Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews
Divergent | Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd, Zoe Kravitz, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Miles Teller, Jai Courtney, Theo James | Review
- Category: Jacqueline Monahan
- Published on 23 March 2014
- Written by Jacqueline Monahan
Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Veronica Roth’s bestselling novel comes to the screen in this 140 minute foray into a futuristic world (set in Chicago) where the population is separated by personality.
Amity (Peaceful) Candor (Honest) Erudite (Intelligent) Dauntless (Brave) and Abnegation (Selfless) share the Windy City in apparent contentment, until one fateful Choosing Day, when every 16-year-old pledges allegiance to their born-into faction or chooses another. Once a choice is made, it is irrevocable. Those unsuccessful within their faction become “factionless” – homeless, aimless, and forced to live in crushing poverty.
Before this happens, brain scans read each adolescent’s responses in a series of theoretical tests that place them in different, often dangerous situations. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) possesses traits in three different areas, making her divergent – a very dangerous thing to be. She is told to keep this information secret at all costs.
Beatrice and brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) join differing factions on Choosing Day, shocking their parents (Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd). Caleb becomes an Erudite egghead while Beatrice, now calling herself Tris, becomes one of the adrenaline junkie, thrill-seeking Dauntless.
Now living more scrappily than happily ever after, Tris must battle her own faction-mates for acceptance. As an initiate, she is not a confirmed member of Dauntless until she passes a series of (seemingly) endless physical stamina and hand-to-hand combat scenarios, with results ranked on a scoreboard at the end of each day.
Like any YA heroine, Tris finds new friends in Christina (Zoe Kravitz) and Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) as well as nemeses Peter (Miles Teller) and Eric (Jai Courtney). And yes, there’s a love interest in initiate instructor Four (Theo James).
The de rigueur romance, while tougher than most, is still a predictable patch to get through. Most of the film is connected to the trials of new Dauntless, but slithering through the proceedings at fact-finding intervals is platinum-haired Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews, who is threatened by individuality to the point of wanting to eradicate it, although she herself bucks the cliché about blondes being intellectually challenged.
Director Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless) constructs a compelling film (the first half is more successful) with effective visuals and introductions that set up the premise and provide bleak, dystopian views of a rundown Chicago, including Navy Pier, the Marina Towers and Sears (now Willis) Tower. The color-coded factions make a know-your-place, don’t question-anything point about complacency and contrived happiness, the entitlement of intelligence, and the danger of deviation.
A bit long and sometimes predictable, the series of Dauntless prove-yourself tests take up most of the film, the romance seems forced (Theo James elicited giggles from the audience nearly every time he spoke – too much gravitas, I think) and poor Shailene Woodley, who does a fine job of portraying the intrepid Tris, must face even more critical trials in being compared to Jennifer Lawrence of the wildly popular Hunger Games franchise.
There are two more novels in Roth’s Divergent Trilogy that are destined for the screen, so stay tuned for more Tris-capades and Four-play.