Posted by: Patrick Allen Foster | May 7, 2014

Divergent

I saw Divergent over the weekend. I was entertained. (Minor spoilers, of sorts, below the fold.)

I liked this movie. As sci fi goes, it’s fairly simplistic (the world-building is not on the same level as Dune). The entire movie is largely an extended metaphor for modern American high school, as Dana Stevens and Laura Hudson have indicated.*

I think that one scene contained an homage to Starship Troopers, and there were probably other allusions that I missed.

Divergent the movie is inevitably compared to The Hunger Games the movie, and by that not necessarily fair standard Divergent does not come out ahead. Shailene Woodley is good as Tris, but not as good as Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss. Kate Winslet is not as sinister or menacing a villain as Donald Sutherland.

One standard plot device of children’s cartoons and pulp science fiction is the existence of a Mothership or Central Computer which, if destroyed or captured, will instantly disable the dispersed armed forces of the enemy. (I believe that designing such a system is a violation of Rule 27 of Peter’s Evil Overlord List. And speaking of Star Wars, the use of this plot device is another weakness of Episode I.) Divergent unfortunately employs this cliched plot device. In general, it is a useful plot device, as it allows a small group of hero protagonists to determine the outcome of a larger conflict through their actions, making for an efficient and compact plot. But it is both overused and, when viewed in any historical or real-world prism, unrealistic. When has any command-and-control system worked in this way? And why would anyone build such a system in this way? A French sniper killed Admiral Nelson at the Battle of Trafalgar, and the French still lost that battle. During the Battle of Midway, when the Imperial Japanese Navy hit the USS Yorktown (which eventually sank), previously launched planes from that carrier** still attacked the Japanese carrier Hiryu (which also sank).

Anyway, all that said, Divergent is an entertaining movie. Pretty good dystopian science fiction. Like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, it is competent, if not always profound. Recommended.

* I have not read the book by Veronica Roth on which the movie Divergent is based, and so I cannot at this time evaluate the movie as an adaptation of the book. This is unusual for me, as I generally make a point of reading the book before seeing a movie adaptation — and for that reason have not yet seen Monuments Men or Cloud Atlas, to name just two relatively recent films.
** Along with planes from USS Enterprise.

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