DIVERGENT is a thrilling, compelling adaptation of the Young Adult science fiction novel by New York Times bestseller Veronica Roth.
DIVERGENT is set in a dystopian, futuristic Chicago after the world falls apart. To maintain peace in the city, a wall is built around Chicago, and the people are divided into different factions based on five virtues: selflessness, peace, honesty, bravery, and knowledge. Every person at a certain age must find out which is the appropriate faction for them. They can either stay with their family in their own faction, or leave and possibly never see their family again.
Beatrice belongs to the faction Abnegation (selflessness) with her brother Caleb and her parents. Caleb and her have reached the age where they must find out their own faction. All the youths their age must take a test that will tell them where they belong. The next day, a ceremony will be held where they must decide if they will stay at home or leave.
As is Abnegation way, Beatrice grew up in a selfless environment. Wearing plain clothes and eating tasteless food, Abnegation was set up to run the government because of their selfless virtues. Beatrice, no matter how much she tried, could never fit in with her family’s own faction. Instead, she admired the Dauntless (bravery) faction, the city’s warriors and protectors who live their lives fearlessly. The question is, is that a life she could live?
When Beatrice takes the test that will tell her who she is, she’s told that the test was inconclusive. She’s told she’s a Divergent, someone who doesn’t fit into one faction. Such people are a threat to the established order and the way things are done. Beatrice is told to tell no one of these results, or else she’ll be killed.
Troubled by her results, at the ceremony Beatrice makes a decision that will change everything. She decides to become a Dauntless. Immediately separated from her family, Beatrice, who changes her name to Tris, must go through a competitive training course, while hiding her true identity as a Divergent. A complicated romance develops between Tris and her Dauntless trainer, a guy named Four, and a conspiracy begins to unravel when one faction plans to take over the rest.
DIVERGENT takes typical young adult fiction clichés and sets them in a fascinating, compelling world. Labeled as another HUNGER GAMES type because of its strong female protagonist, DIVERGENT is similar, yet still quite different. Staying true to the book’s quality, the movie, though long, instantly brings viewers into the story’s immersive world. The pacing is strong at the beginning, but similar to the book, it loses some focus in the middle. Thankfully, this lack of focus won’t lose viewers to boredom. Consequently, DIVERGENT is thoroughly entertaining and engaging. Grounded in realism, the movie makes use of real Chicago landmarks that help give the movie authenticity. Women are the target audience, although many men may enjoy it too. Even so, the teenage romance elements may garner some groans.
DIVERGENT has a very strong moral worldview with some Christian, redemptive qualities, mixed with some Romanticism. The book, written by a Christian, carries these themes more overtly, but the movie still conveys them strongly. The tyrannical, statist government trying to convey an image of peace through submissive moral conformism is seen as evil. The movie asks, What is bravery (the Dauntless faction) without selflessness (the Abnegation faction), or truth (the Candor faction) without kindness (the Amity faction)? The movie clearly shows that embracing one virtue doesn’t negate one’s pursuit or growth in other virtues. It also shows that knowledge (the Erudite faction) and power without truth, peace, and selflessness lead to corruption. These are just a few of the many themes and applications engrained in the movie’s premise. DIVERGENT also has a powerful dynamic between a family that loves each other and is willing to die for one another.
Halfway through, however, the movie takes a romantic detour. Instead of letting the plot drive the romance through conflict and sacrificial love, the romance is developed through stolen glances and sexual tension. Thankfully, the relationship doesn’t technically move beyond a kiss, but it instills a false, superficial view of love. One odd and awkward scene involves a moment when Tris must face all her fears inside a simulated dream sequence. One of those fears is being intimate with her new romantic interest, Four. In the nightmare scenario, he tries to force himself onto her. Positively, instead of embracing the idea of being intimate with him, she conquers her fear by kicking him off her. The scene is purposefully awkward, but provides an important lesson to teenage girls. Hopefully, this message is backed up in further sequels as the romantic relationship builds.
DIVERGENT has some foul language, moderate violence, and some sensuality that requires caution. Otherwise, it’s encouraging to see young adult fiction portray a moral worldview in such a highly entertaining fashion.