John Hanlon Reviews

Film Reviews


Genre: Action and Adventure, Thriller

Director: Neil Burger

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz, Miles Teller, Maggie Q, Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd, Kate Winslet

MPAA-Rating: PG-13

Release Date: March 21st, 2014

In the new film Divergent, visit this
young people are divided into five groups. There’s a group for the selfless, one for the military, and one for the intellectuals and so on. After taking a test, youngsters are told what category fits them best but they are ultimately allowed to decide which group they want to belong in. In this future world, young people are divided into stereotypes like they belong in a John Hughes movie. But lacking the wit, depth and charm of The Breakfast Club, Divergent simply exists to hit you over the head with its unsubtle theme.

Shailene Woodley stars as the bland main character, Tris— a teen torn between her family and her destiny. Her parents belong to the selfless group but Tris’ test results are confusing. She’s labelled as “divergent,” a girl whose characteristics don’t fit her into any preconceived group. She fits into several of them and— along with her brother— opts to choose a group different than her own.

She chooses the group “Dauntless,” the grouping of wannabe soldiers who serve and protect the land and its inhabitants. Much of the plot revolves around Tris training and working to fit into that intense team. One of the group’s mentors— named Four and played by Downton Abbey’s Theo James— immediately takes a liking to her while others in the group immediately reject her and wish to undermine her.

What’s unfortunate— for her and for audiences alike— is the extent that the filmmakers (and likely the author in this adaptation’s case) go to show how evil the members of Dauntless are. In fact, many of them are presented as psychopaths that you wouldn’t want plant-sitting, let alone taking care of a whole population of people. One mentor named Eric (Jai Courtney) is willing to push a student to her death to make her tougher while some other members of the group try to assassinate Tris at a later time. (Not to mention that one student in that group commits suicide).

It’s hard to think that the violence in a movie like The Hunger Games was more palatable than the violence here but it always felt that way. In The Hunger Games, young people were forced to kill one another because the overpowering government dictated it and families were threatened if a young person didn’t accept the government’s dictate. Here, young people are willing to kill each other just for the fun of it or to make other people tougher.

The overall objective of this feature— and likely the book it was based on— focuses on how people are not one characteristic or another. We are all divergent. But this theme is hammered so repeatedly to audiences here that it quickly grows tiresome. As the villainous Jeanine (Kate Winslet) states, “The future belongs to those who know where they belong.” But the wise Tori (Maggie Q), a tattoo artist who also gives students the test tells Tris, “If you haven’t fit into a category they can’t control you.”

So Tris is forced into a world where you must choose where you belong and where you belong is a one-note tribe where you have to follow the rules and never truly be yourself. Lacking the wit or wisdom of the similarly-themed The Breakfast Club, Divergent suffers in finding its own unique identity. Ironic, isn’t it?

Review by: John Hanlon