Reel Reviews: Divergent is a virtuous cliché

Tris (Shailene Woodley) shares a quiet moment with Four (Theo James) on a Divergent train.  - Summit Entertainment
Tris (Shailene Woodley) shares a quiet moment with Four (Theo James) on a Divergent train.
— image credit: Summit Entertainment

In a future dystopian Chicago, those reaching the age of 16 must choose which faction of society they wish to belong to: Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), or Candor (the honest). There is also the opportunity to be factionless, which essentially means you do the jobs no one else wants to, for which you are given food and clothing.

Tris (Shailene Woodley) surprises everyone by joining Dauntless, where she undergoes rigorous training and trials. When it is discovered that she is Divergent, meaning that her aptitudes cannot be narrowed down into one of the factions, Tris becomes a threat to the system as the Divergent cannot be controlled.

We say, “Oh boy, here we go again...”

TAYLOR: Yay! Another deeply philosophical movie based on a series of books that place teens in a post-apocalyptic world that has a government that works against them, forces them to fight to maintain the desired philosophies, which are dumb ideas in the first place. I like that this film at least invites teens to investigate the philosophy of virtue and therefore the virtues of philosophy (certainly more so than The Hunger Games,) but in Divergent you aren’t going to learn anything other than such things exist. Yet, from the abundantly fertile soil that created such an obviously stupid social contract, springs forth a mere tale of standing out versus fitting in, loving versus fighting, and discovering oneself.

Or to put it another way, it’s another teenage movie full of teenagery behaviour set in a world gone wrong, where the teenagers will show us what’s right.

Sounds good, right? Actually, it does, but the first problem I have with it is that the “wrongness” they’re fighting against seems so unbelievable in the first place. Secondly, there are only two things that happen in this movie that aren’t exposition and as such, the film becomes formulaic to the point of becoming a 21st century entertainment cliché. Chapter one is devoted to education. Chapter two is fighting. Chapter three is winning. After the exposition is established, I needn’t see anymore to know what happens, the rest is decoration and we’ve seen it all before.

HOWE: So what if we’ve seen this type of movie before. Aren’t all movies just a remake or a rehash of some sort of other movie from a previous time? Take Logan’s Run from the ‘70s, for example. Couldn’t you say Hunger Games, Enders Game and even Divergent has some aspects from that great movie? So don’t get down on it. Watch it for what it is, a couple of hours entertainment. I was certainly entertained by it.

TAYLOR: I was not, but I wasn’t annoyed by it either. It will get a passing grade and be instantly forgotten.

HOWE: I don’t recall a moment when I thought this movie dragged on, unlike the Twilight saga. I’m very interested to see how this will play out because they are obviously going to make the rest of the series, otherwise it will feel incomplete. There was plenty of action in it to keep the teenage boys happy and then you have the romance for girls. I know my teenage daughter would enjoy watching it.

Howe gives Divergent 3 tattoos out of 5.

– Taylor gives it 2.5 out of 5.

The film is currently showing at the Galaxy Cinemas in Vernon.

Brian Taylor and Peter Howe are film reviewers based in Vernon, B.C. Their column runs in The Morning Star Friday and Sunday.

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