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Young adult novels about dystopian societies are apparently the go-to source material for Hollywood scripts these days. Divergent is the latest and is based on a trilogy of books by best-selling author Veronica Roth. It features the same themes of survival and rebellion mixed with a little bit of romance that we’ve seen in the genre time and time again, but is much more developed than those in recent memory.

The film is set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago where citizens are forced to live in one of five factions. There are Abnegation (The Selfless), Erudite (The Intelligent), Dauntless (The Brave), Amity (The Peaceful), and Candor (The Honest). At 16, kids are forced to take an aptitude test that determines which faction their personalities are best suited for and are then able to pick whichever one they like to live with as a part of. Those that don’t fit any one faction are classified as Divergent and are seen as a danger to the hierarchal society and are eliminated.

Tris (Shailene Woodley) has just taken her test and found out that she is Divergent. She joins Dauntless and blends in with everyone else in an effort to hide herself from those in charge. While there she develops a relationship with Four (Theo James), one of the trainers in charge of teaching the new recruits. As she goes through the trials for becoming a full member of Dauntless she finds it’s more difficult to hide who she really is.

Divergent may seem like just another shoddy attempt at creating the next Hunger Games, but the film is actually put together rather well. The main theme revolves around finding one’s place within society and not conforming to standards. It’s funny, because this isn’t exactly a new idea to the genre. It’s a story we’ve seen many times before, but the cast is so good you don’t mind seeing it again.

Shailene Woodley and Theo James lead the film. At the beginning, Tris is a lot like a lost soul wandering around in the wilderness. Originally a member of the peaceful and selfless Abnegation, she doesn’t stand out much in a crowd. When she joins Dauntless, however, she learns to toughen up and is able to stand up for herself. Woodley has shown that she can deliver some powerful performances in the past with The Descendants and The Spectacular Now and Divergent is no different. The source material may be a little more lowbrow but she handles it with a visible passion.

What I like most about the film is that it doesn’t focus on the relationship between her and Theo James’ Four. Yes, there’s a spark between the two, but that doesn’t take away from either of their characters. They both get along just fine independent of each other and don’t need to rely on one another to survive.

Divergent does a lot of different things combining sci-fi with action and romance and does them all pretty well. It’s far from perfect, but is enjoyable for a wide range of audiences. Fans of the novels are sure to be pleased while the uninitiated are sure to find something to latch onto.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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