Sunday, April 6, 2014

Movie Review: Divergent

Title: Divergent
Genre: dystopia, drama, action, adventure, romance, science fiction
My Rating: ***
Official Rating: PG-13 (intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality)
Author: Summit Entertainment
Age Group: 16+

At a certain age, people in Beatrice's world take a test (a mental simulation of sorts) that tells them whether they tend toward one of five different ways of being, broken into five factions where people live: Candor (truthful), Erudite (smart), Amity (kind), Abnegation (selfless), and Dauntless (brave). Then, the next day, they choose (hopefully based on their test results) where they will spend the rest of their lives. It's simple.
And doesn't work for Beatrice. She shows the ability to live in more than one faction. One would think this is a good thing, but in her world it means she can't be easily controlled by the government. She's divergent--and constantly in danger of death.
Beatrice chooses Dauntless and changes her name to Tris. It's there that she encounters a crazy world where kids court death and thrive on the rush of adrenalin. Can she survive this way of life? Will she be found out as a divergent and killed?

Word of Warning
  • Mind control. Lots of characters enter a city of innocent people and usher them out, intending a mass execution. Those who resist die. Later, when the mind control ends, the characters who did this are horrified by their actions.
  • Mental simulations that are induced by the injection of a serum. These are often frightening and intense but rather short scenes that feel real to the character. More on these later.
  • In the simulations: a dog tries to attack Tris, then a little girl; Tris almost drowns more than once; she is attacked by birds; she walks along a few poles over a very high and dangerous chasm; she is nearly squished to death (along with another character) in a shrinking box; a man tries to beat his son (more later); she is approached in a sexually aggressive way (more later); a character is forced to kill an innocent girl (more later); Tris is forced to shoot her family and though we see nothing it is assumed that she does so; Tris is tied to a stake and nearly burned to death (she escapes before receiving any real damage).
  • There is a rumor that a man used to beat his son. In a simulation, Tris encounters the same situation. The father approaches his son (now about 18) with a thick leather belt saying that it's for his son's own good, that he's just trying to make him better. The young man is clearly afraid and does nothing when Tris steps in front of him and takes the blow. Then he punches his father and the simulation ends.
  • Tris is afraid of physical intimacy. In one of her simulations, she is approached by her love interest who kisses her, then starts to slide his hand up her shirt. She slaps him, and he responds by pushing her backward onto a bed. He pins her there, crouching over her, holding her down by her arms. She fights back and asks him to stop but he taunts her, asking if she's brave or not. He forcefully kisses her a few times before she kicks him (presumably in the groin) and he releases her. The simulation ends.
  • Tris is practicing punches when her trainer comes by and tells her to "keep tension here" putting both hands on her abs for a moment longer than necessary. Later, Tris slips while climbing and her love interest catches her, putting a hand on her side to steady her. We see a close shot of his hand on bare skin but when the camera moves out, we see his hand on her shirt, not bare skin.
  • Characters are killed (too many to count). We never see a death on screen, but we see dead bodies with blood (usually a little blood from the corner of the mouth or on the head). Most of the deaths are for shock value and not dwelt upon. However, there are five that get some screen time: a character is killed by a friend in self-defense; two parents are killed (both times when at least one child was present); a character commits suicide (unlike the book, the movie does not show the other Dauntless glorifying this act); a character in a simulation is forced to kill an innocent girl by shooting her in the head which he does, though we see nothing but her limp body (not her head). Tris shoots one character in the leg, then another in his side (presumably a graze, as he doesn't sustain serious injuries and recovers pretty quickly), all the while complaining that people over-estimate her character because they don't think she will shoot.
  • Tris is shot on the shoulder but for the most part we're not even aware she's in pain. At one point someone cruelly presses down on the wound and Tris cries out. The person draws her hand away, blood on her fingertips.
  • Tris is nearly executed. She comes close enough that she's on her knees, subdued, and looking up at a gun. One of her friends is lead away, presumably to be experimented on. We don't get any details, but some experimentation has been done because the character who was formerly uncontrollable is now under the influence of mind control.
  • Characters beat each other up for training purposes. Bruises, bloody noses, and knock-out punches abound. All things considered, they survive with unrealistically mild injuries.
  • Tris is attacked and characters try to murder her by throwing her into a chasm. She is rescued and stands aside as the other characters are beaten (some being slammed against a rock wall more than once).
  • A woman is stabbed in the hand with a knife. We see the knife lodged in her hand, then her hand later, covered in blood.
  • Tris is forced to stand in front of a target while a young man throws knives at her. He purposely cuts her ear (not seriously).
  • Characters cut a little slice into their hands to draw blood, which is then used to show which faction they have chosen, dripping it into the appropriate bowl.
  • Words: b*tch and a**h*le more than once. God's name is used in vain more than once as well. The whispered f-word.
  • Dauntless people nearly all have tattoos. Tris and her friends run off for a wild night to do just that.
  • A very intense zip-line trip through the towers of a city and a near-death ending (no injuries).
  • As mentioned above, one of the characters commits suicide. This is very upsetting for the characters who knew him, and rightly so. It closely follows a scene in which he seeks forgiveness from Tris for attacking her (as mentioned above), to which she angrily refuses forgiveness and threatens to kill him if he ever comes close. She later feels guilty for his suicidal action.
  • Tris' love interest, under simulation, beats her up. She tries to fight back but he's taller and stronger and basically throws her around the room and punches her numerous times. It ends with her holding a gun at him, which she then turns around, pressing it to her own head (in no way is this meant to be a suicidal action). He grabs the hilt of the gun and reaches for the trigger.
  • Tris removes her jacket and one of the boys behind her yells "Take it off, Stiff!" (Stiff refers to her former faction), then follows up with a weak, "Put it back on" in a mocking tone. Later, she takes her shirt off to change into the clothes she is given and we see her in her bra. This scene is set up to be uncomfortable for her and in no way sexual.
  • Tris and other characters wear tight fitting shirts and pants.
  • All Dauntless initiates sleep in the same room (boys and girls) and share the same bathroom (which has no privacy what-so-ever). One of the male initiates says something to the effect of, "That works for me" but the other characters are wary of this set up. Nothing more is shown of this situation, only that it exists.
  • Several male characters remove their shirts. Most of this is for the purpose of changing (as Tris did in the point above). One scene involves Tris' love interest removing his shirt to show her his tattoo. She runs her fingers down his back along the tattoo and we can see from his facial expression (more alert and a little tense) that he's aroused by this.
  • Tris falls in love with one of her leaders. They kiss passionately once. She sleeps in his bedroom a few times. The first time, he lets her take the bed and disappears (apparently to another corner of the room), saying he'll take the floor. The rest of the times it is implied that the same thing happens.
  • Tris tells her love interest she doesn't want to go too fast during their passionate kiss. He backs off and assures her that's ok, then adds that he's "already got my spawn on the floor."
  • A young woman is left to hang over a chasm to teach her never to give up. She nearly lets go and falls, but does not and is pulled up. The scene is not long but feels like forever.
  • Characters jump onto and off of fast moving trains, sometimes onto rooftops (some almost fall). They are shot with darts that stimulate the pain of getting shot for real--this is part of a game of capture of the flag. Characters jump into a dark pit not knowing what is at the bottom, suspecting they might die.
  • Government officials are corrupt.
  • For all the action, there is very little blood and gore. I'm not complaining and asking that it be added, but it feels unbalanced.
  • Other minor problems.
My Thoughts
It was better than the book. Wait, did I just say that? Me, the one who always fights for the movie to follow the book as closely as possible? It was better in the sense that it was more appropriate and properly handled. I really did enjoy the movie, though the story line left it feeling like there was something lacking. It picked up at the end as the problem with the government became a main point and I believe the next installment won't feel quite so flat.

However, a warning to those who have not read the book. I saw the movie twice, both times with friends who had not read the book. I found myself explaining plot points to them not so they would understand what was going on, but so they would understand the deeper implications which were not made clear. I'm not telling you to go read the book, just trying to clarify what you'll be getting into if you go see the movie.

One final note: people have compared the kids fighting in this movie to the kids fighting in The Hunger Games books and movies. I object. In this movie, fighting is for training purposes or under the control of others through mind control. In The Hunger Games the kids know exactly what they're doing and, though they don't choose to enter the games willingly (for the most part), their actions are voluntary.

I reviewed the book this movie is based off of. You can find that review here.