Divergent turns out to be hip, unique dystopian teen flick

Rudy Barajas

Rudy Barajas

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Although dystopian societies like The Hunger Games have become the fad over the past two years, director Neil Burger diverges from the path of the copycat teenage love story one may have expected from Divergent.

The film is seen through the eyes of Beatrice Prior, portrayed by Shailene Woodley. Beatrice, who later goes by Tris, lives in a world where there are five factions of people to represent pieces of the perfect human personality. The audience meets Tris just as she discovers just how different she is from her confined society, traveling with her on an adventure of jumping on and off moving trains and facing fears as she unlocks the hidden motives of her corrupt government.

Divergent seeks to highlight the importance of being unique through its characters. Although Tris is the heroine in both the novel by Veronica Roth and the film, Burger made her character stand out amongst the crowd in an almost Katniss Everdeen-like role. In the book, Tris is known for having a certain normality that readers can relate to, but the movie differs from this role and puts her on the panel of heroes that are blooming in today’s society.

Woodley’s performance includes the soft innocence of her original voice, making Tris a character that could be relatable to adolescents. During a scene in which Tris has chosen to shut another character out of her life due to betrayal, Woodley rummages around in her drawer of emotions, playing the teary-eyed and broken teen well.

In other scenes, Woodley’s emotions are framed through her ability to make her voice hoarse and body rigid. This emotional aspect of Tris played into Divergent’s theme of the value of being unique, as teens find pieces of themselves in her.

The film is perfectly cast from Woodley on down from Ansel Elgort, who played Tris’ brother Caleb, to Theo James, the face of the eventual love interest who goes by Four. James executed his character’s roughness, but tranquil masculinity both at the same time when he came into contact with Tris, while Elgort captured Caleb’s gullible personality through his confused tone of voice. Characters like Jeanine Mathews, portrayed by Kate Winslet, are made to act just as evil souls do in real life—they may not seem that bad at first, but even as the story goes on, their personality is conflicting, allowing the audience to understand her point of view. Winslet’s character was a difficult one to portray due to her gray-like personality, but she fulfilled the job extraordinarily, rising to the standard that James, Elgort and Woodley set with ease.

The instrumentals by composer Hans Zimmer carried the emotion projected by Woodley in a way that allowed them to create a number of overwhelming scenes together. In a scene where Tris ziplines over the city, the music heightens her fear at first, but then shows her wonder through violins that accentuate the peacefulness of the moment.

The soundtrack, however, rejects to diverge from the comfortability of singer Ellie Goulding’s voice. While there are only five songs that included Goulding’s voice, every song included a moment of rising climax, representing the path taken by a revolutionary. This is successful in its intention, but the overuse of the similar musical metaphors made the film seem unprofessional at times.

Overall, Divergent not only teaches the audience the value of being oneself, but it also chooses to point out the flaws of modern-day society through its relatable characters and familiar life lessons. The film leaves audiences analyzing their own personalities and the importance of knowing oneself in order to make a difference in the world. This inspirational message is more than one could ask for from a dystopian adventure such as Divergent.


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Divergent turns out to be hip, unique dystopian teen flick