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Dystopia — a society where everything is as bad as it can possibly be — has fascinated humans for centuries.
Beginning in the time of Plato, gaining prominence throughout the age of the Great Depression and prospering in the 21st century, the concept of our modern world’s downfall has been a central theme in many well-known books.
Plato’s “Republic,” Alduous Huxley’s “Brave New World,” James Dashner’s “The Maze Runner” and now Veronica Roth’s “Divergent” all hinge on dystopian futures.
Director Neil Burger has brought Roth’s novel to life on the big screen.
The movie begins with a scene of a distant city skyline, easily identifiable as the city of Chicago.
However, as the camera moves closer, the far-off metropolis becomes an obviously frayed Chicago, with rusted bridges, torn buildings and the concrete bed of a once-existent river.
In this ragged city, citizens are split into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite.
On an appointed day of every year, all 16-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives after taking an aptitude test. When the main protagonist Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), who will later be known as Tris, goes to take her test, she must sit in a chair where she is a given an injection of serum that brings her into a “simulation.”
Her reactions to the hallucinations she experiences should determine the faction she is supposed to choose. However, Tris receives inconclusive results, indicating that she is Divergent, capable of acting upon her human instincts.
When the faction Erudite attempts to overthrow the faction Abnegation, the stability and peace that defines this society becomes disrupted, setting the scene for the main conflict of the film.
Tris’ divergence risks the success of Erudite’s coup because she, unlike her peers, is able to see through the shallow promises of faction propaganda. This allows her to prevent the completion of the revolution.
Computer effects and programming create an apocalyptic feel, giving viewers a source of imagination for what the future may hold.
“Divergent” perpetuates many themes that appeal widely to the teenage audience, especially those of love and individuality.
The definition of the individual through dress, personal virtue, fear and family background particularly speaks to the adolescent desire for unique self-definition.
Nevertheless, some viewers may find the film altogether “too predictable.” The plot is obvious and easily comparable to that of “The Hunger Games.”
Despite the abundance of commonplace action scenes and plot conflicts, “Divergent” will undoubtedly leave the bulk of viewers satisfied. Not surprisingly, the subject of dystopia captures the attention of the audience splendidly. The principles of Divergent’s society are dramatically different from those of today.
Beliefs widely accepted by the characters in the film, such as “faction before blood,” may even leave viewers feeling despair, confusion or sheer anger at the way Divergent undermines the concept of familial connection.
Even so, the ability of the film to evoke tears, laughter and solemnity undeniably makes it a must-see for the teenage audience and a very memorable film for 2014 so far.