Out & About

March 27, 2014

'Divergent' just original enough to be worth watching

With the tremendous success of “The Hunger Games” every dystopian young adult novel in existence has been optioned into a movie.

The most recent is Veronica Roth’s “Divergent,” which mixes a large dose of “The Hunger Games,” a chunk of “Ender’s Game” and a touch of “Harry Potter” into a formulaic and shallow, but reasonably entertaining, first chapter of a trilogy.

“Divergent” is set in the ruins of a future Chicago. The city is now surrounded by a wall and the people have been divided into five separate factions: Erudite (they’re smart); Abnegation (they’re selfless); Amity (they’re nice); Candor (they’re honest); and Dauntless (they’re fearless).

All teens have their brains scanned (yes, the government can see your thoughts) and are sorted into one of the five factions for the rest of their lives.

Occasionally, however, there are rare humans who have the traits of multiple factions; these divergents are somehow dangerous to society as a whole and must be eliminated.

The film’s heroine, Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), is, of course, one of these divergents, and when the sorting ceremony comes, she opts to sign on with the adrenaline junkies of the Dauntless warrior class, much to the surprise of her Abnegation parents.

Woodley may be the new “it” girl in Hollywood. Prior to this she played George Clooney’s daughter in “The Descendents” and starred in the critically-acclaimed indie “The Spectacular Now.” In June, she will make an even bigger splash as the star of yet another (and better) young adult best-seller, “The Fault in Our Stars” — where her “Divergent” brother, Ansel Elgort, will play her boyfriend.

Here she is very good, evolving from the bland and quiet public servant Beatrice, into the clever, dangerous and renamed Tris. The process involves a rather lengthy portion of the film, where Tris trains with other young recruits in the art of war under two instructors, one sadistic (Jai Courtney), and the other a mysterious dreamboat.

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