Divergent: Futuristic world you may not want to visit - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Divergent: Futuristic world you may not want to visit

Divergent, the $100 million sci-fi thriller opens this weekend. (Publicity photo)

2 out of 4 stars

First it was “Twilight,” then “The Hunger Games.”

Now it’s “Divergent,” the latest bestseller Summit-Lionsgate is banking on to become the next book franchise-turned-blockbuster.

Director Neil Berger takes the first of Veronica Roth’s three-book series and turns it into a 140- minute primer for the series’ next two books – “Insurgent” and ‘Allegiant” – that will hit the big screen sooner rather than later.

If you haven’t read the book: The story centers on Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), who like all 16 year olds in the futuristic, war-torn city of Chicago, is required by law to make the biggest decision of their lives on Choosing Day.

Chicago is divided into five, separated factions based on virtues –   Abnegation (selfless), Erudite (intelligent), Dauntless (brave), Candor (honest) and Amity (peaceful).

Tris was born into Abnegation, but that doesn’t matter. The government tests each teen to determine where they’d fit best, but it’s an individual’s choice of which faction they join.

(Click here for a test to see which faction would be your best fit.)

But once a choice it made, it’s final. Could you imagine if, as a parent, your kids choose different factions and you rarely – if ever – see each other again since each faction resides is different part of the city?

It certainly makes for great cinema, as one faction cheers its newest arrival as another one mourns its loss.

Tris, however, has a problem: The test shows she has Abnegation, Erudite and Dauntless qualities, making her a “Divergent,” who are marked for death because in this town, those who don’t conform to a faction may as well be the devil in the government’s eyes.

But since Tris’ test results are erased, she chooses Dauntless, who are the city’s police force.

She seems overmatched in a recruiting class where the weakest are deemed “factionless” and discarded into a group of homeless scavengers, shunned by nearly everyone.

Woodley, who made a name for herself starring opposite George Clooney in 2011’s “The Descendents,” tries to carry the film, but she’s simply not strong enough to carry so many mediocre characters who aren’t developed. Her character develops a crush on Four (Theo James), who is tasked with molding Dauntless’ newest members into shape, but you’re left wanting to see where the relationship goes. But that’s what sequels are for.

Kate Winslet plays Jeanine Matthews, an Erudite plotting to drug the Dauntless into giving her faction control of the city’s Abnegation-run government. Winslet simply isn’t in enough scenes to make the audience hate her, which is the film’s biggest flaw. It’s hard to fall in love with the hero if you don’t despise the bad guy.

John McClane has Hans Gruber in “Die Hard,” Rocky has Ivan Drago in “Rocky IV,” Clarice Starling has Hannibal Lecter in “The Silence of the Lambs” and Batman has the Joker, as one doesn’t shine without the other.

Tris has nobody. Berger does a great job transforming her from a weak member of Abnegation to a knife-throwing member of Dauntless, even though she’d still get her butt kicked by The Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen.

“Divergent” mirrors “The Hunger Games” in many ways, which is good since both books were massively popular and fans will want to watch the movie versions. But books also have niche audiences, especially ones targeted to young adults, which is Roth’s core audience.

If you loved “The Hunger Games,” chances are you will like, not love, “Divergent.” But if you haven’t read the book, you may want to think twice before spending $12 for a ticket, as a matinee may be a better choice.

Either way, at least for the sake of franchise, let’s hope its future is better than its present.

 

 

 





About the author

Jon Gallo

Jon Gallo is an award-winning journalist and editor with 19 years of experience, including stints as a staff writer at The Washington Post and sports editor at The Baltimore Examiner. He also believes the government should declare federal holidays in honor of the following: the Round of 64 of the NCAA men's basketball tournament; the Friday of the Sweet 16; the Monday after the Super Bowl; and of course, the day after the release of the latest Madden NFL video game. Contact the author.
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