Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Zoë Kravitz
Directed by: Neil Burger
Written By: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor
Rating: PG-13 (US) Running Time: 2 hr 19 min
So this is what the kids are into these days? Depressing dystopian futures where the general population are separated, controlled, and used by the ruling classes. Worrying.
I promised myself I wouldn’t mention The Hunger Games and give Divergent a fair trial and all that. But after watching the film I find that’s impossible to do as both films are extremely similar in many ways. Both have strong young female leads and connect their heroine with a bird like symbol and both are set in dystopian futures that separate the general populous into controllable neat groups.
That’s to be expected with a project like this, and that ended up being the main problem I had with Divergent. The whole thing felt like it was made by committee. But this happens all the time in the movies. The Hunger Games was a huge hit so studios scramble around in search of similar material, and expect lighting to strike twice. It often backfires, but it doesn’t stop them trying. Studios just don’t ‘get’ their audience it seems.
Note to studio execs: Moviegoers are always looking for something new and interesting in our movie theaters. Not products clearly designed to chase a popular theme, or old R rated classics re-worked into soft PG-13 forgettable products. Like Tris (Shailene Woodley) in the movie, we are divergent. As much as you’d like us to fall into select marketable categories. We will not play ball! You tried to cash in on the success of Twilight with The Host. That failed. You’re trying to cash in on the success of The Hunger Games with Divergent. Time will tell if this pays off.
Divergent the movie, is a solid product. It carefully sets up its dystopian premise well, and is anchored by a great performance by Shailene Woodley. At two hours twenty minutes it’s certainly too long and I felt too much time was spent on the premise set up, and building the relationship between the characters Tris and Four (Theo James). So much so that when it came time to actually deliver a plot and conclude this story – it felt rushed. But therein lies the main problem with this film. It felt like a carefully planned studio product, and not a unique creative vision from its director, writer, production artists and cast. I got the feeling they were already thinking about the sequels when they were making this.
I haven’t read the book this film was adapted from. I understand this is a pretty faithful adaptation of the source material with a couple of key changes here and there. Mainly to give Kate Winslet’s character Jeanine more to do. If you’re a fan of the books, you’ll likely find this acceptable. If you enjoyed The Hunger Games, I think you’ll be entertained by this.
This isn’t a pretty film at all. Some shots were really underlit, and it was sometimes hard to see what was going on. If you can’t wait for a regular DVD or streaming experience at home, just take on a matinée screening.
Best element/moment for me: << spoilers! I’m serious! >>
The film has a few very powerful moments. All of which benefit from a great leading performance by Shailene Woodley. She is the single best reason to see this film. The scene where her mother is shot is very powerful.