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Film Review – Divergent

3 min read

Divergent is the film adaptation of the debut young adult novel Divergent by Veronica Roth, published in 2011. Though the book was fairly well received, the similarities to other stories were noted, particularly The Hunger Games trilogy. Taking place in a dystopian society, having a 16 year old female protagonist, a mandatory selection process, and teenagers engaging in violent combat are just a few of the more obvious similarities I noted between the two films. I can’t say that Divergent is a blatant ripoff of The Hunger Games, but they are clearly based on very similar ideas.  Since The Hunger Games books and film adaptations have been so commercially successfully I’m curious to see if Divergent (which will also be a trilogy film series) can distinguish itself enough to be as successful. Or, perhaps the appetite for these sorts of films by young audiences is so great that it won’t really matter. Based on initial box office receipts, it seems that may be the case.


The key differential in Divergent is that this particular society segments every citizen into one of five classes, or “factions” based on character traits like intelligence, bravery, selflessness, peacefulness, etc. At the age of 16, children are given “aptitude” tests, yet are allowed to choose their own faction regardless of the results. The problem, which is the case for the lead character Tris (Shaline Woodley), is that she tested high in multiple areas. For various reasons this is a cardinal sin in their society and those citizens are labelled as “divergent” and must live as outcasts.  This fundamental premise of the story I found to be quite silly, as it seems extremely unlikely that any intelligent society would somehow believe that the only people of any value are those that completely embody a single arbitrary trait, without any trace of any other.  I get that the idea of Tris being labelled a Divergent and rebelling against the dictated societal norms is the case in point, but the whole premise to me just doesn’t seem plausible and is trying to make the point too blatantly. I had trouble with the contradiction between the test and the choice: on one hand, the test results were determined to be so important that if you scored outside the norm you were determined to be of almost no value to society, but on the another had, children were allowed to choose any faction they wanted, regardless of what their test results were. Clearly I’m out of the intended target “young adult” audience, but I’m sure teens will eat it up, especially considering that it touches on so many areas that resonate with young adults these days like bullying, and overcoming shyness and insecurity to rise to the top of the class (and get the hot guy).

There really isn’t much more to say about it. The plot unfolds in a very predictable fashion with few surprises, but it lacks the spot-on references to current popular culture that make The Hunger Games flashier, more visually entertaining, and more interesting.  Ultimately,  Divergent just seems like “too little, too late”.  Though it barely distinguishes itself from other films in the genre, there is clearly plenty of room for more in order to satisfy the needs of what is no doubt a very large audience for this type of entertainment.

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