It seems as though the standard for Hollywood today is to throw money at any film adaptation of a popular young adult novel that might make a profit. Most of these films center around an innocent lead character born into a supernatural or futuristic world who is forced to overcome many obstacles, almost always finding love along the way. The craze started with the Harry Potter franchise, which was later succeeded by box office hits such as Twilight, The Hunger Games and their countless sequels. But now that the romantic spark of Bella and Edward has died down and the next visit to Panem isn't due until late 2014, teenage audiences have been left searching for another young adult movie train to hop onto (members of Dauntless should be informed that this pun was intended). Lucky for them, the search is over with Divergent, a film in which the performances and premise are almost too good for the reputation its arrogant critics are bound to give it.
In Divergent, Tris is played by the immensely talented Shailene Woodley (she starred in the young adult adaptation of The Spectacular Now and audiences can watch her again later this year on the big screen in yet another young adult adaptation, The Fault in Our Stars). Tris lives in a world where everyone is separated into groups, or factions, and she has finally gotten to the age where she must wear the Sorting Hat and find out whether she belongs to Gryffindor... correction: Tris must consume a serum that will recommend to her which of the five factions she should join: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite, or Dauntless. When her results come up as unclear, she discovers that she is a Divergent and is considered a threat to the society of future dystopian Chicago. Instead of listening to her results, Tris joins Dauntless and begins jumping off of buildings for fun. This is where she meets a well-built and tough man, Four (I Am Number Four, anyone?), who also enjoys jumping off of buildings for fun. He cuts her ear with a knife in one of their early encounters, which would obviously lead to Tris falling head over heels for him. When the two realize that their feelings are shared, they team up to fight against the leader of Erudite, played by Kate Winslet, and stop her from killing everyone in Tris' original faction, Abnegation.
There were two groups of people, or factions, in the crowd when Divergent was screening in the theater: there were the audience members who truly wanted to analyze the film and see what all the craze was about, and then there were the teenage girls that giggled and cheered when they looked up from their cell phones to see Theo James take his shirt off. People who are part of the latter group will love the parts of this movie they look up to see regardless. But if audiences really want to see a quality film, they still may find some aspects to enjoy here. For example, the performances from an A-list cast are outstanding. Shailene Woodley and Theo James gave their all to their performances both through physical training and emotional line-delivery. Kate Winslet portrayed a villain whose path no one would like to cross. Even though the performances were exceptional, the characters did not seem as well developed as they could've been. This should be an easy fix though considering the next two sequels already have release dates.
Neil Burger's direction of the action sequences is very well executed. He avoids jerking the camera around aimlessly as so many current directors do to make choreography easier and instead allows the audience to see what they want to see. The adapted screenplay by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor is nothing special, but it did the job of compressing the 496 page book into a 150 minute runtime. Though some of the testing sequences were poorly done due to an overuse of cheesy special effects, they are easy to overlook seeing as they only take up a good five or so minutes of the final runtime.
Divergent is not a perfect film, but it leaves ample room for questions to be answered and characters to be developed further in future entries, and it undoubtedly lives up to its name when being compared to other films of the genre. For those who just cannot wait until next March to see the sequel, a trailer for The Maze Runner, the newest young adult adaptation, was conveniently played before every Divergent screening. Be prepared to push through heaping crowds of adolescents to purchase tickets.