Based on the young adult novel by Veronica Roth, Divergent cashes in on several of the same themes that made The Hunger Games a box office success. Casting Shailene Woodley as Tris, the plucky young heroine in a dystopian future, the movie follows a similar formula of class warfare and child warriors.
In a world where people are grouped into five castes, each centered around a specific ideal, Tris reaches the age of choosing in which she decides to forgo a life of servitude to become a warrior. Her choice is heavily influenced by the fact that Tris, unlike the vast majority of the population, has a genetic code that doesn’t fit neatly into any one of the particular factions.
Hiding her divergence from both friends and enemies, Tris trains to become a member of Dauntless, but to succeed in becoming a full member of the faction she’ll have face the truth about herself and keep anyone else from learning her secret.
Despite its oddball set-up (in the future people are really only one thing?), more of the movie works than I expected thanks to Woodley being far better than the script and selling the emotional moments of Tris’ story dealing with her parents (Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn), brother (Ansel Elgort), and potential love interest (Theo James). However, the movie is not with some rather large problems.
Kate Winslet is cast in the role of the film’s villain who is only missing a hat and flying broom to complete her thinly-written character. Also, the film’s innate distrust of knowledge choosing to cast the scientific cast (Erudite) as the film’s only villains is more than a little concerning. And as to why other factions would allow Erudite to so blatantly seize power is a point never truly addressed. Even those within Dauntless who freely choose to help Erudite aren’t given a compelling reason to do so.
Although I think the film is more successful than The Hunger Games, the lengthy 139-minute running time begins to drag on over it’s final hour. The romantic subplot also becomes somewhat laughable at times, as the film wants to be both a high-concept sci-fi movie (which it’s not), action flick, and teen soap opera at the same time. At best it succeeds about half the time, leading to a cliffhanger ending not unlike that of Catching Fire suggesting that the rules of the world are about to be challenged in a very real way (which may or may not work better than the introduction we’re given here).
Both the DVD and Blu-ray include digital copies of the movie. Other extras include behind-the-scenes featurettes on the making of the movie, a look at the factions that make up the Divergent universe, deleted scenes, music video, trailers, and audio commentaries from director Neil Burger and a second producer’s track with Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick.