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Liberals really ought to know better than to make science fiction films.

So often, sci-fi tales end up revealing the primary flaw and danger of a leftist worldview – namely, the idea that the government can legislate utopia. As Ronald Reagan famously noted, when you make the State that powerful, you make a potentially powerful enemy.

Even if the story pins the future destruction of the world on leftist bogeymen like global warming or a right-wing-driven war event (let’s leave aliens out of the discussion for now), when it comes time to create the all-powerful villain the underdog must battle in his post-apocalyptic world, from “1984″ to “Fahrenheit 451″ to “The Hunger Games,” there’s no bad guy like a fed.

It’s not just coincidence. When facing down a scary future, whether it’s war or natural disaster or economic collapse or even aliens, people thrash about for security – ala a government that promises order, safety and a chicken in every pot. Science fiction writers, however, are often smart enough to recognize what Benjamin Franklin famously noted, that desperation for security necessarily results in a loss of liberty.

That loss of liberty is a primary theme of dystopian science fiction flicks, and the new film “Divergent” is no exception.

The latest sci-fi, teen-romance book to make it to the big screen, “Divergent” is an entertaining and thought-provoking film that exceeded my expectations, rating better than similar teen-angst-filled fantasies “Twilight” or “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” but not quite rising to the level of “The Hunger Games.”

The story takes audiences to a future survivor colony locked inside the walls of what was once Chicago, where every teen is eventually tested and divided into one of five “factions,” where they spend the rest of their life in a clearly defined role, based on its function in society and required personality trait: Abnegation (selflessness and service), Amity (kindness and joy), Candor (honesty and order), Dauntless (courage and defense) or Erudite (intelligence and invention).

Beatrice Prior, however, discovers she doesn’t quite fit this government-mandated system. She’s a “divergent,” a person whose test reveals she holds the traits of several of the factions.

This sets up a major theme for the film, which is Beatrice’s struggle to feel she “fits in” anywhere, a clearly depicted internal and external battle I’m sure many teens will relate to immediately.

But it also sets up a significant secondary theme, which is the system’s inherent trouble with a person who “diverges” from the system. As the film states in several ways, people who think for themselves create problems for the state. After all, the state is there to maintain order and keep everyone in line. People who don’t fit the rules don’t fit the system, and the system is the savior of society … instead of the people themselves.

This is, of course, the major dividing line between statists and libertarians, between socialists and capitalists. The former in each case look to systems and authorities to fix society, while the latter in each case believes individual ingenuity holds the greater hope.

This comes into sharp contrast both in “Divergent” and in America’s current executive branch.

In the film, the philosophy of government-knows-best is seen in the villain, who explains the Abnegation faction (servants at heart) shouldn’t be governing, but the egg-headed Erudites – “Those of us with the vision to see,” as the governess declares – instead. In other words, “We intellectual elites really know what’s best for you, so shut up and get in line with the rest of the minions.”

The obvious parallels to the current administration – with dictates about what health insurance is good enough for you and what light bulbs you are required to buy and what you should eat for lunch at school and how many bullets are too many in your gun – are so obvious, I’m shocked Hollywood even agreed to make “Divergent.”

But for some reason, leftists keep making movies that reveal the flaw in their own worldview.

The movie isn’t perfect (it focuses so heavily on the story that character development and the audience’s emotional investment suffers), and I have no idea how it compares to the book (for I haven’t read it), but it is entertaining, intriguing and certainly thought-provoking. It even makes some fascinating statements about human nature that jive more with biblical thinking than America’s predominant, “people are inherently good” pop psychology.

Even if teen angst and shallow romance make you gag (ala “Twilight”), “Divergent” still builds upon a creative enough premise and packs enough entertainment punch that science fiction fans may find it a fun evening’s diversion.

Content advisory:

  • “Divergent” is rated PG-13, but not really for foul language, which includes about seven minor profanities.
  • There is, however, a fair amount of violence and particularly hand-to-hand combat, as the film focuses on the military training of the “Dauntless” faction. There’s also some reckless behavior, like jumping to and from trains, as well as some minor blood and gore.
  • The movie has some sexuality, including a passionate kiss, a few cleavage shots, a scene where a woman quickly strips down to her bra while changing clothes and a scene where a man tries to force himself upon a woman (until he is fought off).
  • The film has almost no religious or occult content, save for several characters with various tattoos which may or may not have significance. There’s also a ceremony where characters choose their faction by cutting themselves and dripping their blood into a receptacle, but no mention of God or the supernatural is implied.

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