Before you look at the poster for DIVERGENT on your local cinema and roll your eyes thinking is another YA novel adaptation, I’d like to say that the name for it is well attributed.
Based on the series of books by Veronica Roth, it tells the story of Tris, a teenager in a far from perfect future going against society conventions while making choices to determine her place in it. And what this franchise has going on different to its predecessors is a story scenario where there’s actual place for debate when it comes to its rules, where you can question its characters decisions without an obvious villain to defeat. Teenagers make choices that aren’t always correct, parental and authorial figures have enough reasons to make you understand their motives against the younger leads, and gender/generational empowerment is better balanced. You don’t need to be a young hot girl or boy to have something to do of importance on this film that doesn’t involve grounding a a minor or being a political dictator. There’s room for more than one type of character in this story and I find that to be refreshing, specially for its genre.
The acting is also compelling, I specially enjoyed Shailene Woodley as Tris, in a performance that isn’t afraid of showing the vulnerabilities of her heroine. You understand her fear while getting into a physical fight with another girl. She is not empowered from the very beginning, yet she’s not a victim needed to be rescued. I found the path she had to go through achieving her own strength relatable and brave, while always remaining interesting.
But as much as I enjoyed the uniqueness of this entry yet there were elements that parted it from being a stronger one. I liked the main (but obvious) relationship between Tris and Four, played by Theo James, yet there’s not a clear reason for it to take part on the context of the story as a whole. Why is there always a love interest to be rescued by/rescue/long for when there’s female lead?. I could also spare the too many “one liners” that took me out of any gravitas the actor at the time had on screen. I specially didn’t need the protagonist to say “I am Divergent” more than once. Or ever.
Divergent is quite an enjoyable effort to add to the canon of YA film adaptations, while it takes its own interesting and more intellectual spin on it. The concepts of self image, society, family and even gender roles are treated with wit, while the action sequences and fast pace make it quite entertaining, even winking and nodding to other features of the genre.
It is good to witness this new era of cinema with increasing interest for young female leads on screen, even more when there’s an entry that, like its main character, fights a welcomed battle to earn its uniqueness.