An allegory for the human journey of belonging, Divergent by Veronica Roth has resounded among young readers since its publication in 2011. And now, a mere three years later, its film incarnation attempts to do the same, taking the tale of a young woman’s dangerous quest to find herself—and hopefully not get killed!—and debuting it for mass consumption on cinema screens worldwide.
As the opening sequence of Divergent unfolds, a sweeping aerial of the cityscape of a familiar Chicago immediately reveals a futuristic version of the Great Wall skirting it, and instantly uninitiates know that something is up. Welcome to a dystopian future. Get ready for some cheese ball acting.
But, gem #1. Acting is not cheese ball; it is surprisingy human, engaging. Shailene Woodley (The Spectacular Now, The Descendants) leads the cast as its hard-hitting heroine (cue the Hunger Games and J-Law comparisons) in a manner that puts an accessible face to a harsh reality. The role of futuristic lead is a slippery slope, beset with echoes of—don’t hate me, Trekkies—William Shatner, or worse, Justin Timberlake circa In Time. In contrast, Woodley shines as Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior, drawing us in with a solid balance of tentative, underdog charm, and Rocky-esque determination. With a supporting cast including Kate Winslet and Ashley Judd lending their heavyweight status, we know Divergent isn’t playing around.
On the other hand, the plot is fun and games, and in a good way. The faction system, though it sets the backdrop for a potential genocide, also hearkens to the house system that helped make J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter stories so magnetic and entertaining. Where would I belong? The viewer asks: Erudite, Abnegation, Candor Amity, or Dauntless? Expect the fun of merciless boot camp where rookies struggle to succeed. And expect Divergent to pull that off rather well.
Having Hans Zimmer at the musical helm to produce the score, and Junkie XL composing, are a one-two hit that will have you reeling all throughout the film. The score is nothing short of epic: massive, emotive electro-orchestral movements and heart-thumping percussive chase tracks summon similar feelings as Man of Steel where Junkie and Zimmer created a musical masterpiece.
As with any blockbuster, expect fans, especially zealous young ones, to react to moments of kick-assery, power one-liners, and intentionally shirtless kissing scenes with school yard enthusiasm. And this film is chock-full of that stuff. But doesn’t that add to the fun? Just another reason to jump into Divergent at the cinema this weekend.
By the way, we are super excited about Veronica Roth inviting the Fully Booked community to watch Divergent! Watch the video now: