Review: A take on ‘Divergent’ without reading the book

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Based on Veronica Roth’s 2011 novel, Divergent, set in a futuristic Chicago, follows a young woman who is trying to fit into a strict personality-based society. Beatrice “Tris” Prior (Shailene Woodley), along with all of the other teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, is given an aptitude test to help decide her fate.

The city is divided into five non-transferable factions: Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), Dauntless (brave), and Erudite (intelligent). Tris’ rare trait makes her decision difficult, but she leaves her parents and their Abnegation lifestyle to branch out on her own.

Merecedes J. Howze photo

Merecedes J. Howze

I did not read the book, but it did not hinder my understanding of the movie. It also did not play a deciding factor on whether I enjoyed the movie or not. I’m actually glad I did not read the book. I’m not a true fan of science fiction novels so I doubt if I would have even finished the book. Similar to a preschooler, I like books read to me from time to time so my safest median is an audiobook from iTunes.

The broader theme of the movie reflects contemporary societal problems. Between labels and social groups, we inadvertently cast people out or force people to define themselves. Divergent reminds me that we are all different and not simplistic enough to be assigned to a certain demographic.

Divergent has an awesome cast. This is the second movie where Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller have teamed up. Last year, in ‘The Spectacular Now’, the two portrayed an odd high school couple. Both actors have a working chemistry. Although they weren’t love interests in this movie, they still share memorable, intense moments.

For all my Scandal fans, Fitz makes a guest appearance as Tris’ father, Andrew Prior. Tony Goldwyn makes the same distraught, confused Scandal faces during the entire movie. I thought Liv was going to pop out and fix all his Divergent problems. Damn you, Shonda Rhimes!

Lisa Bonet and Lenny Kravitz’s only daughter, Zoe Kravitz, plays Tris’ dauntless gal pal, Christina. She’s outspoken, strong and valorous. This is my first theatrical encounter with Zoe and I’m eager to see her other works.

‘Paid in Full’ actor Mekhi Phifer was a breath of not-so-fresh air in the movie when he played chubby villain and Dauntless leader, Max. While Phifer’s filmography is not lengthy of gluts and glory, he has given us some classics: Soul Food (1997), 8 Mile (2002), and This Christmas (2009). Like Martin Lawrence, Laurence Fishburne, and Chris Tucker, he’s put on a little weight lately. And while his role as Max was brawny and tough, I just couldn’t help but to notice how he’s packed on the pounds.

Even in his most notable TV role as Dr. Greg Pratt on NBC’s long-running medical drama ER, Phifer looked pretty fit. One thing that Phifer reminds me is that weight does not equate the quality or greatness of an actor. Overall, Phifer holds a medium yet meaningful role in Divergent.

divergentWithout spoiling the movie, the ending was sucker faire. Although there was no cliff hanger, a great movie like Divergent should have gone out with a bang or at least ended on a more exhilarating, exciting part. All Divergent novel readers like Denele Hughson have reassured me that book ended in a similar fashion. (I’ll take their word for it!)

The IMAX experience is the only way to experience this movie. Divergent has the crispness of actually seeing it live like a play. After watching Divergent, I wonder why all movies aren’t viewed through IMAX lenses. It makes for a better movie experience.

4 Solid Stars: A fantastic movie about soul searching and discovering your life’s purpose. Also, a great series completion for anyone who has previously read the novel. I wonder if Veronica Roth’s other two novels (Insurgent and Allegiant) will become movies too?

 

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