Neil Burger's Divergent
is constructed around a narrative premise so illogical that it makes Keanu Reeves being the Chosen One feel as earthbound a notion as saying water is wet. In a future Chicago, the last civilization standing, the citizenry is so organized that it has divided itself into five factions and built an electrical Great Wall, yet no one can be bothered to fix the broken windows. Those factions are the pillars upon which our plot rests — or flails. Teenagers test their aptitudes for each powerful clan, such as the Dauntless, brave fighters in black, or the Abnegation, selfless, gray-clad civil servants. The story insists that all of mankind falls neatly into just one of these broad categories. It'd be easier to root for lead Tris' (Shailene Woodley, the go-to girl for drab roles with grit) quest to escape her Abnegation roots to prove herself a worthy Dauntless if director Burger felt committed to the concept. But the five clans act nearly indistinguishably from each other, and when Tris stumbles in an endless training sequence, her instructor yells, "I thought you were smart!" Smart? But how? Actually, Tris can be smart and brave — she's secretly tested as Divergent, the rare person who can be smart, brave, happy and honest. Which means she must be killed. Explains evil Jeanine (Kate Winslet), people who break the rules by being smart, brave, etc., start wars. You might as well blame violence on kitten calendars. But this is just another lapse in logic from a film where a fellow undercover Divergent who lives in public dorms reveals that he's tattooed his divergency on his spine. Can we disqualify him from being one of the smarties?
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Dystopian movies don't have to make sense. As the audience, we're obligated to sit down with our popcorn and soda and pretend that, yes, of course, in the future monkeys rule the earth, women can't bear children, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is an everyday construction worker. It's a mutual contract of...