Divergent is set in a futuristic Chicago after a massive war that ravaged most of the planet. The government decided to split the people into five factions with different roles: Erudite, Abnegation, Amity, Cantor, and Dauntless. When people become a certain age, they must take a test that tells them which faction they belong in. After that, they choose which one they want to enter. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) is almost ready to choose her faction and is nervous about what might happen. She takes the test and the administrator tells her that she doesn't fit into one faction. She's divergent. Beatrice is afraid of what might happen and decides to join Dauntless. In that group, she meets Four (Theo James), the group leader, who she quickly realizes that she has a lot in common with. Beatrice is just trying to survive until a sinister coup is set up by one of the factions that threatens everything. Now, Beatrice must team up with friends and enemies to save everything.
Divergent has been marketed poorly, in my opinion. The trailers and TV spots have made it look like a generic Hunger Games rip-off with second-rate special effects. And while it certainly takes elements from The Hunger Games and many other book series', Divergent is actually a very entertaining movie. Sure, there are some cliches and it's a little too generic in parts, but Divergent thrives on the emotion involved in the plot and the engrossing storyline.
Divergent is led by a cast full of rising stars who are giving quite a bit to work with. There are quite a few cliches in the script, but most of the actors manage to overcome that fact and create some believable characters. Shailene Woodley really is great in this movie. She kills it as Tris Prior, our heroine and central character. Woodley understands the heart and soul of this character and it makes for a terrific performance. Theo James plays the lead love interest and is actually pretty decent. He does a good job. The other standouts come from the supporting cast. Miles Teller and Jai Courtney are great at playing total jerks and I was happy with how both of their characters turned out. Zoe Kravitz also does a good job in her scenes.
The other great thing about this movie is the technical elements. One problem that I've always had with these dystopian YA adaptations is that the special effects always look cheesy and fake. The Hunger Games even ran into that problem at times. Divergent, with the exception of one scene, does not. The futuristic Chicago depicted in the film looks brilliant and everything in the film has a crisp, clean look. The cinematography was also pretty solid for this kind of film.
The action in this film is also very good. The sequences are tense, well-directed, and a lot of fun to watch. I would even say that the action is better than in The Hunger Games. There are a lot of gun battles and typical YA stuff, but Divergent finds a way to make it fresh and exciting. That's what makes this movie good. It takes the cliches, and manages to make them feel new and entertaining.
Now, as much as I enjoyed Divergent, there are undoubtedly some problems. It's essentially a mash-up of different cliches and is slightly generic at times. It takes different things from The Hunger Games, Twilight and Harry Potter and that's a little sad. It's also poorly paced at times and is nearly two and a half hours long. The runtime isn't a huge problem, but the film isn't paced well at all. That was my main problem. Director Neil Burger really needed to rearrange some of the pieces to make the film flow better.
Despite the fact that Divergent is paced poorly and is nearly 2.5 hours long, I really actually enjoyed this movie. I can't say that I understand the hate for this movie at all. It's a fun, slightly generic film that features a strong performance of Shailene Woodley, some spectacular action scenes, and a really fun plot. I enjoyed this film a lot. I think that a lot of people will like it and I hope that the sequels expand on the world and are even better than this one. But for now, Divergent is a perfectly good, sufficient franchise opener.
THE FINAL GRADE: B (7.4/10)