Based on the massive success of Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games, movies adapted from young adult novels are a lucrative business in Hollywood. So it’s no surprise that we’ve been seeing a lot of films featuring a young lead character attempting to overcome evil and injustice in their fantasy/dystopian world. The latest of these adaptations is Divergent, based on the novel of the same name by Veronica Roth. The producers here are attempting to cash in on the success of The Hunger Games and you can’t really blame them. Sadly, there’s no excuse for a knockoff that’s as bland, boring and genuinely uninteresting as this. Young fans of the source material may be able to find something to appreciate, but all I could do was hope that the end of the film came sooner.

In a futuristic society, the city of Chicago is divided into five factions: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless and Erudite. Each member of these factions has a unique set of skills and personalities that allow them to fit in with their group. When a child turns 16, they are tested to see which faction they are most suited for and then that child is given the option to choose between them. When Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) goes in for her test, she is told that she is Divergent, meaning that she has aspects of every faction in her. She is forced to keep this a secret because anyone who is discovered as a Divergent is immediately killed. Beatrice decides to join the Dauntless and changes her name to Tris. Believing that her secret is safe for a little while, she begins to form a relationship with one of her mentors, Four (Theo James). But as everyone in the society continues to be placed under constant scrutiny, Tris must take action in order to secure her and her family’s safety.

Even with a narrative that’s clearly borrowing elements from already popular young adult novels, there could have been some potential for an interesting dystopian adventure. A unique society and some cool action sequences would have made most of the film’s narrative problems forgivable. But Divergent is a bore in almost every conceivable way. Due to some weak production design and cinematography, this dystopian society is never interesting to look at. Even worse, we hardly ever get a glimpse into the ordinary lives of its citizens; despite spending over two hours observing this future, I still feel like I hardly have any idea how it operates. The characters are also standard, including Tris whose abandonment of her family makes her unlikable from the start. Woodley and James do a decent job with their roles, but their romance is so forced and obviously telegraphed that it never comes across as genuine.

There are a few interesting scenes, such as a repeated sequence where Tris must confront her fears, but the bulk of the movie is spent watching her train and it’s painfully boring. Add in way too much exposition, some horrible musical choices and a plot progression involving mind control that feels lazily tacked onto the film’s third act and you’ve got one of the worst movies based on a young adult novel in recent years. Director Neil Burger brings no style or passion to the proceedings and it results in a film that refuses to end when you want it to. With three more films from the Divergent series set to be released between now and 2017, let’s hope that the sequels aren’t as unoriginal and uninspired as this one.

Divergent receives 1/4

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