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Rated PG-13 · 140 min. · 2014

Neil Burger’s Divergent is little more than an attempt to capitalize on the success of The Hunger Games. It marks the beginning of what’s bound to be a whole lot of inevitable knock-offs — all involving sad teens living in dystopian sci-fi landscapes. But beyond the obvious comparisons to The Hunger Games — from the female lead, to the subject matter, set design, and color palette — Divergent, in reality, is little more than an ’80s or early ’90s Arnold Schwarzenegger sci-fi vehicle, right down to the jokey one-liners. The idea of these films reimagined for teens isn’t quite as fun or interesting in practice as it is in theory. A lot of this lies in the execution, since Burger and company fancies Divergent as important, wanting to tackle certain moral dilemmas that its dystopian society brings up, but getting its ideas too muddled to be coherent. Unlike the dystopian America of The Hunger Games, Divergent posits a dystopian Chicago, one walled in and crumbling after some unnamed war seemingly destroyed society. Here, the survivors have been separated into five factions, each based on a person’s virtues and each filling a purpose within the social contract. This is where the film’s hero, Tris (Shailene Woodley), comes in. She’s of the humble Abnegation faction, but soon finds out she’s actually a rare and uncontrollable Divergent, something that could mean death if she were found out, since she inherently threatens the delicate balance of her world. In order to survive, she attempts to join up with the daring Dauntless, a sort of manic, butch police force, who run around climbing things and getting neck tattoos that are supposed to appeal to the more rebellious tweens in the audience. Beyond cinematic influences, Divergent is simply a jumble of disparate science fiction tropes and influences. Any questions the film raises have already been posited by science fiction authors in the past, with Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron” and Philip K. Dick’s Clans of the Alphane Moon coming immediately to mind. But those authors had answers — or, at the very least ideas — where Divergent is more worried about mundane drama of stressed out futuristic teens. —
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Director: Neil Burger
Writer: Vanessa Taylor and Evan Daugherty
Producer: Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney, Zoë Kravitz, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Ben Lamb and Christian Madsen



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