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March 27, 2014

Divergent (**) PG-13

The conclusion I’ve come to—not a particularly earth shattering one, mind you—is that Veronica Roth’s super successful series of young adult novels that serve as the basis for the new film Divergent have to be better than the resulting film adaptation. Why else would the legion of fans of the well-revered books be salivating for this adaptation as so many of them apparently are?  I’m sure that it seemed like a good idea to some hot-shot studio exec or marketing wiz to option this property and attempt to take a piece of the Hunger Games pie in the process and perhaps that will happen. More discerning fans, however, will see through this wolf in sheep’s clothing and label it as such.

The problem is that Divergent really has nothing new to offer those who enjoy this sort of cinematic dystopian vision. All of the nuances and subtext that must have been readily apparent in the novel have been jettisoned in favor of the standard teen action movie set pieces that populate these sorts of things.

Rachel Zoe & Shailene Woodley in Divergent

Even the template of the film and the screenplay’s beats seem to be identical to the first Hunger Games outing. The first section deals with the lead character going through some sort of training, which is ultimately followed by a more sinister plot turn at about the halfway mark. You get the picture.

Shailene Woodley is a young actress I greatly admire. She does what she can with the material in the lead role of Tris Prior, but the depth that she so amply displayed in last year’s wonderful, The Spectacular Now, is sorely missing, mainly due to her underwritten character. She’s also reunited with her Spectacular Now co-star, Miles Teller, but that’s where the similarities end.

Tris (Woodley) lives in a futuristic society where the world’s inhabitants are divided into five separate factions. These are, in no particular order, Abnegation (the self rulers), Erudite (subversives attempting to overthrow the former), Dauntless (those who serve and protect), Candor (those who tell the truth), and Amity (field laborers). Divergents are another matter altogether as they’re the ones who don’t fit neatly into any of the other groups and typically are exterminated. Tris discovers she’s a divergent, which puts her at odds with the Erudite leader, Jeanine (Kate Winslet), and that pretty much sums up the first half of the film.

The good news is that once Divergent gets past the first hour, it begins to get a bit better as it goes off into uncharted territory. There are a grueling series of tests that Tris must endure and, eventually, things get a bit more interesting once Jeanine’s plans are revealed. It’s far from Hunger Games territory but it keeps the film from being a total washout. You may not find yourself excited at the prospect of sitting through another chapter of Divergent but the film does leave you wondering what new territory another chapter might cover should it ever get made.

Divergent is playing at the Hickory Carmike, and other area theaters.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at



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