Sunday, March 30 2014, 09:35 PM MDT
Movie Review: Divergent
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Neil Burger
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Recommended To: Fans of the novel, those looking for something similar to The Hunger Games with just a touch of Twilights romance thrown in.
Synopsis: For the betterment of society humanity has divided itself into five distinct groups based on singular virtues. Tris (Shailene Woodley), unsure of her place in the world, leaves her family to join a different faction. There she learns that her inability to conform and dedicate herself to one virtue makes her Divergent and a threat to the balance of society.
Review: Numerous book franchises have tried to cash in on the success of Twilight and The Hunger Games, but the majority were been met with apathy rather than fanaticism. Divergent stands a chance at success in that it is cut from a similar cloth to The Hunger Games and presents a dystopian future where society has been divided for their best interest. It swaps out the economics of Suzanne Collins future for a world where an individual is reduced to having one virtue (brave, intelligent, honest, selfless or peaceful). It is an incredibly simplistic idea and more of an intellectual exercise than a fully realized vision of the future and as a result that requires a suspension of disbelief to really buy into the narrative. If youre able to do that theres enjoyment to find in Divergent as it offers the expected mix of teenage uncertainty, a desire for acceptance and heightened stakes as one persons decisions inevitably will impact society as a whole.
The cast features some familiar faces like Kate Winslet and Ashley Judd, young stars in Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller and Jai Courtney and newcomers like Theo James and Ansel Elgort and while I doubt any will ultimately consider Divergent their finest hour the ensemble holds up better than the hodgepodge casts of Twilight, Percy Jackson or The Mortal Instruments. Director Neil Burger does a fairly nice job of recreating the world of the novel (although the pit certainly underwhelms when compared to how it was described in the book).
Woodley and James have a nice amount of chemistry and that manages to make the romantic subplot less sugary than it was in the novel. Screenwriters Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor have made plenty of changes to the story. Some of the alterations improve the story while others are baffling. Do we really need to see a softer side of Molly or a less self-concerned Christina? I think not.
Im not fully invested in Divergent. It is a good starting point that me interested in the characters and the world they inhabit. The real question is if the sequel can really grab me in the way that The Hunger Games: Catching Fire did. If 2015s Insurgent is a step backwards you wont find me clamoring for Allegiant in 2016.
-Ryan Michael Painter