McCoy On Movies: Divergent

McCoy On Movies: Divergent

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“Seriously, this is better than smelling whatever that was inside that train any longer!” Christina (Zoë Kravitz) and Beatrice a.k.a. Tris (Shailene Woodley) in a scene from director Neil Burger’s adaptation of Veronica Roth’s teen action drama/thriller DIVERGENT. Credit: Jaap Buitendijk © 2013 Summit Entertainment, LLC. All Rights Reserved. 


KEY CAST MEMBERS: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Maggie Q, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Zoë Kravitz, Ray Stevenson, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Tony Goldwyn, Ansel Elgort, Ben Lamb, Amy Newbold and Mekhi Phifer

WRITER(S): Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor (screenplay); Veronica Roth (novel on which the film is based)

DIRECTOR(S): Neil Burger


60 SECOND PLOT SYNOPSIS (OR AS CLOSE TO IT AS ONE CAN TRY TO MAKE): Based on the best-selling book series by Veronica Roth, Divergent stars Shailene Woodley as Beatrice Prior. Living in a dystopian future in a city that was once Chicago, Beatrice has arrived at the age where she and her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) will learn what faction they are best suited to live in for the rest of their lives.

Oh – maybe I should back up a sec so this makes sense.

You see, in this future, people live in districts factions based on their personality traits. And while Beatrice and Caleb’s parents (Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn, respectively) have brought them up to belong to the caring Abnegation faction, their tests lead them to choose new ones: Erudite (The Intelligent) for Caleb; Dauntless (The Brave) for Beatrice. And after her tester Tori (Maggie Q) freaks out, Beatrice learns the one thing she didn’t count on: Her tests revealing that she does not belong to the Dauntless, the Erudite or her own Abnegation factions, for she is “divergent” – and that is a very, very bad thing in this new world …

Meanwhile, Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) is happy to see Beatrice choose the Dauntless faction, which is where Beatrice – now re-dubbing herself as just Tris – first meets her fellow new recruits Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Peter (Miles Teller), Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) and Molly (Amy Newbold). And while Eric (Jai Courtney) seems to be a take-no-prisoners instructor, there is another one – Four (Theo James) – that seems smarter, kinder and sees something special in her … Or does he?

As Tris comes to learn, however, nothing in this new world is quite as it seems – and she might need all of her divergent skills to survive in it.

WHO WILL LIKE THIS FILM THE MOST?: Fans of the Divergent book series, Shaliene Woodley fans, Theo James fans old and new, people interested in seeing Kate Winslet do something outside of her usual comfort zone.

WHO WON’T – OR SHOULDN’T – LIKE THIS FILM?: People who like the Hunger Games more than the Divergent book series; people who who already feel they saw this movie when they saw The Hunger Games; those over the teen hero genre of drama/action film

BOTTOM LINE – IS IT GOOD, GREAT, BAD OR DOWNRIGHT AWFUL? Given the strong performances and chemistry of its two leads, Divergent is a solid, entertaining film sure to appeal to its core audience (and women of all ages).

If you’ve seen The Hunger Games, however, the name of this film might be quite ironic … For just about everything about Divergent may leave you feeling cinematic déjá vu.

WHAT’S GOOD (OR BAD) ABOUT IT?: Much to author Veronica Roth’s chagrin, t’s impossible to discuss Divergent without mentioning just how much her book (or at least its big-screen version) has in common with The Hunger Games. Need a refresher? Let’s take a look:

The Hunger Games vs. Divergent: A Cheat Sheet

Hunger Games (HG) setting: Dystopian future where people live in districts

Divergent (DV) setting: Dystopian world where people are assigned to “factions,” a.k.a districts based on their personalities

HG hero: Young female Caucasian brunette named Katniss Everdeen; comes from a poor family and is forced into action to save her sister

DV hero: Young female Caucasian brunette named Beatrice Prior a.k.a Tris; comes from a family that is part of the factions’ government yet is still poor and humble

HG villains: A group of elite leaders who force the poor’s youth into battle for their own amusement and to keep the subordinates in line … Not to mention the other combatants who want to reign supreme in battle

DV villains: A group of elite leaders who force youths to choose a faction based on their personality test results – unless they can’t be controlled easily … Not to mention the other members of various factions that want to rule and/or be the stars of their faction

HG hero’s assistant: A former combatant that helps train our young hero so she can survive and possibly one day overthrow the evil rulers

DV hero’s assistant: A leader of her new faction who can tell she is divergent and yet doesn’t turn her in … As she learns skills that might one day help her overthrow the evil rulers

I’d say more, but you might actually want to still watch the movie …
That being said, Woodley and James do a great job together on screen as they have a formidable chemistry, deliver performances that make their characters relatable, well-rounded, root-worthy, interesting and entertaining. Whereas Jennifer Lawrence’s performance in the first HG had a bit of “you can tell she’s destined for bigger things” air to her, Woodley’s Tris comes off much more naïve before she comes of age, providing enough depth to make you overlook all of her Katniss-like qualities. The same can be said of James as he is deeper than many of his male counterparts (and especially HG‘s Peeta Mellark) as he – to parody an OLD deodorant’s catchphrase – is strong enough for the male viewers to enjoy his performance but truly made for the woman (or at least he was judging by the reactions of the female viewers in attendance at the screening I attended). 
Rouding out the cast, Winslet does her best Jodie Foster in Elysium impression right down to the skirt-suit and high heels while Kravitz does the same in the spunky sidekick role. Male counterpart-wise, Courtney rocks his musclebound-Macklemore look to effective results as the Karate Kid-style dojo master and Teller fulfills the need for the jerky-but-not-really-but-still-kinda is guy in Tris’ new recruit group. 
The bottom line is this: Divergent is like a good hamburger. It’s tasty, it’s done well and while it’s not going to win any awards or be considered among sci-fi classics, it’s not a bad movie. But much like Pepsi, Burger King, Reebok and Art Garfunkel, Divergent is good – but it’s always going to be compared to its natural competitor that first established itself as the leader. 
But don’t feel bad if you choose to follow the masses of others likely to see the movie. It’ll entertain you … At least until The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 hits theaters this November. 


DIVERGENT – Trailer – Official [HD] – 2014