Overview: In a postwar dystopian America, a teenage girl finds herself being hunted because she is unable to conform to a distinct personality type, a requirement in her faction-based community. Summit Entertainment/Lionsgate; 2014; Rated PG-13; 139 minutes.
Who Are You?: As Tris, Shailene Woodley brings to life a character who has no idea who she really is. Furthermore, Tris discovers that what makes her special is that she doesn’t really have a defined identity at all. Being Divergent means you’re a little bit of everything, or in other words, a well-rounded human being, which is frowned upon in this establishment. However, the status of Divergent in this movie translates into an inaccessible character who is impossible to relate to. She doesn’t have a distinct personality, which is the story’s intention, but it has the effect of distancing her from viewers. Woodley does a fair job portraying Tris, she just doesn’t have much to work with. The heavy, ready-made comparisons to a similar dystopian franchise, Hunger Games, and its main character makes this disconnection even more obvious, as Katniss is known as assured in who she is and what she stands for.
Hot “Four” Teacher: The romance (which, as we all know, is the key to a successful YA franchise these days) falls flat here. The mysterious, cool guy (named Four) falling for the mousy, awkward girl makes for some extremely uncomfortable scenes. Although only two years is supposed to separate these two characters’ ages, it looks like the age difference is much more. Shailene Woodley and Theo James have zero chemistry. Their scenes appear more like a young girl making out with her hot and brooding older brother.
So, What’s it Really About?: Too many stories are attempted in this movie. The plot has too many layers, and the conflict is entirely too complicated. The most traceable point is a teenage girl’s journey of discovering herself by making her own choices and not abiding by the rules or surrendering to conformity. That is enough for a movie in and of itself. Add the layer of her being hunted down for her Divergent status and inability to conform. Then add a war brewing among the factions for a largely unconvincing reason. We are provided only off-handed comments throughout the first half of the film alluding to rising tensions between the factions, and then suddenly (and confusingly) a slaughter takes place.
In Other Words: Viewers who have not read the book are likely to be confused by the multiple plots and characters crammed into one movie, even though its run time is almost three hours. The basic story has potential, but the overall product suffers because of the lack of chemistry between the main characters and their complete inability to be relatable to viewers.