Rated PG-13. Running time: 1 hour 59 min.
Our content ratings (1-10): Violence 4; Language 1; Sex/Nudity 3.
Our star rating (1-5): 4
May he (the king) defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the needy, and crush the oppressor.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.
In case you have forgotten, the Divergent Series, based on the YA books by Veronica Roth, is set in a future Chicago that barely survived a terrible war. Most of its towering buildings are in ruins, Lake Michigan on its east almost dried up, and surrounding the rest of the city is a huge wall for protection against unknown dangers. Society has been divided into five Factions based on virtues thought to achieve stability and safety: Abnegation (the altruistic), Amity (the loving and peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the shrewd and intelligent). There are also the Factionless who constitute the homeless, barely existing among the ruins beyond the bounds of society. Young people at the age of 16 are tested to see what faction they are best suited for, and then at a Choosing Ceremony they choose the one they will enter for life.
By the end of the first film Beatrice, dubbing herself Tris (Shailene Woodley), and a slightly older boy named Four (Theo James), had become members of Dauntless; discovered that they possessed multiple virtues and thus were regarded as dangerous Divergents; prevented Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), the head of Erudite who definitely does not live up to the spirit of Psalm 72, from wiping out the Abnegation faction in her bid to control the entire city; and escaped to the wild area beyond the walls.
With Robert Schwentke replacing Neil Burger as director, the sequel finds Tris, Four, Caleb, Peter, Christina and Marcus traveling to the rural Amity settlement, where several surviving Abnegation members have been granted asylum. Johanna (Octavia Spencer), the head of Amity, states that all factions may seek refuge there as long as they reside in peace. Her statement is a warning to Four because he has become embroiled in a fight in the cafeteria. Soon, however, heavily armed Erudites, sent out by Jeanine to hunt the fugitives down, arrive in armored cars, and Tris and her friends are on the run again. Our heroine will face many kinds of dangers, as well as wrestle with her feelings of guilt over her failure to protect the lives of her mother and father earlier. She will learn more about Four (real name Tobias) and his hostility toward Natalie Prior (Ashley Judd), the mother whom he thought dead after abandoning him. She wants them to join her and her band of Factionless in a war that brings the other Factions together in fighting Jeanine and her Erudites. Four refuses because he believes she will be no better than Jeanine as a ruler. During the bloody struggle against the Erudites Tris will turn herself in to prevent Jeanine from killing more captives until she surrenders.
Although I found the goings on at times confusing, several incidents stood out for me. When Four and Tris are arrested in Candor they persuade Jack Kang (Daniel Dae Kim), the leader of Cando, to give them a trial in which they testify after being injected with truth serum. As each enters into the trial Kang says, “May the truth set you free.” Where have you read or heard something very similar?
Tris is tormented by drug induced simulations, one of them being an attempt to rescue her mother from a burning building that is flying over Chicago. Because she has to concentrate on saving herself as the building literally tumbles through the sky, the flames spread too far for her to save her.
In another psychologically/drug induced simulation she fights against the dark side of herself. This scene, recognizing that we are neither all good nor all evil, called to mind the one in The Empire Strikes Back wherein Luke Skywalker, struggling with Darth Vader, rips away the respirator mask and stares at—his own face. I also thought of the apostle Paul explaining in the 7th chapter of his Letter to the Romans the war within himself: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.”
This is an exciting science fiction adventure with great special effects. There are so many characters that at times it is confusing as to what is happening to whom. As a parable of courage and refusal to knuckle under to conformity, the film offers plenty of food for thought and discussion. People of faith might want to talk about leadership, or rather, two kinds of leadership, one of service to others, and one base on gathering and using power as an end in itself. Also, leadership needs knowledge, hence Jeanine assumes that her faction the Erudites ought to take over rather than rule by consensus with the other factions. Those who set up the society were wise in seeing the virtues needed for creating a stable and fair society, but they apparently did not take into account the inner warfare described by the apostle Paul, one that rages in everyone, including those in the most intelligent of the Factions, the Erudite.
This second of the Divergent Series serves well as the middle film of the trilogy by advancing the action to the point of the heroine Tris and her fellow Insurgents triumphing in their struggle, but in a cliff hanging scene the film leaves us with the question raised by Four earlier with his mother–will the new regime headed by someone else be any better than the old one?
The review with a set of discussion questions will be in the April Visual Parables.