Action/Adventure 140 March 21, 2014
In a future Chicago, the last civilization standing, the citizenry is so organized that they've divided themselves into five factions and built an electrical Great Wall, yet no one can be bothered to fix the broken windows. Those factions are the pillars upon which our plot rests -- or flails. Teenagers test their aptitudes for each powerful clan, such as the Dauntless, brave fighters in black, or the Abnegation, selfless, gray-clad civil servants. The story insists that all of mankind falls neatly into just one of these broad categories.
It'd be easier to root for lead Tris's (Shailene Woodley, the go-to girl for drab roles with grit) quest to escape her Abnegation roots to prove herself a worthy Dauntless if director Burger felt committed to the concept. But the five clans act near-indistinguishably from each other, and when Tris stumbles in an endless training sequence, her instructor yells, "I thought you were smart!" Smart? But how?
Actually, Tris can be smart and brave -- she's secretly tested as Divergent, the rare person who can be smart, brave, happy, and honest. Which means she must be killed. Explains evil Jeanine (Kate Winslet), people who break the rules by being smart, brave, etc., start wars. You might as well blame violence on kitten calendars. But this is just another lapse in logic from a film where a fellow undercover Divergent who lives in public dorms reveals that he's tattooed his divergency on his spine. Can we disqualify him from being one of the smarties?