Thursday, August 28, 2014

Movie Review: Divergent

When I first saw ads for the movie Divergent, I wasn't interested. It looked like one of those dystopian teenage books, a rip off of Hunger Games in a more urban setting. But upon recommendation of a friend, I put it on my Netflix queue near the top.

And I must say, I enjoyed it. Divergent is about a society centered in a post-apocalyptic Chicago. The people are divided into five groups called "factions" based on personality type and predisposition. One group are farmers, one are the one who function as courts and lawyers, one is the scientists (the "Erudite"), one the police/military (the "Dauntless"), and one runs the government because they are honest, plain, and have no personal ambitions, and are selfless (the "Abnegation"). The Abnegation are so selfless, they lock mirrors to discourage vanity.

At a certain age, teenagers take a test to see which faction they should join (their "predisposition") and then at a ceremony, join the one they wish but are strongly encouraged to join the one they have a predisposition for.

The story centers on Tris (played by the lovely Shailene Woodley), an Abnegation teenager whose test gives her no predisposition. This makes her "divergent." Her tester tells her to tell no one and marks her "manually" as predisposed for Abnegation. Because, this is a society that frowns upon divergence (and dissent and free will and human nature), she has to keep her test results secret. Despite her parents wishes (and her faked test results), she joins the Dauntless.

While a great deal of the movie deals with Tris' struggles to make it as a Dauntless (if she fails, she becomes "factionless and is essentially reduced to being a homeless beggar), there is something sinister going on (more so than the basic tyranny of the whole system).

The movie drags a little during Tris' basic training (I sort of got tired of seeing her get beat up) but once the conspiracy is revealed, it moves quickly. For a 2 hour, 20 minute movie, it goes much faster (a fair amount of time is spent explaining the society). But the underlying truths that Divergent tells about human nature and the quest of tyrants to suppress it are timeless. The movie climaxes with a confrontation between Tris as a divergent and the head of the Erudites who wants more control of the people of the society.

Between the action and the philosophy, this is a good movie. Not totally popcorn, not totally philosophical discussion, it's a great mix of both. I gave it 4 stars on Netflix.

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