Watch Divergent Online. Watch Divergent Movie Online. The American humorist Robert Benchley said there are two kinds of people in the world—”those who believe there are two kinds of people in the world and those who don’t.” In the world of “Divergent,” Summit Entertainment’s screen version of Veronica Roth’s young-adult novel, there are five kinds of people. They’re divided into factions whose titles derive, not all that grammatically, from human virtues—Abnegation, Erudite, Candor, Amity and Dauntless. Like the book, the movie finds no virtue in humor, but it does represent a new kind of action adventure based on interminable training, much of it video-game-virtual, for something that happens only near the very end. Summit seems to be specializing in this subgenre. Last year it produced “Ender’s Game,” a sci-fi flop devoted largely to young people training through war-game simulations. Until the climax of “Divergent,” the heroine, Tris, played by Shailene Woodley, endures the longest, toughest and most tedious basic training since Demi Moore slogged her way through “G.I. Jane.”
"Divergent," set in a war-torn Chicago after a global conflict, is not only a waste of time for anyone safely out of adolescence, but a waste of Ms. Woodley’s special gifts. She’s a lovely actress, given the sort of good material she got, and elevated memorably, in "The Descendants" and "The Spectacular Now." In the unavoidable now, however, she’ll be constantly compared to Jennifer Lawrence—they’re almost the same age—because of this new film’s surface similarities to "The Hunger Games."
Watch Divergent Online. Watch Divergent Movie Online. Both films feature strong heroines battling for survival in a dystopian future. Still, it’s an unfair comparison in an unequal contest. Ms. Lawrence’s quirky, edgy portrayal of Katniss Everdeen has proved to be a fine fit in the stylized environments of her series. Ms. Woodley brings a touching vulnerability to her role, even a plaintiveness, but any subtleties are soon lost in the numbing physicality of a movie that’s forever explaining itself while Tris and her trainees-in-arms—and elbows, which figure prominently in their martial arts—are learning to be warriors. (The graceless, in-everyone’s-face style was perpetrated by Neil Burger, who directed from a prosaic script by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor.)
Watch Divergent Online. Watch Divergent Movie Online. Tris comes to her zest for combat by an indirect route. In the story’s scheme, which serves as a free-floating comment on the constraints of class distinctions, children are given aptitude tests to determine which faction suits them best. They’re still allowed to join any one of the other four in a Choosing Ceremony, but that’s it; once in, they must stay in that faction for life. Born into Abnegation—think Amish, minus the horses and buggies—Tris chooses Dauntless; they’re the ostensibly free spirits who run and tumble around town when they aren’t defending Chicago from external threats. Yet she doesn’t fit anywhere, if truth be told. She’s Divergent—lavishly talented and fully feelingful, but still the sort of misfit most adolescents imagine themselves to be.
That’s a dangerous thing to be in her society: Divergents represent a threat to the rigidly established order. Tris must keep her status secret, so the whole thing can be seen as the story of her coming out. (When I say “whole,” I mean a production running 140 minutes that came accompanied, at my screening, by 129 pages of production notes. Those numbers are nothing if not aspirational.) “Divergent,” the first of three films adapted from Ms. Roth’s series, will mainly be seen as a fable of female empowerment, which is all to the good. But it’s empowerment vitiated by a clumsy love story with a Dauntless guy named Four; he’s played, with an abundance of self-satisfaction and an absence of self-abnegation, by Theo James. Other Dauntless members or initiates are played by Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Zoë Kravitz and Miles Teller.
Watch Divergent Online. Watch Divergent Movie Online. When Tris finally makes it through the brutal rituals of Dauntless training, she discovers a conspiracy that has been organized by Erudite; that faction, headed by a steely genius named Jeanine (Kate Winslet, glamorous and gimlet-eyed), is a future-tense version of how conservatives view Upper West Side intellectuals. The conspiracy takes the narrative in an odd direction, but it’s too little, too late and too preposterous. In all candor, and with all the amity I can muster, “Divergent” is as dauntingly dumb as it is dauntingly long.
How Orwellian is college? Very, if Divergent is to be believed. Adapted from Veronica Roth’s bestselling novel, it stars Shailene Woodley as Beatrice, a 16-year-old girl trying to find her place in a world seemingly modelled on a series of giant frat houses, each named after an abstract virtue or noun. There’s Amity, whose people farm the land, Amish-style; there’s Abnegation, who think only of others and work in government; there’s Candor, who tell the truth, doubtless on course for a career in daytime TV; there’s Erudite, who like to show off their vocabulary but can’t for the life of them work out why they are an adjective and not a noun like everyone else.
Watch Divergent Online. Watch Divergent Movie Online. Finally, there’s Dauntless, very much the extreme sports set, defined principally by their carelessness with regard to train timetables, since they always run, jump and leap for the train home to an accompaniment of Stomp-style drumming. These gonks are being groomed for jobs in the military, although how you would get them to show up on the battlefield is anyone’s guess. I’ve seen better discipline in the Keystone Cops.
Beatrice, who wears baggy skirts, boots and her hair in the loose bun of an Emily Bronte fan, jumps ship at her initiation ceremony and chooses Dauntless over her native Abnegation, and very soon, she is running and jumping for moving trains, too, all the while harboring a secret: her aptitude test revealed her to be “divergent”, a freakish original thinker, fated to be hunted and killed if she is ever found out. Quite why she faces this drastic a penalty is hard to fathom, given that the rest of Roth’s future society seems wholly bent to the task of identifying and nurturing the skillsets of its teenagers. Roth has filled out her world without thinking it through as a dramatic space. “They built fences for a reason,” Beatrice is told, which in any other story would be a prelude to monsters, but no more is heard of it.
Watch Divergent Online. Watch Divergent Movie Online. Instead, the bulk of this 160-minute film is taken up with an endless slog of evaluations and physical aptitude tests in smoky, diffusely lit interiors that resemble a Bill Fitzgibbons art installation. Director Neil Burger amps up every snap, crackle and pop, but there’s no escaping the fact: what we have is science fiction that devotes its considerable resources to imagining the future of SAT tests. Maybe that’s why Winston Smith went awol: a droopy grade point average.
The centrepiece of these is The Matrix-style virtual reality immersion designed to “explore your worst fears,” administered by Beatrice’s instructor, Four (Theo James), a hunk who stares through his eyebrows without giving the impression of ever really seeing anyone. Her worst fears turns out to be a rather spiffy replay of Hitchcock’s The Birds, but bright spark that she is, she snaps out of it by muttering, “This isn’t real.” This causes Four to stare at his eyebrows with even greater intensity. “You can’t do that,” he fusses. “You have to pretend that it’s real.” And so she humors him.
Watch Divergent Online. Watch Divergent Movie Online. If the aim is to dramatise the patience that smart children must martial to fake IQ tests that are dumber than they are, then point taken, but when are film-makers going to learn what a losing proposition virtual reality is at the movies? The movies are virtual reality enough, so the only possible development is for the images to prove less substantial than they already seem – the wrong direction, surely. All of this is toughest on Shailene Woodley, a lovely performer with big, brown eyes that seem to drink in everything, and an edge of shyness that is never quite dispelled, not even by the kick-boxing scenes. “You’re not going to shoot me,” says her fratboy-ish nemesis, Miles Teller. “Why does everyone always say that?” she says, before shooting him. The plot wakes up in the last 20 minutes, though whether this is a touching recreation of the rhythms of adolescence or a python-like regurgitation of the book’s plotting is hard to say: mom (Ashley Judd) arrives with news of the revolutionary underground, swiftly followed by Kate Winslet, vowing bad things for mom. The same thing happened to the last Hunger Games movie, the first hour of which could easily have been removed without anyone noticing.
Watch Divergent Online. Watch Divergent Movie Online. The filmmakers of these young adult novels would appear to be in something of a bind, with a loyal fanbase commanding fidelity to books whose plotting is not shaped for the screen. Spielberg had the right idea when he was in the frame to adapt the Harry Potter series: crunch the first two books into one, and break out of Hogwarts sooner, for a movie in which magic comes to muggle suburbia. Instead of which, it was back to bloody Hogwarts, in film after film. Don’t kids want to get out into the world these days? All their plots seem to be cuckoos, afraid or unwilling to leave the nest.