13 May 2014


I have a nerf gun. I brought it for a steam punk party as a prop, but I do enjoy shooting it and people and things.  When I moved in with my partner, her daughter Lulu also discovered she enjoyed shooting people and things.  But most of all she discovered she liked shooting me.  Last Sunday we were at the Warehouse looking at Nerf and other similar weapons and  we discovered the Nerf Heartbreaker bow for girls. 

Both my lady and Lulu frowned at Hunger Games inspired weapons for girls.  They found it a little patronizing that girls have to like pretty things, even weapons.  It turns out that girls like functional accurate weapons that can be any color really. Even girls that like dresses and make up. 

However while the success of Hunger Games has created patronising toys for girls, it has also opened Hollywood eyes to science fiction movies with strong female leads.  Which brings me to Divergent
In the remnants of Chicago, society has split into five factions;  Abnegation, Erudite, Dauntless, Amity, and Candor. If you are not in any of these factions you are factionless, lost and poor outside society.  Each faction has a function and specialty within the city. 

  • Abnegation believes in altruistic service to others. They are the civic leaders of Chicago who lead the other factions, but keep nothing for themselves.
  • Erudite are the scientists and keepers of knowledge.
  • Dauntless are the soldiers and police
  • Amity are the farmers and artists
  • Candors are the law makers and seekers of truth.

You are born into a faction, but at 16 you are tested to see where you actually belong. Most stay in their own faction, but some “defect”.  Whatever faction you end up in you stay there forever.  The system works and society is at peace.
Beatrice Prior is the daughter of two of the leaders of Abnegation.  All her life she has struggled with Abnegation’s selfless service to others, a life free of vanity and pride. The expectation that she will stay in Abnegation chaffs at her, but that is where her family is.  She has always admired the men and women of Dauntless, their strength and bravery and the freedom of spirit.
Terrified, Beatrice goes to her testing and once it is complete she discovers that the infallible test fails. Instead of telling her which faction she should belong to, the test is inconclusive. The girl that tests her wipes the results, puts her down as Abnegation, and tells her not to tell anyone, not even her family.
Beatrice is not naturally part of the system, she is divergent. This sets Beatrice on a journey of discovery of her society and herself and also the cracks in the system.

Ensue dystopian future hyjinxs.

Divergent surprised me with its quality.  While there is the obligatory comparison to The Hunger Games, with young female lead in a dystopian future, it is certainly its own film. Divergent deals with themes which are pretty common to teenagers, freedom, challenging authority, identity, and family.

Beatrice wants to break away from her life of in abnegation, and its dull selfless responsibility. She admires but also disdains its selfless view point which she perceives as weakness.  It is quite deliberate that Abnegation members wear grey. She craves the excitement of Dauntless, their strength of purpose and freedom.  Her family’s and faction’s preconception that she will stay with them forever is also depressing. Most teenagers can relate to that I think. But also woven into that story is her discovery of a secret. The divergent are being hunted and killed. They are perceived to be a threat to society. 

Fans of classic science fiction stories will recognize some pretty familiar themes in the story, but for me I was excited to see these ideas being re-explored. That ideas of identity and authority written about by Phillip K Dick, or Ray Bradbury, are being re-introduced to a new audience is good. That the stories are about strong young women is even better!

Thankfully gone are the diaphanous gowns of the women in old sic fi, and here are young intelligent women who can fight for what they believe in.

Overall I enjoyed it. I also like that while Tris is a strong female character she still needs the help of her friends to succeed. Also that even after a solid training montage she still can’t beat up a stronger more experienced fighter to save the day.

The cinematography of the city was very good. The post apocalyptic Chicago, remnant of the end of Logans run, both both futuristic, but also decaying. 

The performances were fine, nothing that wowed me, but also enjoyable. Ashley Judd, as Tris's mother was probably my favorite  performance.  And my favorite moment was when Tony Goldwyn as Tris's father challenged her perception of what it means to be truly selfless.

However I didn't really like the end. I didn't understand the characters choices at all? I understand that there are three books and the film is setting up the next story, but there seemed to be a real disconnect in what happened?

But Lulu loves it and I think it will be a popular choice amongst young women this year.

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