Although “Divergent” has understandably attracted a great readership, as did its predecessor, “The Hunger Games” series, this new “young adult” tale has a much weaker presence on the big screen.
The franchises share several similarities, not the least of which is that they both feature a young female protagonist trying to survive in a dystopian future. “The Hunger Games” is the more enjoyable of the movies because these films are clear in and of themselves. You shouldn't need to read the books to understand them. But if you have not read the “Divergent” books, you’re going to be scratching your head.
Here’s the premise: In the not-so-distant future, people are divided according to their abilities. The Dauntless, who are physically fit and courageous, are the guardians of their region — here, a dilapidated and walled Chicago. The other “factions” are Erudite, Abnegation (selfless), Amity and Candor. The people who are “divergents” have talent in more than one faction, and the administrators of the city loathe them because they don’t fit in.
Although the categorizations are supposed to ensure harmony, trouble is brewing between two factions. And Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley, “The Descendants”) finds herself in the middle of this tension … and a whole lot more. She is the daughter of two leaders in the Abnegation faction, who encourage her to follow her instincts when she must choose a faction.
She follows Dauntless, but has a rough time adjusting to the physical and risky demands of becoming part of that faction. She immediately brings out the bully in two of her trainers, but she makes a few friends along the way, too, including what may become a love interest. (One of her enemies, incidentally, is played by Miles Teller, who played Woodley’s boyfriend in last year’s “The Spectacular Now.”)
You’ll see a lot of training scenes here — far too many, in fact, with the result being a bloated running time of more than two hours. And they’re reminiscent of not only what you’ve seen in “Hunger Games,” but also similar scenes in last year's “Ender’s Game.” And we’ve seen similar messages about conformity in “Hunger Games.”
The “huh?” moments include a sequence that literally unfolds inside Tris’s head (I’m sure the book enlightens readers about this), some “all-of-a-sudden” appearances by several characters and little information about how the world, or at least Chicago, ended up in this regulated society.
Maybe viewers will learn more in the upcoming sequel. It would have been beneficial to have laid solid groundwork in this first movie so that non-readers won’t start the sequel in a state of befuddlement.
Read the complete review at qctimes.com/goanddo.