Shailene Woodley and Kate Winslet star in this derivative adaptation of Veronica Roth’s best-selling novels
It’s always disappointing when a film that places so much emphasis on the need to be free-thinking and different from the masses conforms so rigidly to other movies. Yet Divergent, the latest adaptation of a young adult book series hoping to become the next Hunger Games, suffers badly from a feeling of over-familiarity. Adapted from Veronica Roth’s best-selling novels, Divergent takes place in a futuristic, war-ravaged world in which society is divided into various factions, including Abnegation (for the selfless), Erudite (for the intelligent) and Dauntless (for the brave). But failure to fit in means that a person is Divergent and therefore considered a threat.
One such person is Tris (Shailene Woodley), whose divergence is discovered during her selection process, but who is urged to keep it a secret. Hence, on Choosing Day, Tris opts to become part of the Dauntless faction charged with protecting her city and begins a rigorous recruitment process that threatens to expose her secret to higher powers (which is where Kate Winslet comes in), who have their own covert agenda for the world.
The most obvious comparison for Neil Burger’s movie is The Hunger Games but there are also elements of Ender’s Game and even The Matrix for anyone paying close attention. But while this wouldn’t be so bad if the film was better executed, Divergent is lacking in several departments. The story is pretty weak, with few instances of peril or excitement. Burger takes too long setting things up and even then his world lacks the immediacy of The Hunger Games, while Winslet’s villain poses little or no threat. There’s also a lack of colourful characters.
Woodley does make an appealing lead, while British actor Theo James broods and smoulders in all the right ways as her trainer and love interest. But the film lacks drive and by the time the action arrives and the seeds are sewn for future instalments, viewers may well have lost interest.
General release from Fri 4 Apr.