News

REVIEW: ‘Divergent’ falls short of ‘Hunger Games’ glory

REVIEW: ‘Divergent’ falls short of ‘Hunger Games’ glory

Shailene Woodley, left, and Theo James in a scene from "Divergent." Photo: Associated Press/Summit Entertainment, Jaap Buitendijk

Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi | Run Time: 139 min | Rated: PG-13
Director: Neil Burger | Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet

By: George Wolf

High school sucks, but like all harrowing experiences and universal truths, it can lead to valid and valued artistic expression – nearly all modern adolescent literature, for instance.

Whether it’s The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game or the more clearly allegorical Divergent, the story is basically the same: a powerful system requires helpless parents to submit their precious children to bloodsport (high school); cliques are mindless and dangerous; the kid with the most power is a manipulative asshole; only the outcast can ultimately thrive. (Hell, even the magnificent Harry Potter series plays off the same riff.)

While it doesn’t make prom seem very appealing, in the hands of professionals, it can make for a compelling tale.

Director Neil Burger does a lot right with this film. Not everything, but a lot. He’s blessed with a straightforward script that won’t confuse the uninitiated. A hundred years after a great war, the world is broken into factions, each of which match individual personality types (and, to a certain degree, high school cliques): the smart kids (Erudite), the nice kids (Abnegation), the pot heads – I mean, happy, peaceful types (Amity), the honest (Candor), and the brave/fun/bully/popular kids (Dauntless). And then there are the dreaded factionless – a fate worse than death, like unpopularity.

People stay with their faction, and all is peaceful. But unique souls who don’t really fit – divergents – threaten the system.

Divergent also boasts two profound talents: Kate Winslet and Shailene Woodley. Winslet commands respect and awe as leader of the Erudites and general evildoer. Woodley plays our hero, the divergent Tris.

Both performers deserve stronger material, to be honest. While the screenplay, adapted from Veronica Roth‘s novel by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor, offers a fairly smooth streamlining of the story, it too often proves a bit toothless. The strength of the performers helps to compel attention. Woodley’s onscreen chemistry with Theo James as love interest Four gives the film a pulse, and her big-eyed vulnerability makes the sense of loss and longing palpable.

Too bad Berger felt it necessary to include so much exposition. An unfortunate symptom lately of Episodes 1 of a trilogy, Divergent simply takes so long to get to the action that you get bored.

Roth’s source material offers several clever conceits to play with, and both Woodley and Winslet seem game, but Berger can’t quite settle on a tone or a pace. It’s too bad, because comparisons to The Hunger Games are inevitable, and Divergent could easily have become a worthwhile companion to JLaw’s awesome quadrilogy. Instead it’s a fun but forgettable way to waste time before the real blockbusters release this summer.

Verdict 3 Stars

Read more movie reviews at MaddWolf.com.

Recent Headlines

in Entertainment

Third ‘Night at the Museum’ marks final film for Williams, Rooney

nightatthemuseum

The credits for "Secret of the Tomb," which opens Friday, read "In loving memory of Mickey Rooney," and "For Robin Williams - the magic never ends."

in Music

Ray Price’s widow opens up after loss

FILE - In a Jan. 7, 2011, file photo, Country Music Hall of Fame member and Grammy Award winner Ray Price celebrates his 86th birthday by performing in Bullard Texas. Price, one of country music's most popular and influential singers and bandleaders who had more than 100 hits and was one of the last living connections to Hank Williams, died Monday, Dec. 16, 2013. He was 87.

Ray Price's widow refused to leave her house for four months in the aftermath of her husband's death.

in Entertainment

Chris Pratt thought ‘Guardians’ would be a box office flop

Guardians Of The Galaxy

The "Parks and Rec" star was very, very wrong.

in Lifestyle

We’re living 6 years longer

doctor

Fewer people are dying from cancer and heart disease in rich countries and there's a better survival rate in poor countries from tuberculosis and malaria.

in Entertainment

Sony cancels ‘The Interview’ in win for N. Korean hackers

interview

The $44 million raunchy comedy was scheduled to debut on Christmas Day.