Divergent created a convincing post-apocalyptic world
Divergent directed by Neil Burger and written by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor, was based on the book by Veronica Roth. It was released in mid-2014. I love action, mystery and science fantasy so I went to see the film in the cinema.
Divergent featured a cleverly created post-apocalyptic world. In this world, humans had evolved into sub-races or factions, based upon their dominant skill set.
The major factions are: Dauntless who are brave and in charge of city security; Erudite who are intelligent, but this intelligence is separated from power and they seek knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Abnegation are meant to be selfless and also function as the government, in other words, the ultimate public servants. Candor are honest and seek after truth. They administer justice, but also can be tactless and rude.
Plot honours young adults right to choice
After their sixteenth birthday, all young adults are tested to see which major skill set they have developed. Skill sets often run in families, but there may be some variation. On an appointed day of every year, the sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote their lives. They make this choice based upon a combination of their test results and personal inclination. Choosing ‘against” their test results carries the risk they will not succeed in their chosen faction. Persons who do not fit a faction are considered “factionless” and beg upon the streets.
When Beatrice Prior undergoes the skills test, the results are inconclusive and the examiner rates her as “Abnegation” in recognition of her faction of parental origin. At the choosing ceremony, Tris who has long been fascinated by the dare-devil antics of the Dauntless, chooses dauntless as her faction.
Her brother chooses Erudite much to the distress of their parents as faction is more important than family and they will see little of their offspring in future. These scenes are satisfying to the viewer however, as it is a common desire of young people to grow up and become individuals in their own right rather than mere reflections of their parents.
Tris struggles to achieve her dream
Now that Tris has chosen the faction of her dreams she must pass a series of challenges to qualify. These challenges include running after and catching a speeding train, jumping off a high roof and performing well in combat with other "Dauntless". Her position in the class drops and falls and the viewer enjoys mentally cheering Tris on to success.
It is in the psychological / virtual reality tests that Tris begins to come unstuck. She is good at escaping situations based upon her fears. Her mentor “Four” takes her aside and explains to her that she is too good because she is not performing the exercises using the traditional strategies of the dauntless. He takes her into his fear environment and teaches her how to appear “Dauntless” even though she can see other options.
Danger and power of being different
Tris seeks more information about her initial skills test and finds out that she is actually a “divergent”, someone who combines the skills of several factions. In evolutionary terms, this is a very satisfying discovery from the viewer’s point of view, as it makes Tris and a few others like her superior beings. If factions have evolved, it stands to reason that super-beings who can combine the factions will eventually evolve too.
However, from Tris’ point of view this is frightening news as the “divergent” are being hunted down and mysteriously disappear or get murdered. We hold our breath as Tris undergoes her virtual reality testing and passes as “Dauntless”. She gets to join the team! There is the satisfaction of belonging and successful graduation.
Tris has also found a romantic connection with her mentor “Four”. “Four” has chosen his name because he admires qualities from all factions and wants a sense of balance and completion. We wonder if he is also “divergent”.
Intrigue and adventure
Now another story line enters and disrupts the bildungsroman elements of the film narrative. Tris is alerted to a possible plot by the “Erudite” to overthrow and harm the “Abnegation”, because it makes logical sense that the smartest should rule? Yes!
The brother joined “Erudite” and while he does not want to believe his faction means another faction harm – he is the source of insider information for Tris. I have also always wondered whether the brother was “divergent” too, given his ability to choose and succeed in a faction other than his faction of birth.
The “Erudite” plot involves hijacking “Dauntless” personnel and making them into mindless soldiers who will lead an attack upon helpless “Abnegation” citizens. Tris manages to resist the hijacking and so do a few other “divergent” and mutant individuals. Tris’ mother (who mysteriously has a “Dauntless” uniform despite being unable to change factions), helps and is killed. “Four” is identified as the missing Tobias Eton, the delinquent son of the leader of “Abnegation”.
A (mostly) happy ending
The plot is foiled, Tris accepts her destiny and identity as “Divergent” and it appears that she will get to go outside the walls the community has been cowering behind. Here surely mysteries will be revealed and answers will be discovered.
Overall a very satisfying adventure fantasy film. It has a bit of everything, mystery to be solved, growth and development, science-fiction, action, romance and self-actualization.
Sequel not really needed!
Divergent was a great film / story and did not really need a sequel. However, it got one. Insurgent was released in 2015.
In Insurgent, Tris, Four, Caleb, Peter, and Marcus travel outside the walls to “Amity” settlements where some “Abnegation” members have fled for shelter. “Amity”, who did not feature strongly in the first book, stand for peace, but are not willing to offer active aid or fight for justice amongst the fractions. “Erudite” continue to pursue the divergent, aided by some unenlightened “Dauntless” soldiers.
Insurgent provides linking or filler material
Tris, Four and Caleb escape and flee to a factionless-safe zone. The factionless here have banded together and are led by non-other-than “Four”'s mother, Evelyn. At this point the Eton family coincidences and in-fighting cease to be entertaining and become tedious.
Tris’ brother Caleb leaves the group and Tris and Four decide to travel to Candor headquarters. Tris and “Four” submit to a trial regarding their roles in the “Dauntless” versus “Abnegation” conflict and testify under truth serum.
“Candor” are attacked by “Dauntless under orders from Jeanine (of Erudite) to capture divergent subjects for testing. Jeanine is also distributing a stronger control serum to increase her control over “Dauntless” soldiers.
Tris volunteers to undergo Jeanines testing in the hopes of finding out what Janine is doing. Four is angry that Tris should take such a risk. Tris undergoes the test and passes whereas many other candidates had died. She is also able to resist Janine’s serum and attempts to control her.
Tris does not know what to make of Caleb’s presence back at Jeanine’s side in “Erudite”. However, she uses him to find vital information about where Janine’s secrets are stored. Tris leads a group disguised as Erudite into Erudite quarters and sabotage the computers. Jeanine is killed in the process.
Creates a backstory and opens new ground
A new conflict develops over whether Tris sides with Four and the new Dauntless or Evelyn and the factionless. (Remember I said that the Eton family in-fighting began to get tedious.) Four and Tris reconcile and declare their love. Screens in the room begin to play a video retrieved by Four and Caleb featuring a woman named Amanda Ritter who later took the identity of Edith Prior, one of Tris' ancestors. Amanda vaguely explains that when the world become corrupt, the city was sealed away from the rest of the world to allow the Divergent abilities to evolve. Once the "divergents" had evolved, Amity were instructed to open the gates and explore the world.
The final installment is due!
Allegiant will be in the cinema soon…released (according to IMDB) 18th march 2016 in the US and touring around the cinemas of the world shortly after.
How did Alliegant the book end?
There are many unanswered questions from the first two movies, and the expectation is that the final installment of a trilogy will answer them.
I read the book Allegiant by Veronica Roth, and remained unsatisfied by the answers in the book:
- The backstory created was banal and clichéd. No side or team remained wholly good or wholly bad, and unless you enjoy moral ambiguity, this is an unsatisfying finish.
- “Four” (Tobias) became unlikable because of his anger issues and shilly-shallying between his parents.
- However, because of her stubbornness, jealousy and inability to accept advice, Tris was even more unlikable.
- Characters that were likeable were tragically killed off.
- Caleb Prior remained unredeemed when I wanted him to turn into a heroic brother who had loved his sister all along.
- Characters who might have been divergent failed the final testing.
- The end was not at all nice – but I will not explain why because you may not have read the book...
The important question is: Can the third movie make the final installment more justifiable and more palatable than the third book did?
Allegiant the movie was actually quite good!
In conclusion, having seen the film, I can say that it delivered a cohesive and entertaining storyline.
- The film commences with certain decisions made by Evelyn Eton, who has become the new “leader” of Chicago. (I won’t specify as that could spoil the film!) Because these decisions change the situation – the film does feel like it has a beginning and would be watchable without the two preceding films!
- The backstory to the outside world remained “banal and clichéd” as in the book, but was supported by a science fiction landscape, science fiction special effects, and science fiction costuming. There was no attempt to describe these interesting features in the book. One might argue that the experiment was meant to be under-funded – but the key word is FUNDED. The technology should exist even if supplies are sporadic!
- The plot line was simplified (which may upset some fans), but the effect was to make “Four” (Tobias) more of a hero. There was no taking two steps back, before taking a step forward. Tobias’ morality was not compromised by entering a mistaken rebellion, but he kept his eyes on the goal – which was to help Chicago.
- The main divisions between “Four” and Tris in the film are generated by others and do not result from their own in-fighting as in the book. In this sense our romantic leads are able to remain more of a “team” even when parted.
- Caleb Prior is given a chance to contribute to the mission and is able to redeem himself. Caleb and Tris finally unite as family.
- The ending felt like an ending, as it had its own logic and satisfaction.
A rumoured fourth film?
There are rumors of a fourth movie called Ascendant due to be released in 2017. It hardly seems needed, and that once again raises questions as to what will happen. Will the story work its way around to the ending I hated in the book? And if so, will it be able to make me accept it better than the book did?