There have been several attempts at turning books geared towards teenage girls into successful franchises. Twilight and Hunger Games were very successful. The Mortal Instruments and The Host were not. This time around Divergent hits the big screen and it will most definitely find its audience. It might even find its audience skews a bit older.
In Divergent, society is divided into casts, Abnegation (the selfless), Erudite (the intelligent), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Candor (the honest) make up the different groups in the world remaining after nuclear war. Children are tested to see which group they belong to. They are free to choose any group they want. Each faction has its own initiation process and anyone who fails becomes an outcast and cannot return to their origin group. Once in a while a person appears who has traits of multiple groups. These are the divergent and they are feared because they can think for themselves. Beatrice is such a person and must determine where she belongs and stop a political struggle for control.
The cast is surprisingly good. Shailene Woodley is Tris. She has an innocent appeal and works as both versions of our heroine. Theo James might be remembered from Underworld: Awakening or Downton Abbey, but he plays the mysterious Four. Jai Courtney is Eric and he might be my favorite character. He is there to be a jerk and is really good at it. Most of the movie focuses on Tris and her attempt to become Dauntless. They are agile, strong, fearless, and tatted up. She isn’t Katniss and doesn’t have to be. There will be comparisons, but it is a different world and she is likable hero.
The movie will not have as much mass appeal, but it is not nearly as bad as some critics are saying. The world is cool and somewhat believable and the cast meshes pretty well together. It is an introductory story and that means a lot of set up. We spend a lot of time on Dauntless and really don’t get a lot of the back story of the brewing political take over. We get hints here and there, but not enough to make you really hate any of the villains beyond Eric. Kate Winslet isn’t a strong villain. Mekhi Phifer isn’t there enough to develop opinions. I haven’t read the book so I can only assume this will change in the next movie.
My biggest flaw with Divergent is time. It is entirely too long. The training to be Dauntless is important, but I personally would rather have seen it summed up in a long Rocky Balboa type montage. The length will deter some from really enjoying the movie. Fans will be fine, but casual movie goers will find it a little long. Not dull, but long. The sequel has already been green lit so we will see the next book come to the big screen. It’s not as cool as Hunger Games and not as cheesy as Twilight, but all in all Divergent is worth a watch.