Divergent Reviews

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Super Reviewer
December 24, 2014
Certainly better than I expected. While the plot can be a bit formulaic and stretched out, this YA novel adaptation slightly rises above with it's intriguing premise (with hints of philosophical intrigue that I hope will get explored more in the two sequels), a solid cast (Shailene Woodley gives a compelling turn as Tris, the film's action heroine), and well-directed action sequences.
Super Reviewer
½ November 16, 2014
Neil Burger's Divergent diverges from greatness.

Running for a 130 minutes, the story never finds a consistent pace; taking much too long to develop and rushing with its ending. By employing the lengthy buildup, the film manages to drop interest by the time it begins to pick up for its finale.

There isn't much action, it isn't much of an a adventure, and the special effects are used sparingly. Nothing noteworthy stands out in this department.

The characters are bland along with much of the performances. Shailene Woodley is difficult to take serious with her role, although the lack of action makes it more reasonable. Theo James is as monotone as his character's name. Four.

Divergent does enough to get by, but not enough to be a recommendation.
Super Reviewer
August 24, 2014
When I first saw the trailer for this I rolled my eyes and said "Hunger Games ripoff". Now, it's not a ripoff, but had "Hunger Games" not been a success I doubt this would have been made. I'm not really going to try to describe the story of this movie, but if you don't know it won't make a lick of sense. It's a little complicated and requires your full attention. Now, when I watched it it was one of those "on in the background" situations where I was doing something else and not watching as intently as I should have been. But, I got the jest of it. Shailene Woodley is fantastic and really the biggest reason to watch this. The effects and overall story are just ok, but Woodley is electric. She is a star on the rise for sure. For what it is, it's decent enough. Girls will probably like this a lot more than the guys will, because it doesn't have a whole lot of action. But, it is interesting, and I'll check out the sequels for sure. Just have to make sure I rewatch this as a refresher. Worth a watch.
Super Reviewer
August 10, 2014
Teen fantasy that had potential to be better but an average movie that wonders whom we are to be! Winslet talents were wasted but made this teen drama a tad better!
Super Reviewer
April 1, 2014
You can tell just how desperately this film is trying to be the next big Young Adult book to movie adaptation. It has some solid action sequences and its themes are smarter than the average science fiction thriller spewed out from Hollywood, but it does very little to distinguish itself. Every other scene I was just reminded of other superior and more original films that this clearly is imitating. Shailene Woodley does make for a likable protagonist and they filled the supporting cast with solid actors as well. Unfortunately, they shoe-horn in a romance that isn't very believable. This is a thought-provoking story told in an assembly line manner, but it can be entertaining in spurts. I'm intrigued enough that I am willing to watch the sequel. Not exactly the best praise, but better than nothing.
Super Reviewer
August 12, 2014
Slow at times, but still intriguing. Very fine sets, costumes and special effects. Shailene Woodley does a decent job (much better that Stewart in the Twilight series, and she certainly has more depth!) Theo James...well,.. I don't see what all the fuss is about. He's adequate, but he's sure no dynamo. Nevertheless, the story is exciting enough to make this a worthwhile film to see.
Super Reviewer
April 26, 2014
Serviceable rendition of the same menu young teen/young adult us-against-the-system rah-rah (Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc.) so prevalent nowadays. "They wouldn't let her be herself and so: revolt for our freedom!"
Not bad, but not nearly so rousing either. Except for one sequence.
But then I'm old, so I don't understand.
Super Reviewer
½ July 23, 2014
Is it fair to say that every adaptation of teen novel deserves it's time on the big screen whether it is good or bad? Yes, because movies lie this that get mixed reviews, need to be seen by an audience to get well-received by it's fan base. In this instance, the fan reaction was much higher than the critics reaction, and I totally see why. "Divergent" begins like a clash between "The Hunger Games" and "Harry Potter," which was a little bit off-putting, until it takes the story it's own unique way and became very engaging. I will say that there is a big thank you to it's cast (namely Shailene Woodley) who do a great job all around. I had a lot of fun watching this movie, and even though not a whole lot happens in this first instalment, it definitely sets up something bigger that I am interested in seeing. I have not read the trilogy of novels, but I enjoyed the way this story was displayed on screen. "Divergent" was a pleasant surprise for me that I would watch again. It may not be as good as "The Hunger Games" or "Harry Potter" franchises, but it's nothing short of being as fun. It is not a great film by any means, but as long as you know that going in, I recommend it!
Super Reviewer
July 20, 2014
A lot of young adult movie has been made in the past 5 years since 'Twilight' and I think 'Divergent' continues the tradition after 'The Hunger Games' with a balance proportion between the love story and the conflict itself.. For me, casting Shailene Woodley as Tris was a great casting, while Theo James proves he chosen because he can act not only from his beautiful face.. The story itself quite interesting, how Veronica Roth made the story, and the cast did a brilliant job with another thumbs up for uprising young actor such as Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, and Zoe Kravitz.. Overall, as a normal audience would rate this movie, I gave it 4 stars because it's interesting story and nice cast..
Super Reviewer
½ March 29, 2014
Leaves a lot of stuff unanswered but that's because this is a trilogy (which left me a bit frustrated). Overall, good action and performances all around though. After reading the book, this was a really good adaptation.
Super Reviewer
½ May 10, 2014
Divergent uses every teen movie cliche possible to tell a story about keeping your individuality as you integrate into society as an adult. It's by no means a bad movie. It has the best of intentions, looks great and is well acted. But where Harry Potter and The Hunger Games managed to connect with audiences outside their fanbase, Divergent is instantly forgettable. Unless you read and liked the book I guess.
Super Reviewer
April 28, 2014
Better than expected! Despite the dystopian segregation into what are essentially Houses of Hogwarts that only futuristic leaders ever think is a good idea, the YA romance of "Divergent" seems to have learned from the mistakes of its predecessors (emo wallpaper girl--emo stalker boy--emo muscley boy love triangle of "Twilight" and emotionless tough girl--emo baker boy--emotionless muscley boy love triangle of "The Hunger Games") and crafted a first installment featuring a heroine with a tough AND emotional journey and just one leading boy who has a life outside of love. Four started out as Tris's superior in Dauntless faction, and while Tris proves her mettle, Four never makes her feel that she needs his approval.

I wasn't into Theo James's face at first from the promo posters, but his face is actually better in motion. He plays Four with gloom and glower but also tenderness and compassion. Shailene Woodley is a little blank at first, but she eventually faces down icy blue Kate Winslet with conviction and divergent badassery. Woodley has also got to be the best cryer in the business. Between the swimming pool scene in "The Descendants" and *spoilers* Tris clutching her dying mother in the inadequate refuge of an alleyway, gibbering to no avail at the shooters to stop shooting - ALL THE FEELS!
Super Reviewer
March 18, 2014
There's good chemistry between the leads, which helps overcome some of the boring parts. But not all. Not sure anything chemical could overcome them all.
Super Reviewer
March 25, 2014
Nowadays, film studios seem to want to market specific genres to younger crowds, which is of course a great idea to make money. Twilight and The Hunger Games proved that. Now, the latest craze is Divergent, a somewhat similar story to The Hunger Games, and it has as many fans. I went into this film expecting a total rip-off of The Hunger Games, and expected to hate it. Well, I was pleasantly surprised, I liked it, but it was simply average in my book. There were some good, well thought out parts, and the cast were quite good, especially lead actress Shailene Woodley. I haven't read the books, so I can't compare, but for what it is, Divergent wasn't bad. I enjoyed it for what it was, a fun, entertaining action film that can appeal to anyone looking for a fun dystopian society film. Go into this one with an open mind, you might like it. There are some well executed action scenes, and overall the direction is solid. Divergent has the misfortune of coming after The Hunger Games, and with that being said, I can see why there are similarities between the two. But this is still a good film for what it is, but it could have been much better as well. I think this film doesn't deserve the flack it received, sure it's not as good as The Hunger Games, but it's not a bad movie either. For what it is, it's an entertaining picture from start to finish that I think deserves a bit more credit. Divergent is a film that steadily builds up to a good finish, and if you enjoy Dystopian society films, then this is worth seeing. Divergent is the type of film that can exceed your expectations, it may be flawed, but there are enough aspects at work to make Divergent a thrilling ride even if it isn't perfect.
Super Reviewer
½ February 23, 2014
One choice can transform you.

Great Fun Film! People are expecting this series to match with Harry Potter and mostly The Hunger Games. It could be just another one of those dystopian future tales that revolts against a tyrannical government, but the concept sounds a little transcendent that can somehow relate to the young adult readers. Divergent is competent in filmmaking, but mediocre on themes. The films has a decent way to introduce the world and it truly is intriguing to explore the surfaces. This underwhelming storytelling is thankfully carried by a more fascinating and delicious vision. Neil Burger creates it into larger-than-life, and they are much entertaining than what the script tries to deliver. Everything just moves briskly and makes sure that it doesn't miss a satisfying thrill. The coolest scenes are proof that these filmmakers have big ambition to the project and yet the narrative fails to justify it. The cast has also done well. Shailene Woodley and Theo James are competent enough as the heroes, and Kate Winslet somewhat elevated her villainous character. Overall Divergent is a good film. It fails in few places but succeeds in most that count. With the failure of young adult movies such as Percy Jackson, Divergent healthily separates itself from them. I would recommend seeing it.

Set in a futuristic dystopia where society is divided into five factions that each represent a different virtue, teenagers have to decide if they want to stay in their faction or switch to another - for the rest of their lives. Tris Prior makes a choice that surprises everyone. Then Tris and her fellow faction-members have to live through a highly competitive initiation process to live out the choice they have made. They must undergo extreme physical and intense psychological tests, that transform them all. But Tris has a secret that she is Divergent, which means she doesn't fit into any one group. If anyone knew, it would mean a certain death. As she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, this secret might help her save the people she loves... or it might destroy her.
Super Reviewer
February 6, 2014
Decent, but I never really felt like it went to the next level. I'm not sure I'll be invested in the rest of the franchise, as far as the movies are concerned. The book seemed to have much better payoffs.
Nate Z.
Super Reviewer
½ March 21, 2014
High school for many was a personal version of hell, with its class system and pressure to conform. Divergent built a whole future dystopia around this relatable concept. The problem with the movie is that the source material doesn't think that much further.

In the future, 100 years after a great war that scarred the world, the survivors have holed up in the remains of Chicago with a large fence as their protection. The government decided to split off into five different factions, each with their important purpose. The five factions (Abnegation, Candor, Erudite, Amity, and Dauntless) work in harmony. Tris (Shailene Woodley) comes from a family of Abnegation, the selfless ones who run the government, though Jeanine (Kate Winslet), the head of Erudite, would like her faction to be on top. At the choosing ceremony, a candidate can select which faction they wish to live within. However, if rejected, that person will be factionless and on the outskirts of society. Rather than choose the comfort of her boring life, Tris decides to join Dauntless, the faction in charge of the security of the city. Before she can say goodbye to her family, she's off joining a new one, but Dauntless has many tests to weed out the weak. Paramount in her mind is the fact that Tris is told she's a divergent, one who doesn't fit neatly into any one of the factions. Divergents are being singled out and executed because they are feared; they can't be so easily controlled. Tris has to prove herself against tough competition in Dauntless while hiding her true divergent nature.

Having not read the best-selling Young Adult books, I went into Divergent and walked away entertained enough though questioning the larger appeal. My movie partner told me that the adaptation hews closely to the book, fitting in all the major plot beats; she even said it was a better adaptation than the first Hunger Games, so fans should be relieved. What the movie came down to was one long plot about Tris getting through the Dauntless tests. It's like a post-apocalyptic Full Metal Jacket, just minus the war half. With this tight focus, the film actually plays better and is easier to digest. The stakes are made clear and the hurdles are easy to understand. In a way it reminded me of the Ender's Game film where we watch a recruit move up the ranks of their sci-fi training, though Ender's was better at establishing dimension to its world. I did like the small touch that the Abnegation people won't allow themselves to see their reflection because they see it as vain. I could have used more touched like that.

There are simple pleasures watching Tris, the plucky underdog, rising to the challenge and besting her snobby peers. The games get more intense and Tris learns from trial to trial, eventually learning how to hide her divergent nature by blending in against her nature. There's also an intensity to this world that's appreciated; people will die if they can't keep up (there is one shocking sequence where a batch of jealous recruits literally try and kill Tris). The physical trials are fun but the mental ones are even more entertaining because they function around the candidate's fears. It's a tad lazy to simply broadcast a character's fear for them to confront in a dream, but it provides some creepy imagery and new wrinkle for Tris to master. Even the requisite romance that every YA property has to have is handled respectfully without overdoing it. The mentor/teacher relationship with Tris and Four is a natural conduit for their budding romantic feelings, though James (Underworld: Awakening) looks way older than Woodley (The Descendants). In reality, he's 30 and she's 22, though she's supposed to be... 17? 18 years old? I don't know but it just didn't sit right.

Where the movie gets into problems is the larger world outside those Dauntless camps. It feels too ill defined and purposely vague. What's on the other side of the giant electrified fence (hopefully dinosaurs)? I suppose that's what sequels are for (they're already filming the second Divergent for March 2015). The world just feels too small even for one city, and the history doesn't feel integrated into the cultivations of this society. In a sense, the movie doesn't give you enough to go on with its world building and spends far too much time dragging out its story. At a hefty 142 minutes, a timeframe becoming de rigueur with YA adaptations, the film feels laboriously padded. I kept thinking the movie was going to check out at any moment, robbing me of some semblance of a complete ending. Fear not, there is an ending, though one that feels far too definite to continue a franchise. The bad guys are so obviously guilty, that even while still being at large, it's hard to fathom a scenario that doesn't unite everyone against the common threat. Does every YA post-apocalyptic mold eventually lead to unlikely heroes becoming the focal points of revolutions? I'm being facetious, but also highlighting just how derivative this movie is. Divergent borrows from its larger influences liberally, having enough story sense to know how to construct a satisfying tale of heroes and villains. It's a well-polished film thanks to director Neil Burger (Limitless) but it's also lacking necessary elements to distinguish it from the glut of dystopian imitators and predecessors.

I just can't wrap my head around the world of Divergent. It lacks the clean clarity of, say, The Hunger Games, where the game is kill-or-be-killed and it's very much a class warfare allegory. In Veronica Roth's novel, the post-apocalyptic Chicago is divided into five factions but this isn't a caste system. The different factions are looked at as equals, meant to cooperate harmoniously. So there goes any sort of class conflict when the factions are presented more as lifelong clubs. The design is that branching people off into five groups will somehow prevent the strife that lead to the unnamed war of the past. This doesn't really make a lot of sense to me. Why would limiting people's options for careers and lifestyles eliminate conflict? I understand the not so subtle message about conformity and the strength in controlling others, but it still doesn't hold. Then there's the notion that a divergent is a dangerous rogue, but it's not like the divergent are mutants or genetically different. These are just people who don't fit neatly into one of the five faction options. If you eliminate the conformity obsession, who cares? It's only an aptitude test in the end, like what you take in middle school that say, "Hey, you like drawing, maybe you'd like to be a police sketch artist" (true personal anecdote of mine). It's not something that looks deep into the souls of boys and girls and presages their future. It's an aptitude test for crying out loud. The world of Divergent also feels strangely unfulfilled, with too many lingering questions about the logistics of how this future Chicago is able to function. There's a confusing aura around this world and it doesn't get explained because we spend so much time in Dauntless boot camp.

There was a weird motif I kept noticing throughout the film and that's the future's unsafe disregard for medical safety. The Dauntless kids are all about the running, jumping, punching each other in the face, but it all begins at their choosing ceremony. The candidates walk to the front of an auditorium, slice their palm with a ceremonial knife, and then squeeze blood into a bowl representing the faction they select. Of course they reiterate "faction before blood" so it's a little strange that the ritual involves their blood. Anyway, what I picked up was that every candidate was using the same knife, only with he most perfunctory of wiping the blade. That is just unclean and a way for blood-based disease to spread. Then later during the mental round of testing, Four injects Tris and himself with the same needle. Clearly these post-apocalyptic people have forgotten all about AIDS and other deadly diseases. Why else would Jeanine be so calm as her hand is covered in someone else's blood? I'm surprised she just didn't lick it for effect.

The actors are all well cast for their parts, with Woodley again proving herself as one of the best young actresses today in Hollywood. Her part isn't anywhere as complex or demanding as her terrific turn in The Spectacular Now, but she's able to slide in emotion where possible, expressing much through the power of her eyes. She's a heroine you want to root for, and when she goes into badass mode it feels earned. James is suitably hunky while still being mysterious and broody. Interestingly enough, Miles Teller, Woodley's onscreen beau in Spectacular Now, is here as a bully and Ansel Elgort, who plays Tris' older brother, will soon play Woodley's onscreen beau in The Fault in Our Stars. It's like this weird cross-section of Woodley's film history of boyfriends. The adults do fine jobs with their limited time, with Winslet (Labor Day) being a better realized version of what Jodie Foster was possibly going for in Elysium. My favorite adult actor was Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard, Jack Reacher) who hasn't found the right fit for his talents, until now (he was great on Starz's Spartacus TV show). As a no-nonsense Dauntless captain, he's imposing in many respects and also intriguingly devious. He's a grade-A heavy and adds a jolt to the scenes he's in.

Poised to be the next YA breakout franchise, Divergent will likely be a hit with its target audience and reap the rewards at the box-office, though I think its flaws will hold it back from being embraced by a wider audience with no affiliation with the books. It's an entertaining story with good actors and enough well constructed payoffs, but it's also confusing, vague, and lacking enough urgency, class conflict, and developments to parlay into a more interesting story once Tris graduates from the Dauntless ranks. As a standalone film, Divergent works enough and duly entertains, thanks again to Burger's visual sensibilities and the strength of Woodley. I'm just not invested at all in this world or its larger characters to compel myself to find out what happens next. I ravenously tore through the Hunger Games books, but to each their own. As a big screen sci-fi film, it's strange that Divergent would work best in its smaller moments and settings. It's too bad the movie doesn't diverge enough from the pack of YA-modeled adventures. Well there is one thing to look forward to: I'll see if I get my wish for dinosaurs in March 2015.

Nate's Grade: B-
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2014
As if there weren't enough young adult sci-fi/fantasy series out there, Divergent tries to launch yet another one. Set in a dystopian future in a society separated by caste a young girl named Beatrice chooses to break from her family and join the warrior caste, but her success threatens the social order. Clearly derivative of The Hunger Games and other contemporary teen fiction, the plot feels familiar and generic. Additionally, the world that's set up makes no sense and the story's incomplete (servicing instead as a first act in something larger). And there's not much talent among the cast (though there are some big name actors like Ray Stevenson and Kate Winslet slumming it here). Still, the film is competently made and delivers a lot of solid action and impressive visual effects. An average science fiction adventure, Divergent is entertaining but fails to distinguish itself or tell a compelling story.
Super Reviewer
½ January 5, 2014
Divergent has a lot going for it, but it never grabbed me like I wanted it to. It just felt another way to attract to hounger audiences and make a quick buck. Hopefully if they do make sequels they will learn from past mistakes and make this feel edgier and won't spend three-fourths of the movie in a training facility.
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