‘Divergent’ rises as next dystopian thriller


As Hollywood continues to lack inspiration for its movie plots, “Divergent” debuted in theaters this weekend with an attempt to portray another dystopian future based on popular teen fiction.

Fans of Veronica Roth’s New York Times best-selling novel by the same name can rejoice as the movie loyally follows the story of Beatrice “Tris” Prior, played by Shailene Woodley, in a futuristic version of Chicago – a version far different from modern day – that appears to be recovering from a long-lost war, protected from the unknown outside world by a colossal fence. Inside, the society is divided into five distinctly different factions: Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, Amity and Abnegation.

These factions are set up to separate people based on morals, rather than culture or race. In a society that’s motto is “faction before blood,” Tris must choose a faction as she comes of age.

At the beginning of the movie, Tris struggles with whether she is selfless or brave.  If she is the former, she will be stuck in Abnegation’s forced humility. If she is the latter, she will be sorted into the Dauntless faction and be trained for the police force, and will never see her family again.  

But there is also the ruthless honesty of the Candor, the kind and peace-loving Amity, and the insatiable curiosity of the Erudite.

Though tests to show what faction you would be in are already starting to trend on social media, Tris has to go through a simulation in which she must find for herself who she really is. However, the test isn’t designed for someone like her: someone who doesn’t conform, someone brave, smart and selfless – someone “Divergent.”

Tris quickly finds herself caught in a society of warring factions, in which people like her who don’t conform are seen as a threat to the system.

Though critics could say the movie aspires to take on the same Orwellian future epic with a female lead that rises from insecure teen to hero, this movie could easily be as successful as the “The Hunger Games” franchise. On its opening day, the movie earned more than $22.8 million and, according to Mashable, filmmakers are scheduled to release a sequel next year based on Roth’s novel, “Insurgent.”

Like “Hunger Games,” this movie features a stunningly beautiful actress with an equally handsome supporting man in the role of Four, played by Theo James. While the acting may not be as believable as “Hunger Games,” it does feature Kate Winslet as the protagonist, Jeanine Matthews. With Winslet as the exception, the acting in the movie – especially by Woodley – seemed forced and reminded viewers that they were watching a movie.

The movie’s cinematography is beautifully done, giving a wonderful landscape for the futuristic version of Chicago. Directed by Neil Burger, the use of thought-provoking visuals for Tris’s simulations are similar to his work with 2011’s “Limitless.”

While the movie comes second to “Hunger Games,” only because the plot falls in the same genre, it is a must-see for those who enjoy science fiction. One can easily get carried away with CGI and lasers in a dystopian thriller, but this movie has just the right balance of realism in its sets and costumes that can make you believe you are in the future, but one that is not too far off from the present.


How the film compares to the novel

Anyone who has read the book “Divergent” can appreciate the film even more.

Throughout the movie, directors and producers remained loyal to the details of Veronica Roth’s novel all the way from the description of the characters to the costumes and set design.

While not exaggerated in the movie, an important part of Roth’s series is the clothes each faction wears. Throughout the movie, the hundreds of extras are appropriately grouped into their faction by the clothes they wear: the militant group of Dauntless is given black biker gear, while the peaceful Amity is given colorful clothes.  The main character Beatrice Prior goes from the faction of Abnegation, garbed in conservative gray ankle-length dresses, to the revealing, skin-tight punk look as she joins the Dauntless faction.

Even her tattoo of the ravens is accurately depicted in the movie. Though something that may have only been a small part in the book, this, along with the costumes and set, brings to life the world written by Roth.

One large part, if the only part, where the movie strayed from the book is the final fight scene of the movie in which the protagonist shifts slightly. This is possibly because the movie’s sequel was up in the air until this weekend, but not irreparably ruining the chance to logically follow up with Roth’s novel “Insurgent.”

Luckily for fans, the opening weekend in the box office must have been good enough for producers, as the film’s sequel was given the green light and is estimated to be released in theaters next March. A third movie is also being considered for the following year, according to Mashable.

Avid readers will appreciate this film’s loyalty to the book, which will allow novel-based films to be produced on the same level as “the Hunger Games” and “Harry Potter” franchises, avoiding catastrophes such as 2006’s “Eragon” and 2011’s “I am Number Four” which drifted so far from their wildly popular literature base that sequels were out of the question.