“Divergent” ups the YA novel adaptation genre

Divergent combines HP and HG into an exciting hero adventure.

Divergent combines HP and HG into an exciting hero adventure.

Almost any Young Adult novel being adapted to the screen is surefire box office gold. Beginning with the Harry Potter films moving toward the Twilight Saga and now the recent Hunger Games films. Interestingly enough, they’re being more female focused and more action heavy which interests both genders. They’re also capitalizing on a flawed utopic future which runs along the lines of the zombie/apocalyptic craze that has been sweeping pop culture around the board.

Divergent combines these elements into a true hero story that holds the interest of its audience as it guides them through a fully developed world.

In a near-future Chicago, the entire city is in crumbles. There are no cars to be seen, just a train that runs from one end of the city to the other. The population is split into one of five “factions” where each one has their own place and role in the society. At a certain age, the young adults choose their own faction to contribute to for the rest of their lives only after a test to show them where they fit in the best. Tris (Shailene Woodley) is a plain girl from the faction which values selflessness and lack of vanity. Her time has come to choose which way she is to go. She has always admired Dauntless, the faction which values courage and who acts as the society’s guards. They are the rockstars of the society, ruthless and borderline obnoxious. As Tris takes the test, the results are inconclusive… a Divergent. She doesn’t fit into one category. She is instructed hide this discovery in fear that the government on high will take her “threat.” At the “sorting,” she is placed in in Dauntless where she begins her rigorous physical training.

This is only the first act, which builds the world that we are to live in for the 2+ hour run-time. There are subplots that pop up throughout which eventually come up to fruition in the final third. But, that’s the basis of what the viewer needs to know.

The acting assemble carries the film well enough. I didn’t notice any clunky acting or too much cheesy dialogue that took me out of the movie. The writing takes itself seriously at times. But hey, if they aren’t taking the material seriously we should too. Some standouts in the cast is the aforementioned Woodley who carries the movie. We follow her in attempt to see sympathize for her situation and choices. Her character could be fleshed out more, but her progression is undoubtedly believable. Theo James plays her mentor and leader, Four. Yes… Four. Anyway, he is the “hunk” of the movie who is mostly mysterious throughout the film which only adds intrigue to his character. Kate Winslet is the intimidating leader of a revolution, Jeanine. Whenever she is on screen, the scene is elevated. She acts and sells that she is the big bad of the film.

Woodley takes the plunge as America's next heroine.

Woodley takes the plunge as America’s next heroine.

The world that was built felt authentic even if the premise and technologies were far-fetched. Just like any movie of this kind, we have to suspend our disbelief and it doesn’t even do it that much.

Director Neil Burger paints with broad strokes with touches of small ones. This is needed to guide the viewer along who has no previous knowledge of the source material. I didn’t have to ask many questions concerning the plot which can’t be said about other adaptations. Burger stays unseen behind the camera as he films and edits the action scenes; not too bouncy or chaotic. He allows the story to tell itself.

That’s not to say that there aren’t faults in the storytelling. This is one of those kinds of movies where the more you think about some plot devices, the more they don’t make too much sense. A little stretch of imagination never hurts.

Although there was a typical teenage relationship, as any Young Adult adaptation would do, it only has one (and maybe a half) scene then backs away because it has done its purpose. This, overall, I can appreciate. And yes, it does act as a metaphor that hits its point over and over again. I can excuse this though because if the film doesn’t have meaning, it doesn’t have anything.

I wasn’t anticipating this movie to satisfy my cinematic tastes, but it did. Currently, it’s sitting at 41% on RottenTomatoes while Muppets Most Wanted is at 77%. This dumbfounds me because I would flip those percentages. Divergent sets out to tell the story it wants to tell and it does it fluently and without complicated plotting.

Rating: Pretty good.

What did you think? Did this measure up with Hunger Games or just as bad as the Twilight movies?

Next up: Noah.