The Hunger Games ignited a new type of Young Adult novel adaptation. Something more dangerous than Twilight, the stakes much higher and the trauma much more realistic. Dystopian future stuff. Cautionary tales about a world that has destroyed itself because of pointless wars. And it’s not just a Battle Royale rip-off, although there are a lot of similarities. For a kids’ series, it’s actually pretty daring. So of course it stands to reason that there would be a few knock-offs as well. Enter Divergent.
Divergent isn’t strictly a rip-off, it just has a lot in common with The Hunger Games. There’s a strong yet deeply troubled heroine, a twisted regime to topple, sections of people with different cultures (called Factions here rather than Districts), and of course, a tepid love story. But where The Hunger Games can back up most of its generic plot points with good actors and an interesting aesthetic, Divergent remains middle-of-the-road in all accounts.
The actors are fine, but there are no standouts at all, unlike the wonderful J-Law, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci, etc... I do really like Tony Goldwyn though as the dad. The plot is serviceable but not exceptional in any way. The gimmick in this film rather than death games are intense and surreal dream sequences that pose as tests to determine what Faction you belong to. Each Faction represents a certain personality trait, and those that could potentially belong to multiple Factions is considered Divergent and a threat to society. So basically if you’re a normal human, then you’re totally boned.
While I feel like there are interesting points to be made about the government, eugenics, “Factionless” (this world’s version of bums), and more, this film doesn’t delve into anything in a very interesting way. Instead it clings to a fairly typical blockbuster structure without caring enough to go any deeper.
It’s frustrating when you can see good ideas under the surface of a very average film. But ironically this film is just as one-dimensional as the characters from each Faction. Better not let them have more than one personality trait! That’s too confusing.