The success of the Hunger Gamestrilogy has inevitably led to a series of clones,of which this is the latest. Part Harry Potter, part HG, this initially promises to be engaging and enjoyable, before dissolving into incoherent dullness.
We are once again in scifi dystopia; a future world (Chicago, precisely) which is separated from the rest of the world (presumed collapsed) by a high wall and an even higher fence. The population is divided into five factions – each of which has a responsibility for a specific area of society: agriculture, defence, justice etc. You are are born into a faction, but can choose which one to join at a certain (unspecified age). The one thing you don't want to be is a Divergent, someone who doesn't fit into any category at all.
So it won't be a surprise to learn that our hero Beatrice aka Tris (Shailene Woodley) is a divergent, though everyone keeps telling her not to tell anyone else. When the choosing time comes, she decides to be Dauntless, which means that she has to jump off high buildings, beat people up, and show no fear when faced with real or imaginary danger. And she gets to be coached by Andy Murray's bigger, tough and more handsome older brother – or someone who looks very like him.
We understand that we are meant to empathise with Tris, and we do, up to a point. She is plucky and dauntless (naturally), and even though we may not understand why she has left her faction of origin (Abnegation, who are like a cross between social workers and vegetarian hippies in bad clothes), we root for her to succeed in the butch world of Dauntless. And Four (the Andy Murray clone) is a nice enough guy, who looks out for her unlike his colleague Eric, who takes every opportunity to bully her.
Woodley is no Jennifer Lawrence (who is?) but she is an excellent actress, as those who saw The Descendants will testify. But she has very little to work with here, apart from looking determined, or baffled. The latter may have something to do with a plot which loses its way big time half way through. Kate Winslet plays the Evil Blonde Leader who seems to want to turn the world into a collection of obedient drones, but her political and philosophical justification for this is so vague as to be insulting. And the denouement is like something out of Logan's Run, as our heroes run around shooting each other from behind doorways with guns that look like discarded items from Toys 'R' Us, while the ending is little more than a "To Be Continued…"
There probably will be a sequel, but I don't know how many people will be rushing to see it.
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