Cinematic Releases: Divergent

Another series of young adult books about a dystopian future begins its run this week.

"I've got Jennifer
Lawrence in my
Apparently, teenagers really like books and movies about a really depressing future in which the modern world has completely crumbled and is run by ruling elitist factions that really hate society as a whole. Comparisons will be made to the far greater and bigger budgeted Hunger Games series, but all is not bad with this first entry in the Divergent series. Despite some horrible edits and nearly ninety minutes of exposition, I'd be lying if I said I didn't find good qualities about this latest book to film adaptation. 

Most of the low points lie with a cast that never truly emotes but instead stands around looking dour and wooden for a large percentage of the movie. To add to that major issue,  Shailene Woodley isn't necessarily problematic for this role, but she never seems totally at ease with this type of action based picture. When she's running, fighting, and supposed to be throwing down against some highly trained bad asses, she failed to convince me that she could EVER match the skill and fortitude of dudes twice her size with years of training behind them. But, I digress. This is the science fiction future in which sad puppy dog looks always trump military might. 

Yet, the film and story both excel in their exemplary commentary on modern separatism and how easily society could be led astray by divisive social virtues. Much like other films in this genre, Divergent paints the future as a new world in which the evil doers hold the higher ground with money, power and the technology to control all. In this aspect, it fully delivers with first time franchise star Kate Winslet playing the all powerful political idealist, Jeanine. She shuts down every other actor in Divergent with a cold, calculated and highly motivated role that absolutely rivals Donald Sutherland's evil turn as President Snow in the Hunger Games. 

"Sniff my elbows!" 
If you're looking for high art, this is not it. Was I expecting it? No. Divergent is an engrossing science fiction piece that will keep your attention from beginning to end. The story, characters, and societal message actually makes you care about this teenage battle of good versus evil. While some of the performances are wooden, it's easy to set that aside due to strong story telling and a dynamic performance from Winslet. 

I just hope the sequel tightens up the edits and takes a little more care with the embarrassingly bad CGI work. Other than that, Divergent is quality entertainment. Buy a ticket. See it with your teenage daughter. She surely will squeal. 

-Chris George