Romy Shiller

Archive for April, 2014|Monthly archive page


In Film, review, sci-fi on April 13, 2014 at 8:59 am

divergent tat

About: Divergent is a 2014 American science fiction action film directed by Neil Burger, based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth. The film is the first installment in the Divergent film series and was produced by Lucy Fisher, Pouya Shabazian, and Douglas Wick, with a screenplay by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor. It stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Zoë Kravitz, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Jai Courtney, Miles Teller, and Kate Winslet.

How many teen-angst films with identity-seeking and romantic plots can a supposed adult like me see? Oh, thousands I guess. You know, The Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games, The Harry Potter films etc. Young adult book-to-film adaptations are nothing new, but since The Hunger Games rocked the box office, the race to snag the next hot property seems more rabid than ever.

This film had potential. The make-up [!] was great. Tattoos. Piercings. Costumes included black clothes. Industrial looking sets. Non-conformity was a major theme – all good BUT this film needed to be edgier, more intense, more hard-core. The film needed to mirror the non-conformity it puts forth. We need a music video vibe here. The leads were miscast. The direction was off. The premise is a good one: conformity vs. non-conformity, however, unfortunately, it falls flat because of poor delivery in terms of the leads and direction.

Plot: The story takes place in a dystopian post-apocalyptic version of Chicago where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Beatrice Prior is warned that she is Divergent and thus will never fit into any one of the factions. She soon learns that a sinister plot is brewing in her seemingly perfect society.

The five factions: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (truthful), Erudite (intelligent) and Dauntless (brave). Beatrice is born into Abnegation, caregivers who also run the government, but is fascinated by Dauntless. She embodies a notion of plurality. She is more than one thing and that is why the test does not work on her, which is why she is Divergent: 16-year old citizens have undergone aptitude test using a serum to indicate which faction they would really fit and which they would need to choose on the Choosing Ceremony. Beatrice takes the aptitude test with a Dauntless woman as her proctor. Her test has resulted different attributes of several factions (Abnegation, Erudite and Dauntless), which means she is Divergent. Four has a tattoo of all factions and aspires to being more than one thing.

Since Divergent people can think independently and government cannot conform their thinking, they are considered threats to the social orders. Erudite is planning to overthrow Abnegation and become the ruling faction. There appear to be several reasons to get rid of Divergent people.

The female lead [Shailene Woodley as Beatrice or Tris] was way too mild. She should have been a kick-ass chick, not a very weak copy of Jennifer Lawrence. Man, Jennifer Lawrence would have been great here. The male lead [Theo James as Four] was so generic he could have been swapped with any young, hot, male actor. Kate Winslet as the evil and calculating Jeanine, leader of the Erudite faction is superb, as usual.

A review says: In Divergent, we see Kate Winslet as we’ve never really seen her before — playing the cold and rather ruthless antagonist Jeanine Matthews — and that’s exactly why she took the part. “I was sent a lovely letter by [director] Neil Burger,” she says. “It came with a gigantic packet of Divergent info. I hadn’t heard of the book at that point, and so I devoured it immediately. And on reading it, frankly, I wanted to play a baddie! It’s something I have never done.”

Everything aside from the casting and direction is fine. The story is based on a recognized novel and the script was faithful to it. It follows a romantic tradition in Hollywood film. The editing matched the pace of the action. The acting by the cast is good.

I think the impulse here is a good one. The emphasis on non-conformity resonates as a theme [only] with the X-Men films. The importance of showing divergence cannot be underestimated. I wish that this film committed to its emphasis on difference by being different in some way.

A sequel, Insurgent, is scheduled to be released on March 20, 2015.


ROMY SHILLER is a pop culture critic and holds a PhD from the University of Toronto. Her academic areas of concentration include film, gender performance and critical thought. She lives in Montreal where she continues her writing.