According to psychologists, one of the most stressful aspects of adolescence is finding acceptance within a peer group. The need to belong has been the basis for popular young-adult fiction like “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games,” even the “Harry Potter” series. Read on…
In a futuristic, sci-fi world, 16 year-olds are divided into five distinctive factions, based on hallucinatory tests and simulations that determine their dominant personality trait. There’s Dauntless for the brave, Abnegation for the selfless, Amity for the peaceful, Candor for the honest and Erudite for the intelligent. If you’re not born into or choose to join any of these groups, or you’ve been expelled, you’re abandoned to survive on your own in the mean streets.
Problem is: in post-war Chicago, Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior (Shailene Woodley), the daughter of an Abnegation official (Tony Goldwyn) and a nurturing mother (Ashley Judd), doesn’t fit into just one category. According to her examiner (Maggie Q), she’s a Divergent, and that’s a secret she must guard with her life, because the government is determined to eliminate all Divergents as threats to the organized social order. Although Tris’ twin brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) decides to join the Erudites on Choosing Day, Kris opts for the warrior Dauntless. While she’s befriended by Christina (Zoe Kravitz) and mercilessly taunted by Peter (Miles Teller), her initiate instructor is Four (Theo James), who admires her grit. But Tris’ most formidable adversary is Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), the ambitious, power-hungry leader of the Erudites.
Based on Veronica Roth’s trilogy (“Divergent,” “Insurgent,” “Allegiant”), it’s adapted by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor. Director Neil Burger is so burdened by the necessary exposition to ensure a future franchise that, despite the betrayals and surprises, a sense of excitement and urgency doesn’t kick in until too late.
Having scored in “The Descendants” and “The Spectacular Now,” charismatic Shailene Woodley proves a formidable heroine, demonstrating admirable athleticism in her ferociously fearless determination to forge her own identity.
Yet, on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Divergent” is a disappointing 6, seeming a bit stale after other dystopian escapades.