It’s hard to talk a walk without stepping on the ever-expanding myriad of young adult book titles popping up and being rushed to the big screen by a Hollywood that looks to exploit the next big thing – here they bet on a first time writer by the name of Veronica Roth and the lasting fervor for this brand of “Hunger Games” fiction. While not really a fan of the form, the premise for this adaptation piqued my curiosity.
As this post-war future begins, we are introduced to a walled-in Chicago that has regained some sort of utopian social hierarchy following a war and global dystopian times. As this interesting film tells its overly-ample back story I come to a level of familiarity with the socialized faction system that endeavors to handle the many facets of the human condition. Just like in that other YA dystopian world our protagonist is a young girl that picks up her destiny in a faction no one expects when she joins the martial clan and finds out just how crazy that is. Of course she is already tested a divergent, (suitable for multiple factions,) and its clear that it’s a no-no to be one.
As the never ending back story continues and we meet her fait acompli partner in arms, Four, things start to make sense for her and she toughens up under threat of being kicked out of the faction. Shailene Woodley makes Tris believable and mostly likable. Theo James as Four makes for a solid partner and once a shady plan to grab power is put into place by an appropriately psychotic Kate Winslet as Janine, the two will have to rise to the occasion. Though the premise of the grab is a bit ham-handed, this world building works far far better than the pitiful Elysium or even The Hunger Games.
Ultimately, it is this world building and the social nature of the factions the make this film interesting, and though a bit long-winded I never once wanted to glance at my watch. I also find I care about Tris and Four and wonder how the flawed attempt at a closed utopian will play out or fall apart. Is this the greatest thing since Jennifer Lawrence with a bow? No. But it is an entertaining foray into an alternative future society that will surely have me make time in the future to see the green-lit sequels.
To a satisfying future together,