Divergent Movie Review
It may not have the hook of The Hunger Games, but Divergent is arguably a better movie. Regardless, the post-apocalyptic thriller is an adequate and entertaining adaptation of the popular young adult novel.
Shailene Woodley turns in a fine performance as Tris, a teenage girl who is labeled "divergent" because her personality doesn't conform to any of the five factions in her post-war civilization, and who handles clunky young adult dialogue just a little better than most. Joining her is Theo James as Four, her fighting instructor and brooding love interest.
Having enjoyed the book, I was warily anticipating the movie, even though the trailers did their best to dissuade me. Seriously, the trailers for this movie have been bad. But director Neil Burger (The Illusionist) has assembled a nice-looking, entertaining movie that perhaps isn't as interesting as The Hunger Games, but is better made (Catching Fire is another story). Featuring pretty good special effects, some decent action sequences and a mildly intriguing story, Divergent has more than enough to satisfy not-too-discerning audience members.
Look a little deeper and you'll notice some not-all-surprising weaknesses. The chemistry between Woodley and James is lacking, though some of the fizzle could be attributed to the screenplay, which is serviceable but not much more. Most of the characters are one-dimensional and aren't as distinguished as they are in the book; the biggest victims are villains Jai Courtney and Miles Teller, who literally look pained in their roles.
The movie's biggest shortcoming is its length; at nearly two and a half hours long, Divergent feels bloated, especially in the middle. While generally fast paced, it definitely loses its edge as the film works toward the climax. Hollywood likes to play it safe with these young adult fiction novels, and Divergent is no different.
Despite some holes, Divergent is a fun, easy to watch action-thriller. No doubt some critics will find more to hate, but the movie does what it needs to do to keep off the franchise.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.