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 Entertainment, Lifestyle

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: 26 freebies to help you celebrate

Fresh
birthday

On your birthday you can have your (free) cake and eat it too!

in Local

Country star honors Lynden teen who died in car crash

Updated
Sophia-Milstead-Twitter

After Lynden High graduate, Sofia Milstead died on her way to a country music concert, she was honored on stage by country music star Thomas Rhett.

in Local Sports

Bell beat Kelowna Falcons 6-1 and break records along the way.

bellingham bells pcl logo generic 2

Center fielder Arron Stroosma breaks the West Coast League all time stolen base record with his 30th, and Dustin Breshears broke a Bells hitting record, with a least 1 hit in 12 straight games.

in Local Sports

Stricklen hits go-ahead with 8.2 left, Sun beat Storm 67-66

seattle storm logo

Shekinna Stricklen scored off a rebound with 8.2 seconds left to give Connecticut the lead and finished with 15 points in the Sun's victory over the Seattle Storm on Friday night.

in Local Sports

Walker, Cruz lead Mariners to 6-1 win over Twins

Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Taijuan Walker throws against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning of a baseball game in Los Angeles, Wednesday, April 15, 2015.

Taijuan Walker pitched a one-hitter for his first career complete game in 29 major league starts, and Nelson Cruz and Jesus Montero homered to lift the Seattle Mariners over the Minnesota Twins.