The much anticipated science-fiction film Divergent opened this weekend to mixed reviews. Divergent is a thrilling action-adventure film set in a world where people are divided into distinct factions based upon human virtues. Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is warned, via a test given to every sixteen year-old, that she is divergent. This warning means that she will never fit into any one group of the five groups in this post-war culture. When Tris discovers a conspiracy by a faction leader (Kate Winslet) to destroy all divergent’s she must learn to trust in the mysterious Four (Theo James). Four becomes her ally and love-interest (refreshingly without sexual scenes or nudity). Tris and Four must find out what makes being divergent so dangerous to the various “tribes” before it is too late.
Divergent only received a 40% “fresh” rating by the popular movie site Rotten Tomatoes. In spite of this I took the bait and went to see it over the weekend. While it did not have a great script it actually played out rather nicely on the screen. It is filled with action, as you would expect, and some surprises, though not too many. In a much less powerful way it reminded me of The Hunger Games trilogy and the two movies that have been based upon the best-selling books.
Divergent is based on a young-adult novel by Veronica Roth and opens with a 22nd-century Chicago in what critic Steven Rea calls, “a doomopolis, its skyscrapers patched and appended, its bridges broken, its vacant lots turned to, um, vacant lots. The El still works, although exiting a train may require hurling yourself off while it’s speeding along.” Pretty cool stuff if you live in the Chicago area as I do. The people in the 22nd century are divided into these “tribes” (factions/groups) of which there are five as I said above. These groups all have intriguing names and that work nicely in the film’s storyline. The first is Abegnation, an order of Zen-like folk devoted to serving others. Another is Amity, a group of peace-loving, patient souls (also known as pushovers). Candor is an honest, forthright group. Dauntless consists of the brave, the strong, the protectors and Erudite of the coolly intellectual, the scientists, techies and control freaks.
Tris discovers that she does not fit any of these five factions, thus she is, as the title suggests, a divergent. This is where the fun begins. Divergent is suspenseful and clearly sequel-ready. It fits well with movies like Limitless, The Illusionist and The Hunger Games, however it does not rise to the level of these films in several ways. I recommend it for two reasons: pure fun and the serious question it raises that every society must face: “How do we treat those who do not conform to the various groups and factions which we all tend to think constitute normal life?” Take George Orwell’s 1984 and mix in some action scenes and you get something like Divergent. Some churches, and sub-church groups, could stand to see and discuss the film with profit. I am serious about this idea!