News

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

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

Photo: YouTube

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 Local Sports

Mears’ first MLS goal lifts Sounders past United, 1-0

Fresh
Seattle Sounders supporters in a crowd of nearly 40,000 hold up scarves at the start of an an MLS soccer match against the New England Revolution, Sunday, March 8, 2015, in Seattle.

The Sounders (10-7-2) snapped a three-game losing streak and climbed into a tie with Vancouver atop the Western Conference.

in Local Sports

Bells win third series opener against Kitsap 4-0

bellingham bells pcl logo generic 1

The Bells are in first place at 16 - 9.

in Local Sports

Mariners hit 4 HR’s in win over A’s

Seattle Mariners' Nelson Cruz follows the flight of his three-run home run off Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger during the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 27, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Mariners' Chris Taylor, and Robinson Cano also scored on the hit. The Mariners won the game 3-0.

The Seattle Mariners beat the Oakland Athletics 9-5 Friday night for their third win in four games.

in Local Sports

Dempsey, Chandler score as US beats Guatemala 4-0

clint dempsey concacaf twitter

Clint Dempsey converted a penalty kick in his return from a suspension for a confrontation with a referee, Timmy Chandler scored his first international goal and the United States routed Guatemala

in Sports

Oilers sign Connor McDavid to 3-year, entry-level contract

conner mcdavid twitter

The Edmonton Oilers have agreed to terms with center Connor McDavid on a three-year, entry-level contract.