Director Neil Burger’s Divergent, based on Veronica Roth’s young-adult novel, is a darker version of The Hunger Games; darker in tone and cinematographic look. That, however, doesn't mean it’s not a good film.
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible not to compare the two movies. They both have young, female heroines of about the same age, who are living in fascist societies that are trying to keep their subjects regimented. The difference between the two is that The Hunger Games has more color and humor and that gaudiness gives balance to the horrors the citizens have to endure…at least in the eyes of the viewer. In Divergent, all is bleak.
After a global conflict, the peoples in the war-wracked Chicago area are divided into five factions…Abnegation (the humble governors), Erudite (the brainiacs), Candor (the realists), Amity (the happy farmers) and Dauntless (the rowdy protectors). Following adolescence, teens take a test to determine into which group they will be placed for life. However, it is also possible for them to choose a group, but, if they flunk out, they become factionless and must live out their lives in the gutters, outlawed from their families. Faction trumps blood.
Tris (Shailene Woodley) is from the leading Abnegation family, but chooses to be part of the Dauntless faction after her test shows she could fit into at least 3 groups. In this society, that’s not a good thing. It means you are Divergent or too independent. Essentially, this is a society of specialists where the liberal arts are anathema. While her test administrator (Maggie Q) destroys the results, Tris must try to survive the formidable Dauntless training without being discovered.
The script by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor is overlong, but, thanks to Woodley and co-star Theo James, we stick with it. After all, this is the setup for Part 2 and, then, 3.
For the fan-base, I give Divergent a 4 out of 5.