‘Divergent’ started out very promisingly, it had an interesting concept about when the teenagers of a society come of a certain age, they have to decide which faction they go to, making the choice whether to stay with their family or possibly never see them again. All that plus Shailene Woodley is usually a great actress, so, right from the start, this film had a lot going for it. It is truly a shame that it devolves in to standard young adult literature faire.
Let’s start at the first act of the film is fantastic, sets up a great premise, establishes Woodley’s character, introduces her family for just enough for us to feel bad for them when she inevitably switches sides and best of all is the world building that is set up. It is fairly simple but effective; there was a great war then ended most life, elders built secure city. It’s as simple as that but the design of the city is what sets it apart, the elaborate electric fence is interesting, the different sections within this city, farmland, crumbling city, etc. All of this just establishes the world that the audience are going to spend the next 140 minutes in, speaking of the run time the first act shoots by so fast that I wish we could have stayed in the world building aspects of the film for a little longer.
Moving on to the second act, Beatrice, played by Woodley, has made her choice and has gone off with her faction and this is where the action steps up and that is one of the films strengths, the action scenes in the second act are great, well directed, excellently choreographed and mostly exciting. It also introduces the always fantastic Miles Teller who perfectly plays the twat and a few more of Beatrice’s peers. This however, is where the story starts to falter slightly by adding in, as per usual in a young adult film, a love interest. This particular love interest is played by Theo James who gives a passable performance of the guy who acts prick, but deep down he’s just damaged and he’s a nice guy, four. Yes, four is his name, spelt exactly like the number, no variation. It’s like this young adult authors have ran out of inspiration, as proven by the third act.
I couldn’t believe how bland and cliché the third act was, it was like you pulled out a checklist for every young adult film trope and ticked every box. Not to mention that they shoehorned another story in, that honestly, could have filled a whole film, not just the last 40 minutes. Everything goes downhill in this act, the directing gets sloppier, Woodley’s crying in one scene is so bad, it threw me completely out of the film for a minute, characters make ridiculous decisions that have no consequences. Characters are killed off with little to no emotional involvement is one of the biggest things that struck me as being off. Now I don’t know if it is like this in the book or not but I have to say, if it is, I cannot fathom how this became a series, that’s how bland the third act is.
The directing throughout is nothing outstanding, it is just very average, with the occasional questionable camera position or shot, not bad, not good, just passable. Woodley and Teller are fantastic in their roles, everyone else varies on a scale of good to awful, the world building is great, the story was very heavy in the third act but not in a good way, the pacing in the third act grinded to a halt.
I almost forgot to mention, the soundtrack is just awful. It is a mixture of a score and songs from “popular” bands and it is so jarring to have a pivotal scene occur and this stupid pop rock song start playing that doesn’t match the scene at all and just feels like they added it in so they can sell a soundtrack to the film, which if that is the case, at least pick relevant music. Awful.
Overall I enjoyed the film and I suspect that if there is a sequel, it will be a lot better, let’s just hope that the script is given a nice polish before shooting begins and maybe get a director who isn’t afraid to get clever with their shots. Also, I demand more scenes between Woodley and Teller, their chemistry, even when they hate each other is electric and exciting. Also, what the fuck was Kate Winslet doing in this film? Not a great performance on her behalf.