It is easy for me to see why critics hated this film: it seems to ride on the success of other films in its genre without supplying sufficient creativity to rise above its clichés. To make matters worse, I could write a 20-page paper on the baffling inanity of the structure of this world – not just in terms of its government, but also the natural laws and human behaviors, such as the reluctance of the vast majority of the courageous Dauntless (even those raised in the faction) to jump into the hole before Tris. If the government of this world had been designed by an elite, aristocratic administration of some sort, as seen in The Hunger Games, it would be obvious why such a pathetic social structure would be contrived. In this film, however, there is no one who benefits from the system; everyone is trapped in one nation, under no one, divided, with liberty and justice for none. While this flick may have pulled in significant box office money by simply being fascinating, it is fatally flawed in that, much like other films that present fascinating new worlds, this one struggles to have any reality to it as soon as the viewer gives any aspect of it one moment of thought. I cannot help but yell at the people of the world in the screen for tolerating – nay – encouraging this kind of foolishness for so long.
The problem with having an unbelievable world (not necessarily in the sense that it contains elements of fantasy, but in the sense that its people do not respond to their circumstances in a way that real human beings would) is that the characters inevitably must behave in non-relatable ways in order to make the story function, as noted in the example of the hole above. For another example, since bravery does not necessarily entail resourcefulness, several people in Dauntless should have been able to fight their hallucinogenic fears by challenging their reality in the way Tris did, all without being considered Divergent. The issues go on and on, but at the heart of the picture are major flaws in the division of the factions:
- The difference between the Factionless and the Divergents is unclear, as both exemplify those who do not fit into any particular group;
- Dauntless is fundamentally idiotic because, when bravery is the only virtue, there is no place for ethics;
- Both Abnegation and Amity are focused on caring and well-being, so separating them into two factions seems redundant – especially since those who grow the food are best fit to feed the Factionless;
- Abnegation, Amity, and Candor are all focused on ethics, which is unnecessary because – while this may be a very counter-intuitive or controversial thing for me to propose – ethics lies in the domain of reason, and Erudite should naturally be the most ethical of all;
- Within Erudite it is only logical that sub-factions would appear, as intellects are generally free-thinkers who will reach separate conclusions on the best way to live;
- This whole franchise should clearly be about a battle between Erudite and Dauntless, but Erudite should be the heroes, not Dauntless, since Erudite could actually have virtues (other than bravery) to keep them ethical.
This list could be far more detailed, but I think I have made my point. For these reasons, it seems to me that the author started with dramatic scenes in which the characters (whom she’d meant to fully develop before it slipped her mind) confronted their darkest fears, and then the rest of the book was filled in with redressed portions of The Hunger Games and The Giver.
Yet somehow, in spite of the nonsensical details, I still enjoyed the film. I actually started watching Divergent many months ago, but had to stop because the disc was scratched, so it was skipping over important parts of the film. Remarkably, even having seen most of the movie already, I had a good time re-watching all of it. I truly believe that a movie can get away with making little or no sense at all so long as the audience is invested in the characters and the plot. After all, the Harry Potter franchise is widely praised as brilliant, even by critics, but Cinema Sins has amply displayed its lunacy on a number of occasions (for example, anyone who had a small amount of liquid luck could drink it while searching for the “extremely rare” ingredients required to produce liquid luck, and then he/she could have an infinitely growing supply, resulting in a perpetual monopoly on the stuff).
In all fairness, the character of Tris is rather uninteresting in a way, and I suspect it’s because she is a little too relatable to the average teen and is devoid of distinct characteristics from other heroines in the genre. However, she is always given dramatic decisions to make and always makes a surprising choice, which keeps the viewer watching her every move and captivated by her unique mind. The important lesson to be learned here is one that dates back to The Wizard of Oz: a film is not judged by how close it comes to perfection, but by how its characters, ideas, and stories captivate the audience in spite of the imperfections. When I think about Divergent this way, it is clear to me that I was constantly aware of the movie’s flaws – which admittedly was probably because I was watching much of it for a second time – but I was too genuinely amused by what the characters were experiencing to let that stop me from enjoying myself.