Oh, the things people will do in a near-future, post-apocalyptic world just to keep the peace. First the Hunger Games, now this — a society built on forcing people to choose a faction to join when they’re sixteen or so, because all sixteen-year-olds know exactly what they want out of the rest of their lives and never ever change their minds.
Oh, the things people will do in a near-future, post-apocalyptic world just to keep the peace. First the Hunger Games, now this — a society built on forcing people to choose a faction to join when they’re sixteen or so, because all sixteen-year-olds know exactly what they want out of the rest of their lives and never ever change their minds. In this case, there are five choices: Amity, basically hippie farmers who like everyone, Candor, where you blurt out everything you’re thinking in the name of honesty, Erudite for the smart kids, Abnegation for the selfless people, and Dauntless for the crazy ones. I mean, the brave ones.
Our heroine is Beatrice (Shailene Woodley), a member of Abnegation who isn’t quite sure she fits in there. She goes to take an aptitude test from Tori (Maggie Q of Priest), a test which involves drinking an unidentified substance and having lots of hallucinations. Trippy. Later we learn that Tori’s day job is as a tattoo artist, so I’m not sure why she’s giving these tests in the first place, but whatever. The point is that Beatrice’s test, which is supposed to tell her which faction fits her the best, was “inconclusive”.
Tori acts like she’s trying to be helpful by telling Beatrice this and then saying that she made the official result Abnegation, but I’m not so sure. It seems to me the best way to help would be to tell her that the test was fine, she belongs where she is, and be done with it, though of course then there wouldn’t be a movie. Anyway, at the last possible moment, Beatrice chooses Dauntless and the plot kicks in.
Jai Courtney (I, Frankenstein) as Eric seems to be second in command of Dauntless, though the head guy isn’t around much. He doesn’t particularly like Tris, as Beatrice rechristens herself, but then, I’m not sure he likes anybody. There’s also a guy who calls himself Four (Theo James, Underworld: Awakening) who’s somebody important, too, and he’s less mean but no more friendly than Eric. The actor did a better job when he wasn’t trying to be friendly, actually.
But joining Dauntless is extra rough for the transfers, of course, who all get to play a Survivor-style game to see who makes the cut and who becomes factionless, which is the worst thing you can be in a world like this. Tris makes friends with fellow transfers Christina (Zoë Kravitz, X-Men: First Class) and Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), and they muddle through together. Will, unfortunately, looks a bit like fellow transfers Al and Peter, so they probably should have cast some different actors.
Abnegation runs things, and I have to say that a bunch of completely altruistic politicians sounds like a beautiful dream. Too bad it will never happen. Erudite doesn’t like the idea, though, and think that they should be in charge, and their leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet, Contagion) is determined to make that happen. She also wants to get rid of Divergents, which is another name for people who have inconclusive aptitude tests. Whoops.
Rounding out the cast are Ashley Judd (Olympus Has Fallen) as Tris’ mother Natalie, and Ray Stevenson of Thor: The Dark World as Marcus, one of Abnegation’s leaders. Some of the acting from the younger crowd is a bit doubtful here and there, but as you can see there’s enough talent in the cast to help smooth that out somewhat. I’m told fans of the book are not entirely happy with the adaptation, but here’s where never having read the book comes in handy, because I found it entertaining — not spectacular, but not bad.
Let’s say three and a quarter out of five. The ending wraps up enough loose ends that it doesn’t feel like a horrible cliffhanger, but you’re still curious about what happens next, and while the fighting style that all of Dauntless seems to use looked a little odd to me, the fight scenes weren’t bad. Tris doesn’t really look like a fighter, though, and her opponents are always strangely considerate about not bruising her face. Still, it was an enjoyable watch, and hopefully there won’t be too much sequel slump. Just remember, faction over blood.