Limitless director Neil Burger was handed the job of bringing the latest tween-fiction saga to the big screen in the shape of Divergent, the first of three films based on Veronica Roth’s hit trilogy. Starring The Descendants Shailene Woodley, alongside Kate Winslet and Theo James, Divergent looks to gatecrash The Hunger Games/Twilight teen market.
The film is set in a futuristic dystopia where much of the world has been destroyed. Those left behind are split into five factions based on different personality traits: Amity, Erudite, Candor, Abnegation and Dauntless. When you turn 16 you must choose which faction you want to live with. Ultimately the choice is yours, but a test is carried out to examine your suitability to each one. This is the position we find our leading lady, Trish (Woodley), who finds out she is ‘divergent’, meaning she does not fit into any of the five factions and therefore becomes a threat, and has to quickly learn to adapt to survive.
Divergent is a film about control. Being ‘divergent’ is seen as a threat because the powers that be feel they can not keep you tied down to what has become, following war, a very regimented society. You can not get away from the fact that this is very much like The Hungers Games in a lot of ways, therefore comparisons are inevitable. A female lead, governmental issues, political and public tensions and even the different styled clothes – the only thing the film is really missing is a bow and arrow.
The difference between The Hungers Games and Divergent, however, is that the the former packs one almighty punch, whilst the latter whimpers in the corner looking sad and lonely. It is not that it is bad – it is not – but is does limp along in an extraordinarily tame and unconvincing fashion. Woodley leads well on what she is given to work with, but little around her inspires any confidence. Kate Winslet, the baddie, who plays Jeanine Matthews – one of the power brokers in this futuristic world – is as terrifying as a newly born puppy. You learn, and see too little of her for Winslet’s character to become anything other than another unconvincing villain of the piece. The biggest disappointment is the story’s lack of focus on one of its most interesting characters, Four (Theo James). An intriguing backstory is never fully developed, one fault that we can only hope is put right in next year’s sequel, Insurgent.
If you manage to keep interested for the films two hours and nineteen minutes running time, hope can be spotted towards the end. The last few scenes, thank heavens, kicks up the pace a tad, and we get to see some half-decent, slightly less tedious action sequences and a few signs that this franchise, might, just might, not be a total disappointment.