Movie review: “Divergent” feel like convoluted “Hunger Games”

From the March 20, 2014 edition

The comparison is inevitable, so let’s just get it out of the way. “Divergent” is an adaptation of a popular young adult fiction trilogy featuring a smart, underdog heroine who fights against a corrupt power system in a dystopian future.

If you haven’t read the books, you’ll see “Divergent” as a convoluted “Hunger Games” knock-off. If you have, you’ll find the production values and performances are solid. But the movie is still convoluted.

In the crumbling ruins of a near-future Chicago, a post-war society has established peace by creating five “factions” of the population based on character traits (brains, brawn, compassion, etc.). Teens are tested for their aptitude in these fields, but they can choose their own faction (as long as they don’t mind leaving their family).

It’s like society based on a high-school clique system, so it resonates with teens (along with themes of non-conformity). And our heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) embodies that moment of “what do I do with my life” confusion.

If the “Hunger Games” films do a fairly tidy job of explaining their premise, “Divergent” has to over and over for nearly 2 1/2 hours. It does boast some great production — the familiar sights of Chicago in decay really drop you in this world — but as far as winning over non-fans, the odds are not ever in its favor.

Photo courtesy of Summit Entertainment