Divergent
Two and a half Stars (out of five). 2014. Released by Lionsgate Films. Running time 139 minutes. Rated PG-13. Has English subtitles for the deaf and hearing impaired. Has scenes of extreme violence, with miminal gore. Special features include two commentaries, deleted scenes, and a marketing gallery. This was reviewed on DVD on August 13, 2014.

When are they ever getting this stadium finished?! Divergent, based on the book by Veronica Roth, is another bleak dystopian tale of a young woman who comes of age in a restrictive society, much like the Hunger Games. The young lass here is Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), who must take an important test that will determine the course of the rest of her life. The setting is a future Chicago, where the old buildings now sport wind turbines that are used to create energy, and the Great Lakes have pretty much dried up. Humans have been split up into distinctive groups that are based on individual virtues; the reason being is so that wars, like the devastating conflict that nearly wiped out humanity in the past, will be avoided.

Ow.... Tris and her family belong to Abnegation, the selfless faction that runs the government, but is under political fire for their handling of things (apparently this new form of society isn’t working out after all). Things get worse for Tris when she finds out from the test that she is a Divergent, which is a special person who doesn’t neatly fit into any of the accepted factions, and because of that is considered to be a dangerous threat by the state that must be hunted down and killed. But once she discovers this, Tris doesn’t try to stay alive by keeping her head down and joining the Abnegation faction--no, instead she joins Dauntless, the warrior faction, thus putting her front and center of the action to come.

Hello I'm Kate...and I'm evil. Divergent, the movie, is better than the book, which had an annoying tendency to wander way off course with its sappy romance taking center stage. For once, it’s not a bad thing that a film streamlines a lot of the story, and it works very well here--with the villain, well-played by Kate Winslet, taking center stage. Ashley Judd also shines as Mama Prior, and while Woodley handles the lead role with aplomb, she’s really not given any chance to flex her formidable acing chops. Neil Burger (The Illusionist) ably takes care of business, but like Woodley, he’s also restricted by the material, which is very predictable.

Hey, is it too late to transfer to Hogwarts? One of the problems is that there’s no real chemistry between Tris and Four (Theo James), the Dauntless instructor whom she falls for. Their romance is very lifeless, which makes one wonder if Tris is falling for him because she’s very dopey. The scenes of Tris training to become a Dauntless member take up the whole film, which gives the proceedings an overly familiar Harry Potter vibe (like Hogwarts as being a grunge pit with a lot of tattoos and raves). Another problem is that Divergent is the first third of a trilogy, meaning just when things get interesting, it ends on a cliffhanger. Yet Divergent is so listless that it really doesn’t inspire me to want to see the second film all. --SF

Main Review Page | Action/Adventure Reviews | Watch Divergent here!