I wasn't sure what to expect as I haven't read the books and I had only seen one trailer and that some weeks ago, but hey, it's Wednesday, two for one cinema tickets, so it was either Divergent or Noah. No contest.
OK, so it's future YA dystopian SF after some kind of war, so there are bound to be comparisons with The Hunger Games, but Divergent measures up well to HG and leaves Twilight standing. My cinebuddy, H, actually said she liked it better than Hunger Games and I can see why. The emotional kick is stronger, even though it's not the most original plot-line in the world: teen discovers she is different - the kind of different that's going to get her killed in this post-apocalyptic world. She's a divergent, i.e. she doesn't neatly fit in to one of the five factions that society is divided into. Each faction is based on a human virtue: Amity (peaceful), Erudite (intelligent), Dauntless (warrior), Candor (honest) and Abnegation (selfless). Basically she's a little bit of all of these when she's required to be only one, and for some reason polymaths/divergents are dangerous because they will upset society's equilibrium.
Yes there are all the usual YA tropes of identity, self-discovery/self determination, developing romance, but they are handled well
The setting is future Chicago a hundred years after a cataclysmic but undefined war. They've built a fence to keep bad things out, or maybe to keep citizens in. Beatrice (Tris) voluntarily chooses to leave her parents behind in Abnegation and move into Dauntless, the warrior faction. After some brutal training and a few nasty brushes with auithority (because she questions) she starts to fall for her instructor, Four, who is initially tough on her, but - hey we're all pretty sure it's because he fancies her something rotten, so the developing relationship is no surprise.
They haven't been able to repair damage to buildings in this future, but they have developed technology that allows them to eavesdrop on people's hallucinations, hence their ability to spot divergents. Tris has to keep her secret and learn to think like a Dauntless thriough a series of psychological tests or she'll be killed, but there's more to it than that. Yes, there are a few plot questions such as: why Tris didn't recognise Four because it turns out that not only did they both belong to Abnegation, their fathers work closely together; and how come the impartial psychological testing lady works in a tattoo parlour and then appears to be part of the Dauntless faction. Otherwise it hangs together reasonably well.
It's not a short movie and the two leads Shailene Woodley and Theo James (both unknown to me) carry the weight of the movie admirably. Woodley has been modelling and acting since she was four and has a string of TV credits to her name. She's good. Ditto Theo James (left), a young British actor with a face that reminds me of a young Paul Blackthorne (right) - Harry Dresden in the TV series. That's no bad thing at all.
The movie sags a little towards the end, pacing-wise, when people we haven't been given enough reason to care about are put directly in danger, but it's quickly over that and it picks up for the climax. There are two more movies currently in production (the second and third books of the trilogy). Hunger Games 2 surpassed the first movie, so fingers crossed for the next two Divergent ones.