Sunday, 27 April 2014

Divergent (2014) : A Factional Dystopia

Veronica Roth's Divergent is the first instalment in a trilogy which depicts a post-apocalyptic Chicago, where society has been divided into five factions, determined by one's predominant personality. The factions are Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite. Abnegation value selflessness above all else, and forget oneself for the sake of others. Amity is dedicated to peacefulness, kindness, forgiveness, trust, self-sufficiency and neutrality. Candor was value honest above all else. Dauntless was the faction dedicated to courage, bravery, and fearlessness. Erudite is the faction which values knowledge, intelligence, curiosity and astuteness above all else. Members of this society undertake an aptitude test during their youth and are then invited to choose a faction which they will then dedicate their lives to.

The plot of this narrative follows Beatrice (Tris) Prior, played by Shailene Woodley, as she undertakes this factional practice. However, straying from convention, Tris undertakes the aptitude test and her results are inconclusive: rather than singularly pointing her towards one faction, she instead, shows an aptitude for three factions: abnegation, erudite and dauntless, which means that she is in fact "Divergent" - a word that is almost as taboo as a whispered "Macbeth" in the theatre. During the choosing ceremony, Tris opts to transfer from her family faction and join the crew of Dauntless initiates, who establish the protection and security part of the society. 

The majority of the film follows Tris' journey to become a Dauntless initiate and then the induction process as she attempts to become a true member of Dauntless rather than essentially "fail out" and become a member of the factionless. The film and novel culminate in a scheme by the Erudite to enact utilise the Dauntless to usurp the governance of the Abnegation.

The film maintains the token elements expected within these young adult post-apocalytpic narratives such as an attractive male lead, a suitably dour antagonist, a hero one can support as they struggle against adversity, and crucially, a climatic difference from our current society.

The general plot of the novel and film is intriguing. However, when compared to its leading competition: The Hunger Games trilogy: it does not have the same impact or poignancy. As a cinematic feature, it is an enjoyable and easy watch. The dystopia Roth has constructed in interesting, but, the overall significance of the piece is somewhat diminished when compared to The Hunger Games series. 

There is a sense in which the narrative series and film have the potential to be as touching and impressive as The Hunger Games, but, that Roth hasn't engaged enough with these factions and with her society to ensure its full meaning. Overall, I would recommend people watch this film as it is definitely an enjoyable watch, just try not to compare it to The Hunger Games, because it's not really in in the same league.