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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Mar 22, 2014

Divergent Movie Review: Another Futuristic Film For Young Adult Viewers

‘DIVERGENT’ is based on a trilogy of novels by Veronica Roth, just like “Twilight” and “Hunger Games” that are also derived from a series of novels intended for young adult readers and viewers. So if you’re not into this kind of futuristic-romantic stuff, skip it. It has a lot of similar elements with “Hunger Games”: a courageous young heroine, a post-apocalyptic setting in the future, a love story and rebellion against tyrannical rulers. Just like “Hunger Games” and “Twilight”, it’s also producer by Summit Entertainment.

Set in Chicago after a cataclysmic catastrophe that destroyed most of our known world, a massive wall is built around the city to protect it from intruders and prevent its inhabitants from going out. It now has its own rules and citizens are divided into five factions according to their own personal abilities: Erudite (the intelligent ones like scientists), Dauntless (the brave ones who act as soldiers/warriors), Abnegation (the selfless ones who rule the government), Amity (the peaceful ones who are farmers), and Candor (the honest ones who run the legal system.)

Those who do not fit any of these factions are considered Divergent and authorities hunt them down as they are potential rebels. The factions are meant to work together but Erudite members want to control everyone and ease out Abnegation members from being the rulers.

The lead character is Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley) daughter of Abnegation leaders (Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn). We see her taking the aptitude test given to young people to determine which faction one would join. Once you choose a faction, you’ll have to be completely loyal to it and even turn your back to your former family. “Faction over blood.”

The tattoo artist administering the test (Maggie Q) through induced hallucinations discovers that Tris is divergent but warns her not to reveal it to anyone. She decides to join Dauntless and she is quickly subjected to train under the introverted Four (Theo James of the last “Underworld” movie) and the tyrannical Eric (Jai Courtney, the son of Bruce Willis in the last “Die Hard” flick). In the course of her training, a romance brews between her and Four and they become the nemesis of the Erudite leader, Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), who wants to control everyone.

The absorbing training sequences will remind you of “Enders Game” another futuristic sci-fi thriller. Shailene Woodley fills the bill as the spunky heroine. She was the eldest daughter of George Clooney in “The Descendants” and also shone in “The Spectacular Now” where she co-starred with Miles Teller, now her rival in “Divergent”.

The CGI showing Chicago’s familiar but altered skyline is impressively rendered, with the familiar buildings there now demolished or heavily damaged. You’d be curious how the skyscrapers got devastated, but “Divergent” is not concerned with that but with what happened to it restructured society. The movie has a complete story but it’s obvious it’s just part of a bigger whole so, if this movie would be a big hit, we’d find out what happens next in its two sequels.

Theo James is perfect as the leading man and he has solid chemistry with Shailene. Giving them impressive and committed support aside from Winslet (whose role is reminiscent of that of Jodie Foster in another movie about a Dystopian future, “Elysium”), Courtney, Judd and Goldwyn are Ray Stevenson as Marcus (who turns out to be the father of Tobias or Four), Ansel Elgort (of the “Carrie” remake) as Tris’ brother Caleb, Zoe Kravitz as Tris’ best friend Cristina.

The movie has many action sequences well staged by Director Neil Burger (“Limitless”), like Tris taking the exciting longest zip line in the world, the last training battle where Tris emerges victorious, Dauntless members jumping off and on a moving train and Tris hallucinatory drug trip that is the final test and viewed on giant monitors. All in all, it’s quite a satisfactory start for a new film franchise.