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Movie Review


MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.

Reviewed by: David Simpson

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teens Adults
Sci-Fi Teen Fantasy Action Adventure Romance Drama Adaptation IMAX
2 hr. 23 min.
Year of Release:
USA Release:
March 21, 2014 (wide—3,800+ theaters)
DVD: August 5, 2014
Copyright, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate) click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate) Copyright, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate) Copyright, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate) Copyright, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate) Copyright, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate) Copyright, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate) Copyright, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate) Copyright, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate) Copyright, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate)
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Summit Entertainment (Lionsgate)

becoming a just and moral person


genuine friendship and brotherhood

dystopian society divided into factions

concealing a secret at risk of your life

weakness of human nature

courage / bravery

FEAR, Anxiety and Worry—What does the Bible say? Answer

Featuring: Shailene Woodley … Beatrice “Tris” Prior
Theo James … Four
Kate Winslet … Jeanine Matthews
Miles Teller … Peter
Jai Courtney … Eric
Zoë Kravitz … Christina
Ansel Elgort … Caleb Prior
Ray Stevenson … Marcus Eaton
Ashley Judd … Natalie Prior
Tony Goldwyn … Andrew Prior
Maggie Q … Tori
more »
Director: Neil Burger—“Limitless,” “The Illusionist”
Producer: Summit Entertainment
Red Wagon Entertainment
more »
Distributor: Summit Entertainment, a division of Lionsgate Films

“What makes you different makes you dangerous.”

Sequels: “Insurgent” (2015), “The Divergent Series: Allegiant” (2016)

Another film released from a popular book series. “Divergent” is the first installment from author Veronica Roth, and it details the story of a futuristic world where all people are split into factions. These factions are based primarily around personality, and the genuine heart of the person. Similar to “The Hunger Games,” reaping ceremony and also the Sorting Hat in “Harry Potter,” it features young people having to make a life altering decision that not only shapes who they exist with, but how they live their lives.

Erudite are the smart ones that rely on knowledge. Dauntless are the warrior police that maintain order through bravery. Candor tell the truth, even when you don’t want them to. Amity are peacemakers, and Abnegation are selfless in all that they do. These factions are absolute, and there is co-existence between them. “Faction before blood” is the common term. Family means nothing after you choose.

Shailene Woodley plays Beatrice Prior. Her family are Abnegation, but it’s time for her and her brother Caleb to choose their future. Both go in for testing, a process that is supposed to help guide you in your final choice. Beatrice receives inconclusive results as she beats the test. She discovers she is Divergent, a very rare breed that doesn’t naturally fit into any one faction, but has pieces of all of them, and therefore a free mind.

Despite the desperation of their parents that at least one of them stays with their “home faction,” Caleb chooses Erudite, and Beatrice Dauntless. As the family is split, and destined to never see each other again, Beatrice must take on the biggest challenges of her life as the Dauntless leadership put all new recruits through physical and mental tests. But is the faction system really what it seems? Is it as secure and structured as everyone believes it is? And can Beatrice adapt to her new faction despite her obvious individuality?

As far as the morality of “Divergent” goes, I’m supportive. It doesn’t have the controversy of “Harry Potter,” or the violent blood thirst of “The Hunger Games.” It is, however, an environment where young people are broken, altered, and brainwashed. The physical and mental tests of the Dauntless alone are difficult to watch as an adult, because of how you understand fear and what it does to the human mind. Each faction boosts one particular strength in each person, and shreds them of all other humanity.

Violence: This is the most extreme content in this film. Because Beatrice is Dauntless, she faces daily physical and mental torture in order to succeed in her new faction. There are beatings, bare-knuckle fights, threats of death, threats of exclusion and rejection, and severe punishments for any show of fear or quitting. Be aware that even though blood is minimal, and extreme violence is not shown, the level of intense threat and menace is there, and at times I wondered how they get away with this in a PG-13 rated film.

Profanity: Two uses of b**ch, and one a**hole, OMG (3), god (1), “My God” (1).

Sex/Nudity: This was the surprise. They did not flaunt sexuality, despite the attractive characters involved. Innocence was encouraged by Beatrice’s character, and respected by the man who falls for her. We see his bare back, and two scenes of them kissing, but sex is not implied, and even when she sleeps in his room, he takes the floor.

Movies like “Divergent” can help remind us how important humanity is, and how blessed we are to have free will. God gave us free will for a reason. NOT so we could make mistakes and do our own thing, but so that we could learn to be ourselves, and improve ourselves, and who He made us to be. We are made in His image, and the concept of factions to segregate us is not within His will, but it’s a symbol of human control.

We place ourselves in boxes all the time, “I’m an extrovert, an introvert, a rebel, a lazy bum, a know-it-all, a dummy, a redneck, a loser, a sinner.” The list goes on and on. But we faction ourselves into these things so easily without ever giving thought to what that decision costs us in life. God gave us free will so we could choose to follow Him, and to recognize that His way is the best way. He does not box us in, but desires for us to thrive in His image, and in His ways.

“Divergent” is a good reminder of our individuality. But it’s also a good reminder of how we have the capacity to work on ourselves, to challenge the strengths and weaknesses we have, and improve on them. There is a key scene towards the end of the movie where Beatrice has to pass mental fear tests as a true Dauntless would. She has to break her natural being in order to survive. This shows courage and tenacity, and it’s within all of us to break out of the boxes and backgrounds that “define” who we think we are.

“Divergent” is refreshing in its portrayal of love and relationship. The two main characters don’t sleep together at the first possible moment. They don’t sleep together at the last possible moment either. It’s a film painting a true picture of genuine relationship, friendship, family and brotherhood, and how human nature can twist it. We have free will, but we are also given God’s Word to help guide us in His path. His ways are righteous and just, and without Him we will fall.

This is not the greatest movie of the year, or even of the month. But it’s healthy, with a strong message, and good characters who have morality, or who seek to gain it despite having lost it along their journey. It has aspects of forgiveness, and the weakness of human nature. Shailene Woodley’s performance is fantastic. It’s full of life and of passion. She has wonderful chemistry with Theo James, her male co-star. It’s not faultless, but it’s worth a watch.

Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Moderate / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive—I thought this movie was very entertaining. I don’t recall hearing any offensive language. The story line seems a lot like like in “The Hunger Games,” but it was very interesting. The premise of the movie is not far from realistic in our current times of increasing government control and redistribution.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Amber, age 37 (USA)
Positive—Karl Marx said “communism abolishes family.” In Marxist philosophy “society” is more important than family, and the government must decide how everyone contributes to society. Individual freedom is restricted. In this dystopian movie, the Divergent simply don’t fit in the boxes created by the government and are a threat. The film has an important theme in our day and a good message.

Overall, it is a good film, but it gets a little weak at points, making it inferior to the “The Hunger Games.” There is naturally some violence and a little language. I do think these novels are a good trend for the younger generation, but why did they eliminate Marxism’s attack on religion? God and religion are never mentioned.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—David, age 46 (USA)
Positive—Movie starts off good and gets more interesting as it goes on. I was captured throughout the whole movie and even caught myself thinking “I really like this movie”. And I did like it all, beginning to end. The characters were really good, as was the acting. Actors were mostly young adults and teenagers. There is definitely a love story here, and it is depicted very nicely.

As Hollywood goes, this was one of the more decent movies that wasn’t focused on sexuality even though the majority of the young actors are attractive. Scale of 1-10, I give it a 7.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Lulu Bells, age 52 (USA)
Positive—I had not planned to see this movie because of the violence in the preview. However, my 17 year old grandson wanted me to go with him, and I am so glad I did. “Divergent” was violent, but extremely thought provoking. I saw underlying Christian attitudes throughout the storyline. The main characters reflected a sense of responsibility for their choices and actions, as well as a respect for the uniqueness of each person.

I liked it so well that I bought the book as well as the next two books in the series. It was easier to downplay the violence and get more depth of the story.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Linda, age 67 (USA)
Positive—I give this a positive, but just barely. It is an interesting concept to divide five qualities of human nature into different factions and have a few standouts that have more than one quality. And CSE’s reviewer is correct, Shailene Woodley is terrific as the lead trying to hide her abilities and stay in one group to remain alive.

I would’ve liked more action than so much concentration on her, though. They could’ve done a lot more with the movie action-wise after the brainwashing, but it takes so long to get there, it had to get to the payoff which was outstanding and why I gave this the positive rating. I didn’t see much to learn scripturally from the plot. Maybe from their lack of willingness to accept people as they are. We all have different strengths and weaknesses and should be accepted as we are. Loved even!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Jeff, age 57 (USA)
Neutral—This movie was very intense and weird; it was good, however, and I am surprised they were able to pull off such a bizarre idea of a movie. There is quite a bit of violence in it; it’s dark and depressing, even though they are victorious.

I give it a neutral because it has no qualities of anything about God, and it is very violent. I did like it better than “The Hunger Games,” and the acting was pretty good.

It does bring up the question of how so many movies lately are “after the war” the whole world has changed. I think it’s going to be after the rapture, the people left are going to go through all kinds of stuff, and it’s going to be very weird. The movie is also similar to the mindset of the “Illuminati” and how they want to have mind control and do the same things the people in this movie were doing. That is very real and a scary place this world could go to in the next 50 years, if Jesus doesn’t come back for us first. But those left behind, it’s going to be very weird, especially with all the Christians gone!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Stephanie Smith, age 39 (USA)
Negative—What a colossal waste of time. Theres not really a plot, things just happen. What little plot there is has gaping holes. They throw these vague statements out and then don’t bother explaining them at all. Like why the factions? How does that help keep the peace? What do the running soldiers protect people from? Why doesn’t the selfless faction take care of the factionless? What’s with the giant fence made of sticks? Why is their whole society set up like a high school popularity contest? more »
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3
—James, age 28 (USA)
Comments from young people
Positive—I loved this movie! It was full of action and romance to make anyone excited. The movie is longer than most, and I have read that some people thought it was long winded, but I loved every second of it. This is a great role model to young girls to always stand up for yourself and have courage. There was no profanity in this movie which was kind of shocking! I was so glad they didn’t waste our time with foul mouths. As for the sexual content it isn’t the worst that’s out there.

For parents who still want to bring their kids, I will tell you where the parts are, without spoiling anything. There are two scenes, the first one is just a long passionate kiss with the character Four’s shirt off. The second scene is when she is in the last simulation, and in it she fights off Four, who is attempting to rape her. The scene starts with them kissing, and he tries to lift up her shirt, and she pushes him. I looked away so I didn’t see the full scene, but what I have heard is she fights him off of her. But it only lasts for a few seconds, and if you are not comfortable with it, like I wasn’t, it is short so you can just look away. For me personally I didn’t know there was a scene like that, because every site I looked at for parental views, it didn’t mention the scene. So I am writing to warn you, and also tell you it isn’t as bad as most PG-13 movies.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Meaghan, age 15 (USA)
Comments from non-viewers
Neutral—I have not seen the movie but I thought it was worth pointing out that in the book, on the acknowledgment page, the author starts off by thanking God for His Son.
—Jennifer, age 36 (USA)
Negative—First off, I would like to state that I in no way mean to judge, or direct this towards any particular person. I simply want to help aid my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in their decision making. As a Christian, I could not sit down and watch this movie (or “Hunger Games, ” for that matter) in good conscience. I’ve witnessed and heard many justifications as to how it has Christian values, but none of them hold any water with me.

The whole “dystopian” universe is completely unrealistic, despite issues with our government. As Christians, we’re taught that God will protect those who honor him, and we know he will never forsake us in that manner. It puts unfounded fears into our people’s/children’s minds.

And just because sex isn’t in every scene, doesn’t mean that we can downplay the sexual references, no matter how small. Tris pushed Four away from her in the simulation—big deal. The act and desire was still there, therefore implanting in every watchers” mind the idea of sexual actions. more »
—S., age 17 (USA)

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