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Customer Review

418 of 482 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars the same old story, but told well, March 23, 2014
This review is from: Divergent [Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD] (Blu-ray)
Nine Things about the Movie “Divergent”

1. This film is based on the first book of the popular young adult trilogy of novels.

2. If you haven’t noticed, contemporary young adult stories typically follow a set formula - an innocent kid joins a larger society and must be categorized. But then the kid discovers they are “special”, which causes problems for the society, and the kid must lose their innocence to survive in a dangerous world . Some recent examples are “The Hunger Games”, “Ender’s Game”, and the Harry Potter series. “Divergent” sticks to that exact same formula.

3. Just because you have seen this basic story multiple times does not mean the movie is bad. These kinds of stories are popular because it is the archetypal “hero’s journey” myth, and, if they are well-made, hit a nerve with us. Such movies can sometimes become classics - “The Wizard of Oz”, “The Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars” are other, older examples of pretty much the exact same story.

4. Thankfully, “Divergent” is well done, and holds its own among its cinematic peers. It’s about a girl named Tris who takes a test (kind of like Harry Potter’s “sorting hat” or Ender’s training monitor) to discover which of five distinct factions she will become a member of (like Hogwart’s Houses or the Zones in “The Hunger Games”). But she is so special that the test breaks, and nobody knows what to do with her (like all the stories I just mentioned). So she must trust her gut and decide in secret.

4. Tris chooses her faction and begins her training, but she’s so gifted that she draws attention to herself, not only from her fellow classmates, but from her hunky instructor, too. And the leaders of another faction, who have controversial political aspirations.

5. The movie handles the usual themes well - conformity vs. independence, fear vs. bravery, and the trauma of growing up. But it also subtly asks a couple of bigger questions that are unfortunately not explored here; questions like “What is human nature, anyway?” and “While conformity may seem bad, what would happen if we were all independent?”.

6. The acting is decent, and the main characters have good chemistry. Thankfully, the movie delays the inevitable romance as long as it can, and tries not to let it get in the way of the bigger story.

7. Being aimed at young adults, there is not much blood or death, but some people may be surprised that there is a relatively high amount of violence, both explicit and implied.

8. The other two books, “Insurgent” and “Allegiant”, are expected to be made into movies and released in theaters in 2015 and 2016, respectively.

9. So yes, the story is old and predictable. No, “Divergent” won’t become a timeless classic. But if you aren’t just totally over this type of movie, it’s worth seeing. And it makes you realize why this same story keeps getting turned into movies over and over again: The issues that teenagers struggle with never go away. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters are all dealing with the same existential problems. Only our perspective changes. And sometimes our choices.
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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 24, 2014 12:28:34 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Mar 24, 2014 12:38:41 PM PDT
DarthRad says:
Nice review. You said everything I wanted to say, so I'll skip writing my own review.

The only added comment would be that many of these young adult movies of late have not been successful, and having watched several of these failures, it seems that a key is how good the main actors are at engaging our sympathies and drawing us into their fictional world. Theo James was excellent in this movie. Shailene Woodley did a pretty good job also.

Posted on Apr 30, 2014 12:12:36 PM PDT
Very well written review. I agree with everything.

Posted on May 30, 2014 7:25:16 PM PDT
Blondie_57 says:
the only difference is that, if you have read the books, it ends differently than all the others do. The others mostly have "happy endings", where as the ending to this series is bittersweet.

Posted on Jun 2, 2014 4:16:22 AM PDT
Very nice review Paul. If I had to make a constructive critic about it, it'd be just the inclusion of Ender's Game as a "contemporary" young adult novel (even though the movie is just from last year, the novel was first published in 1977 as a short story and then expanded to novel format in 1985) but it still fits your description pretty well, so no real complains here, your review convinced me to give the movie a chance, so it served its purpose well.

Keep up the good work, pal!

Posted on Jun 15, 2014 9:28:34 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 15, 2014 9:31:20 PM PDT
EAC says:
Excellent review. It overall sums up the vast majority of my own feelings about this film: It's far from original, but it manages to be a decent, competent entry in a crowded market for "hero's journey" films.

Posted on Jul 15, 2014 8:08:58 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 15, 2014 8:12:50 AM PDT
Eric Parent says:
Good review, I like points 1 & 4-9, but I don't think I can agree that this, The Hunger Games, Ender's Game, Harry Potter, Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, and Star Wars are all pretty much the same story. The only thing all of those stories have in common is that the main character(s) grow over the course of the story. That much is shared by every book and movie ever.

The examples given, where to begin... Harry Potter does not 'break' the categorization efforts, he is quite happy as a Griffindor. People in the Hunger Games are not sorted or categorized into their zones, any more than we are sorted or categorized into our states in real life; it's just where they live. This is not just nit-picking; the elements being mentioned here are critical to the themes of the stories, which are different. Divergent is indeed as this review describes, focused on being categorized into a faction and the main character breaking that categorization. Hunger Games is instead focused on the main character being mature/responsible, taking her sister's place in danger, and surviving through bravery and intelligence and compassion. Harry Potter is focused on the main character learning about a new hidden world of magic, and facing a very personal nemesis who is intricately bound up with himself and serves as a kind of dark mirror; it's also really about racism and classism (house elves, mudbloods, muggles, etc). Lord of the Rings is perhaps the most different, with it's adult story and many lead characters and multiple plot lines, and it's theme is about power corrupting (as the ring does) and technology defiling nature (Sauroman & Sauron both build industry and mass-produce orcs to enslave the world). The Hobbits do not get categorized or break any tests; if anything Frodo at the end fails to do what he volunteered to do (destroy the ring) because, though humble Hobbits are resistant to it's corruption, the ring does eventually get to them just like it does everyone else. So the book's other major theme, mercy, comes in - Gollum, who is only alive because of Bilbo's mercy, plays the critical role. Star Wars of course is a perfect example of the heroic journey monomyth, because Lucas followed Campbell closely, but it too has it's own theme - the battle within: the fight within each individual to choose good or evil, and sometimes to switch back and find redemption.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 31, 2014 9:24:25 PM PDT
I agree completely with your points. That's the main reason the review bothered me. It took several movies and tried to make them all the same basic story which is not possible. The whole Harry Potter movie is more about choices and racism in a way. Also it's about power as well. It's very clear that Dumbledore feels he made poor choices regarding the hallows and felt that Harry was the better man.

Posted on Aug 26, 2014 9:09:26 AM PDT
I'm not sure how helpful this review is, actually. It has it's own tell tale signs of an age-old critique: same story, different actors. As long as the Hero story has been told, there have been critics saying "nothing new under the Sun." The reason the story keeps popping up and we never get tired of it is because people love it. We would tell it if there was no electricity, movies, phones, or TVs on which to watch it. We will sit around campfires until the end, telling this story. Whether or not that makes humanity a dull species, or it says something more about us than that, I suppose, is irrelevant. The movies are made, the story told again, and we flock to them. And they are important enough for people to critique them, rather than ignore them. Yes, this story is the same story we've told since the beginning of story telling. And it is also true that this review is the same exact review that seemingly must be told every time the story is told. The entire cycle can be dull and predictable if you want it to be. Or you can embrace something deeper about Us that makes it an interesting, ongoing saga of humanity's desire to tell it in a thousand different ways.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 18, 2014 4:06:41 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 18, 2014 4:13:01 PM PDT
TekkieTom says:
In reply to Eric Parent's reply: Although it is true Harry Potter did not quite so much as "break" the categorization efforts, he did influence them to the extent of altering possible history. As I remember in the first movie the Sorting Hat had initially wanted to place Harry Potter into Slytherin House, but Harry made it clear he did not like the idea, and the Hat chose to acquiesce! Of course I am assuming that the book had that scene the same way(?)

As far as this review by Paul: I like the comparisons very much - I myself did not connect all those similar dots - but now that Paul has I do see the whole big picture clearly - thanks!

Posted on Oct 20, 2014 2:37:45 PM PDT
Outstanding review. I originally thought this was some rip off of Hunger Games but read the first book and was reasonably satisfied as to its originality, characters and plot. The movie I would give 4 out of 5 stars, not bad at all, ending excellent. This may motivate me to read the next book in the series and/or see the next movie. Not quite a 5 out of 5 as "Hunger Games" is, but reasonably close in quality and quite well done with obviously a far lesser budget.
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