Being a big fan of Veronica Roth's book series, I was thrilled to hear that Divergent was being made into a film. It suffers from being compared to the Hunger Games trilogy and admittedly, the first film isn't nearly as good. However, the overall themes and messages behind Divergent make it worth watching.
In the future, society has been divided into five factions based on a persons aptitudes and values. The Dauntless are the brave, Amity focuses on being peaceful, Erudite is for the intelligent, Abnegation is the selfless, and, if honesty is your strong suit, then you are Candor. Each person is born in the faction of their parents where they remain until the age of 16.
After taking a placement test, a determination is made as to which faction the individual is best suited for. However, at the choosing ceremony they can decide to go to any faction they wish. Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley) is about to make such a decision. Her family is Abnegation but she has never felt that is where she belongs. At her placement test, Tris discovers that she is Divergent which means she possesses the attributes of three different factions (Abnegation, Erudite and Dauntless). Her tester warns her that she needs to keep her results a secret and designates her as Abnegation. At dinner, her parents Andrew (Tony Goldwin) and Natalie (Ashley Judd) warn her that it is a difficult time for the Abnegation faction and they are under intense scrutiny as the leaders of the government. Her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) advises her to think of the family but also to think of herself when the time comes to chose.
The next day at the ceremony, her family runs into the Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) who tells Tris that she should chose wisely based on where she truly belongs and by knowing herself. When it comes to deciding, Caleb selects Erudite while Tris opts for Dauntless and they immediately join their new factions for initiation.
As Tris begins her initiation, instructors Eric (Jai Courtney) and Four (Theo James) explain that at the end of each level of training the lowest-ranked recruits will be cut ending up factionless. The rankings will also determine your job within the faction. In Dauntless the first stage of training is physical. Tris struggles initially, ending up in the hospital after losing a fight. She manages to survive to the second stage by leading her team to victory in a "capture the flag" challenge. The second stage is mental and through simulations the recruits must face their biggest fears. During the first simulation, Four realizes that Tris is Divergent and warns her to hide the reason for her success and tries to teach her how to manipulate the simulation and solve the challenges as a Dauntless would. Four and Tris soon discover they have feelings for each other which develop into a relationship.
Thanks to Four's help, Tris passes her final test and officially joins the Dauntless. Shortly thereafter, Tris uncovers a conspiracy threatening to change society forever and the lives of her parents. Working with Four, she must use her newfound courage to stop it while changing society and the life she knows forever.
There are several special features in the Blu-Ray combo pack. “Bringing Divergent to Life” is an in-depth documentary on the making of the film featuring the cast and crew. “Faction Before Blood” focuses on the film's future world. Two audio commentaries are provided. One with director Neil Burger and one with droducers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher. There are also deleted scenes, a marketing gallery, and the music video for “Beating Heart” by Ellie Goulding.
I really enjoyed the film and it has a lot to offer. Woodley is a great up-and-coming young actress and continues to illustrate that here. She is believable as the teenager trying to find herself who ultimately must take control of her own destiny. It is great to see young women in powerful leading roles. She does just as good of a job as an action hero as Jennifer Lawrence in The Hunger Games. The action is intense while establishing a solid foundation for the franchise.
The main problems I had with the film were melodramatic moments not true to the book. There is one scene between Woodley and Winslet that is over the top with ridiculous dialogue.
Besides these moments, the film stays faithful to the lessons and themes of the book, which are not just for young adults. Knowing who you are and finding your strengths is an important lesson but what is equally important is seeing the strengths in others while being able to tap into every aptitude. Some moments in your life may require bravery, some may require selflessness, while yet others honesty. Wouldn't society benefit from everyone learning when to pick and choose these moments rather than digging in and always needing to be one way in all situations?