The world is divided into factions based on our virtues, so when 16 year old Tris (Shailene Woodley) learns that she’s a ‘divergent’, she knows she won’t fit in anywhere. So she begins a journey that will not only change her and her family but shake up the very fabric of her government, a shadowy organisation who are secretly looking to eliminate all divergents.
Yet another young-adult novel to get the big-screen translation, Divergent is a wannabe hybrid of The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game and even a bit of Harry Potter. It’s enjoyable for the most part, with a wonderful soundtrack featuring the likes of M83, Ellie Goulding and Zedd. The effects are mostly good and there are some big spectacle moments that duly impress (the zip-line scene which has our heroine sweeping high across the city is just plain awesome). But the overarching story is weak, with some of the supporting performances just too poor for such an event movie.
Shailene Woodley does very well with a powerful leading performance. She can easily help this franchise prosper like Jennifer Lawrence has done with The Hunger Games. She deserved a better script though but navigates through this to deliver a solid and captivating turn. Her chemistry with Theo James (the smarmy bad guy from The Inbetweeners Movie) is good. They both bounce off one another and create a very believable couple with James holding his own as the leading man.
The supporting cast are a very mixed bag. Jai Courtney does little to suggest he’s anything but a flavour of the month. Much like Sam Worthington did a few years ago, Courtney seems to be popping up everywhere but his talent suggests he should step back. Zoë Kravitz and Miles Teller are fine but Maggie Q and Mekhi Phifer are utterly wasted. Kate Winslet is the biggest disappointment though. The usually reliable actress is very wooden here. That’s largely down to the source material but even so, she still manages to look uninterested throughout.
At times, this is just complete nonsense but there’s enough action and energy to keep you interested. Aside from a few flaws in flow and some questionable plot devices, Divergent still has what it takes to become a very competent and enjoyable franchise. For now, this first chapter is a strong effort that succumbs to a few telling flaws. But in Shailene Woodley we trust and I’m sure the upcoming sequel will fare a lot better on all fronts.