Divergent - Blu-ray Review

'Lumbered with the very flaky 'factions' setup, nearly all of the joy in Neil Burger's film comes towards both the end of the first act and most of the second.'

It feels highly unlikely that the current wave of Young Adult fiction adaptations will go down in film annals as either an overall 'good thing', nor as influential in the long run, at least not if you track trends further than those to do with Box Office. Arguably launched by The Hunger Games, though probably really traceable back to Harry Potter and Twilight's successes, it may well be that the decline of the genre begins when The Hunger Games series ends, towards the back of 2015, and certainly in terms of what has been brought to film as a form, you feel its eventual passing will leave not a mark.

All of which is not to say that many of the films it has produced do not have a level of sheen and quality, or tell satisfying stories whilst they last. Divergent, though nowhere near the standard of the second Hunger Games film, kicks off yet another series with a satisfying level of plot meat on its dubiously fleshy setup bones. With two direct nods to The Matrix in the first 5-10 minutes, it is at least a piece of YA with its genre references in the right place.

Lumbered with the very flaky 'factions' setup, nearly all of the joy in Neil Burger's film comes towards both the end of the first act and most of the second. Having dispensed with the dubious opening, Tris (Shailene Woodley) is firmly ensconced into an obligatory training narrative where allegiances are formed - notably with Zoƫ Kravitz's Christina - and brooding handsome trainer Four (Theo James) provides the eye candy. It's predictable, fun stuff. Kravitz provides effective support and Woodley, who must no longer be mourning the lost opportunity of Spider-Man's Mary Jane, given the profile this affords her, is a watchable lead presence. A War Game-alike scenario might have a bit too much cheese for its own good, and feature the very dubiously talented Jai Courtney too prominently, but it also shows Divergent at its base-level best.

Things start to fall apart again in the third act when Burger annoyingly fails to make clear when we have excited a dream-like part of the narrative and when we are still within it. It engenders a 'spot the twist' final act the film never needed, taking focus away from just allowing Tris and Four to complete their natural character arcs - much more of a success than any of the late reveals. Burger does manage, thankfully, to leave us in a position of some interest at the very end, though the fact that he takes one-hundred and thirty-nine minutes to get there marks Divergent out as yet another YA film too obsessed with every element of its source.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.


  1. Weirdly, I arrived at the same conclusion about this but through almost the opposite route. Divergent I think has been unfortunate in arriving whilst The Hunger Games franchise is still in full swing, as despite some strong similarities in certain parts it actually offers some decent ideas of its own. It is definitely too long by at least twenty minutes; it could even lose half an hour easily and not miss it. The part where I felt it could be trimmed the most was in fact the whole physical training segment. It's perhaps the first time I've ever felt a montage would have actually been a welcome narrative device! So little happens in that segment in terms of story progression or development that it would help the whole thing feel tighter and flow much better if it had been considerably cut down.

  2. The other half has actually become a big fan of this. Two watches of this film now and a read of the book. The second film is eagerly awaited... by at least one half of the household!