner, and the first part of THG: Mockingjay. For now, let’s just start with Divergent, adaptation of Veronica Roth’s dystopian trilogy that might be rivalling The Hunger Games (someday, maybe).
In a dystopian world, people are divided into factions with proud names like Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Candor and Amity. The heroine, Beatrice Prior a.k.a Tris (Shailene Woodley), lives okay in such world until the day she takes the test to decide which faction she belongs. Lucky Tris is diagnosed as a ‘divergent’, a person with thoughts that go beyond any faction’s standard and is considered a menace by the govt.
For her own sake, Tris finally decides to join ‘Dauntless.’ Mentored and ill treated by Four (Theo James) and Eric (Jai Courtney), she survives that wild factions. When Tris and Four learns that an Erudite, Jeanine (Kate Winslet), plans to terminate all divergents, they decides to rise up and kick some arses.
Director Neil Burger knows very well how to build the dystopian world of Divergent that looks both futuristic and vintage; as he displays the system that uphold people. It’s good that the film doesn’t look like The Hunger Games (I don’t need to compare both of them, though) although structurally they’re both similar. Divergent seemingly strips off the ‘being adult’ part and enjoys playing the ‘teenager’ side of the story—like in displaying how Tris tries to survive on the faction that looks like other high school films, if not for the dystopian atmosphere. To be honest, as a film that blends YA and political reflections, Divergent feels a little cheesy.
What makes this film worth-the-watch is obviously Shailene Woodley with her outstanding performance. Woodley strips off her usual ‘good girl’ attitude and adds good amounts of badass girl through Tris. She consistently performs good transition from an ordinary girl to a Dauntless revolutionary leader. To be honest (again), her character sometimes reminds me to Katniss in THG, if Woodley doesn’t show all the qualities to bring differences.
However, Woodley only shines alone; other casts cannot catch up with her consistency. Furthermore, the plot seems to worship and highlight Woodley—giving her all the things to get attention as a badass heroine. At the end of the film, I just realize that this soon-to-be franchise saves all its talents and potencies for the sequel that I expect to top this Divergent. Without Woodley and the planned trilogy, Divergent is nothing more than just a popcorn entertainment.
Adventure, Sci-Fi, Adaptation Directed by: Neil Burger Written by: Evan Dougherty, Vanessa Taylor based on the book by Veronica Roth Starred by: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jai Courtney, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz Running Time: 139 mins