‘Divergent’ Review

Published 9 months ago by , Updated October 7th, 2014 at 1:40 am,

Divergent Reviews starring Shailene Woodley Ashley Judd and Kate Winslet Divergent Review

Divergent, falls somewhere in a middle ground between high points of The Hunger Games and the low points of The Twilight Saga.

Divergent takes place in a future Chicago that exists in the era after a great war. In order to avoid the pitfalls of the former world, the new society is divided into five factions: Candor (outspoken opinionated types suited for legality and politics), Erudite (the brainiacs who love knowledge and logic), Dauntless (brave risk-takers used for policing and military service), Amity (peaceful hippie-type farmers), and Abnegation (Amish-style simple folk who are the only ones trusted to hold public office). At age sixteen, each citizen is given an aptitude test meant to reveal their personality, and soon after, he or she must freely decided for themselves which faction they will join for life. “Faction before blood,” as the old adage goes…

The twist comes when young Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) takes her aptitude test and discovers that she is “divergent” – i.e., part of an anomalous percentage of people who don’t fit into any of the five factions. Beatrice is warned that divergence is a death sentence, so she reinvents herself as “Tris,” a fearless and spirited member of Dauntless faction. However, before being accepted as a Dauntless warrior Tris has to contend with harsh instructors like Four (Theo James) and Eric (Jai Courtney), and jealous fellow recruits like Peter (Miles Teller) – all while protecting the secret of her divergence at all costs.

Maggie Q and Shailene Woodley in Divergent Divergent Review

Directed by Neil Burger (Limitless, The Illusionist) and based on the young adult book series by Veronica Roth, Divergent presents an interesting sci-fi world and premise by way of an interesting main character – but unfortunately, those positives are weighted down by the usual negatives associated with modern YA genre films: namely, thin writing and cheesy teen romance.

Burger is best known as a director (some might say underdog) whose films create solid and immersive cinematic experiences with nice flourishes – even if his overall style as a director often fails to wow. Divergent pretty much falls in step with the trend of Burger’s other films – a solid realization that has some nice flourishes, but never fully achieves an awe-inspiring cinematic experience.

Divergent Trailer 2 Divergent Review

The future world of Roth’s novel looks interesting onscreen, but often the set pieces are something you could see in a sci-fi television show, and many of the attempts at more cinematic visual flair fall flat – as in, flat on the unconvincing green screens and poorly rendered CGI objects that are the standard of this film. Despite those (budgetary) shortcomings, however, Burger’s small stylistic flourishes do make many of the surreal moments of the film interesting (the fear test sequences), and generally sell the world the film is attempting to create. In other words: a solid director does a solid job.

Having never read the novel myself, I can’t know how well writers Evan Daughterty (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Vanessa Taylor (Game of Thrones) did with adapting the book for the screen – but knowing the basic summary of the story, I can say that many of the problems in Divergent likely originate at the source. The good parts of the story rest with the premise, the protagonist, and the overall themes about self-identity and defying conformity in favor of individuality. Luckily, those ripe elements of the story are what constitute the first two acts of the film, as Tris finds her faction and navigates the rough training regiment of Dauntless.

Shailene Woodley and Theo James in Divergent  Divergent Review

Shailene Woodley and Theo James in ‘Divergent’

Where things go awry is (as per usual for this genre) when the teen romance subplot sucks momentum out of what was a more engaging and interesting story – but that’s not to take away from lead actors Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) and Theo James (Underworld: Awakening). She’s cute, feisty and smart, he’s tall charming and handsome; the pair create an understated, slow-burn flirtatious chemistry that really carries the character moments of the film.

However, when Tris and Four inevitably go all doe-eyed for one another, it’s pretty much a derailment of everything the film was doing up to that point. Gone is the story of an independent young woman’s journey of self-discovery and empowerment, and here again is the insipid YA cliche where kissing the boy solves all the problems. (The last scene in the film is especially ridiculous in this regard.)

Kate Winslet and Theo James in Divergent Divergent Review

Kate Winslet in ‘Divergent’

Aside from Jai Courtney (A Good Day to Die Hard) once again adding some flavor as abusive drill sergeant, Eric, the supporting cast (which includes Maggie Q, Ashley Judd, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn and Mekhi Phifer) is pretty much a misuse of some good talent. The supporting characters are either flat, cliched or undeveloped during the course of the film – and yes, I know, the book probably explains them in greater detail. But the film does not. Kate Winslet and Ashley Judd do good work with their roles as the cold leader of Erudite and Tris’ mother, respectively. But don’t count on those accomplished actresses to have much screen time.

In the end, Divergent, falls somewhere in a middle ground between high points of The Hunger Games and the low points of The Twilight Saga. It’s not dead on arrival (see: The Mortal Instruments), but it’s too close to call whether or not many viewers (beyond the built-in fanbase) will leave the theater eager for the next chapter in Tris’ path to self-discovery… and boys.

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Divergent is now playing in theaters. It is 139 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.

Stay tuned for our Divergent episode of the Screen Rant Underground Podcast.

Follow me and talk movies @ppnkof

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

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  1. Shailene Woodley can’t act plus she has a face of an 80 year old woman pumped with botox, glad she isn’t M.J dodged a bullet there…

    • Woodley IS playing MJ. She already filmed her MJ scenes for Spider-Man 2, but they were cut out. She’s gonna be MJ in the 3rd (as far as I know, anyway).

      • She has said multiple times in various interviews she is not involved with the Spider Man franchise some of which were quoted her on other screen rant topics….I am pretty sure they have moved on without her…personally.

    • As mean a description as that is, its uncannily accurate.

      Maybe that’s why I find it so hard to look at her face. She has a weird face.

    • Agree. She would have been a horrible MJ. MJ is a supermodel. This chick doesn’t even look like she could get into a Sears catalog. I seriously don’t know what the hype is about her. She is average at best.

    • Crap comment. If you have seen The Descedants, you know that she can act. GTFO and take that comment to comicbookmovie or some other crap site.

      • she does horrible in that movie! and the movie is horrible!

      • Not a crap comment, just one you don’t agree with. She is absolutely wooden in this movie.
        I was interested in The Fault In Our Stars movie before I heard her monologue in the trailer and realised she has all the acting ability of my front door.

        Extremely sub-par actress who’ll be given far too much credit because of her cult movie status (See; Kristen Stewart).

    • This movie was and is better than the hunger games. Woodley acts better then lawerance in this particular film. The first hunger games was slow, boring, uninteresting characters, and when katniss cried in that movie all I wanted to do was slap her, I walked away from this movie enjoying it and I will see the next one.

      • In no way shape or form was this movie better than Hunger Games.

        It was basically a tacky futuristic version of Hogwarts from Harry Potter except they have those stupid clans instead of Houses lol. LAME.

      • J-Law has an Oscar and Woodley is stuck with teen choice~lol

  2. She should have stuck to being Mary Jane.

    • this movie had nothing to do with her not being MJ. She was cut from Spiderman 2 due for creative reasons on Webb’s part.

      • like…. Webb couldn’t think of a “creative” way to use her as MJ…. no one has that much creativity.

  3. I have yet to see it, but it doesn’t matter. The story worked better as a book, seeing as how most of Beatrice’s conflicts are internal at first, A LOT of internal monologue. The idea behind the book is that Beatrice’s actions cause all the problems, as opposed to having the main character be pulled into such problems (i.e. Hunger Games). Tris is supposed to be the game-maker here. The Erudie leader was waiting for someone to make a move, and she then pounces. I’m hoping that is a point in the film.

    And, good grief, the romance is going to play a major role because that is what sells to teen/tween girls with money.

    • I went to it with some friends yesterday and YEAH the romance-y stuff is pretty annoying. They spend like 40 minutes on it if not more. Everybody I went to it with said the romance took a backseat to the political drama and more interesting action stuff in the book. I think it would’ve been a much better movie that way. I liked a lot of the stuff about the factions and stuff in the movie, they just needed to flesh it out more.

      Also Jai Courtney was pretty legit as that tatted up drill sargeant dude. WAAAAY better than his performance in Die Hard 5.

  4. Not a fan

  5. Given the premise, this review seems two starts too high..

  6. ‘Divergent’ isn’t unique, or in any significant way remarkably detached from the rest of story standards……unlike ‘The Representative’.

    Divergent, like so many movies – or just stories – tries to present itself as genuine, and new and worthwhile, however really isn’t…..it’s full of elements which like the majority it would always be – indeed, it’s precisely here where it, as well as all the rest just like it, become severely detached from ‘The Representative’.

    Wait for The Representative, whoever it is, who’s decided to read this post…….I’ll right now make you this promise: once you’ve read it, you genuinely won’t believe your mind.

    • Did you have a stroke in the middle of writing this? Literally, what on earth are you rambling about?

      • ^^^Love it! ;^)>

      • Translation: Divergent isn’t unique at all. It has the same elements that most stories of the genre have. The same plot beats, character types, etc. This detracts from Divergent’s marketing scheme, which was to market itself as different and fresh. Thomas think so (nor do I).

        However, apparently ‘The Representative’ seems to be the sequel to this. Thomas seems to be indicating that there is much more depth and intricacy and unique character in this one, and that we should look to this as both a better movie and a better story.

        He’s perfectly coherent if you just think – you just can’t follow him very well. Lord knows plenty of textbooks or classical novels are written just like him.

  7. take Hunger games, throw in in the blender, than take After earth and throw it in to, congratulations! you have divergent…

    • Well…that sounds a lot better than I originally thought. LOL.

  8. Netflix

  9. Throughout the entire runtime of the film, i had Mike Stoklasa voice in my head asking “Why is this happening…Why did she do that…Why does that exist”. This movie is basically The Hunger Games set in a teen-version of the world of Dredd

  10. All actors disappointed. Not good performances and the love story takes a downhill turn in the movie. Hope they are better actors than what they portrayed. Jai courtney takes a big dump on this movie.

  11. I frankly don’t understand what the big hoopla about this movie is and why is/was it being followed so closely by screenrant as if it was the next Marvel movie. I couldn’t care more than a rats backside about this movie nor would I waste my time on netflix with it. Wikipedia is more like it for me to catch up on it.

  12. Nothing I’ve read or seen causes me to really be interested in Divergent. Of course, I’m not the target demographic (YA).

  13. Rotten tomatoes gave it a 41%.
    IGN gave it a 5.8 out of 10
    Meta Critic gave it a 49.

    So obviously it’s a mixed reception.

  14. I think Shailene is a cutie. You people have weird tastes if you think she’s not attractive.

    But this movie looks like a terrible use of studio money. I hate it when companies try to piggy back on trends (Twilight, Hunger Games type YA novel adaptations) instead of BEING the actual trend.

    It’s as bad as the X-Men movies being done to death because the Avengers are kicking so much ass.

    • I followed you until you said “X-Men movies being done to death because the Avengers are kicking so much ass.”

      In your mind, they may be done to death, but it has nothing to do with Avengers. Five X-Men movies were released before Avengers even hit the screen.

      X-Men, along with Spider-Man are Marvel’s top properties. If anything the fans of these series want to see more, not less. I can’t wait to see X-Men:DOFP, Apocalypse, and Wolverine 3.

    • I thought it was a little bit of The Hunger Games mixed with Twlight, mixed with The Host…I agree, Woodley is adorable! There’s always gonna be haters!

  15. I was expecting a lot more from this movie, it really had so much wasted potential.. Shailene Woodley is awesome, but the story couldn’t be saved.

    I’m surprised you guys will review this movie on the podcast, to be honest. looking forward to this :)

    • Tereza I thought gave this favorable score on Flixster?

  16. this is just a below average version of the hungergames wth atouch of twilight and moratal instruments

  17. I liked this movie. I liked it better than Noah.

    I left about 2/3 of the way through, after the scene on the rooftop where Shailene Woodley and Theo James are spying on some theft of some serum and supplies from a building into some trucks. This is just after the love story got really sappy, and I decided that I was too tired to wait for an ending that may or may not punch it with action. I was afraid it might end flat like Noah.

    I really like the views of the city and enjoyed the post-war views of landmarks I know. Some of the sets were basic. Some of the lines were delivered well, and some were formulaic. The acting was basic and certainly not epic.

    Why people think Kate Winslet can act is beyond me. (Why doesn’t she just do blonde-hair-coloring TV commercials and leave us in the movies alone.) Theo James didn’t do much but brood and furrow his brow like an A&F model. Shailene Woodley portrayed a sensitive, insecure 13-year-old girl very well, but I think the character is supposed to be a little older than 13. So, all in all, I can’t say that any of the acting was epic.

  18. You know what I really hate? When d-bag trolls go on a movie review site and talk about everything BUT the movie. If you’re one on the many on here, yes, you’re a d-bag.

    As for my review, we went to see it yesterday afternoon and for a Sunday at 3PM, the show was probably 80% full, not bad. The majority of the audience was made up of what you’d expect at a movie like this, young teenage to college age girls and young couples (where the guy was probably pleasing his girl by going).

    The movie had some great stunts and action that guys would like; good looking in shape guys and a little romance for the girls. I agree with this reviewer on the wasted talent of some of the veteran actors, their talents were mostly wasted.

    The movie has it’s highs but a lot of lows and my wife was constantly having to wake me up during the movie. Movies with dystopian futures rarely make me nod off as I love the genre. This one just had too many low points to keep my attention.

    If you go see it, make sure to stop by Starbucks for a double shot… you’ll need the caffeine.

  19. First off let me say that Screen Rant has “diverged” from its modus operandi becoming largely a Hollywood apologist site; must be ad revenue dollars taking away the honesty in the reviews.

    Secondly, this movie was dog-sh_t, less-than even, more akin to a Syfy channel original and certainly nowhere near blockbuster status. I would rather eat my own vomit that go to the sequel, which you know is coming, or ever even read the novel.

    Divergent gets a solidly on-path Zero (0) stars, well, they didn’t have any in the movie either.

  20. I rented “Divergent” last night knowing all about the poor to mediocre reviews it received. However, I was so curious to find out how bad the movie was that I spent the 6-bucks to see it over FIOS.

    All I can say is that I must have seen a completely different movie from all the posters on this thread. I thoroughly enjoyed the entire film. I found the story-line to be well designed and entirely complete.

    I understand the comments about Shailene Woodley’s acting but she is a relative new-comer to the big-screen and this role was a rather difficult one for a new actress to handle. In fact it was somewhat overwhelming considering the changes in personality she had to accomplish. But she did it though it showed that at some points she was struggling.

    The rest of the acting I found quite good and I was only disappointed that Maggie Q didn’t have a more prominent role but I expect she will in the next movie; one I am now looking forward to.

    I must admit that if most of the postings on Screen-Rant were more thoughtfully presented than conglomeration of mostly childish ravings about the movies being commented on I would give them much more credence. However, the comments on this thread are particularly bad considering that most emote narcissistic statements concerned about one’s self image than about critically discussing the topic at hand. But then again it seems that most younger people today no longer seem to be able to think critically about anything leaving all that to their smart-phones, which they believe can relieve them of such a process…

  21. Just another Hunger Games ripoff (as if the hunger games weren’t bad enough)

  22. Dear Screen Rant,

    I do not think you have given this movie a proper review since the author has not read the book and cannot realize all the shortcomings and missteps taken by the producers and directors. I was confused the entire movie by who “Al” was and why most of the things in the movie were happening since there was a lack of substance and backstory in such a long movie. I have not read the book but having my girlfriend (who did read the book)sitting next to me telling me the missing pieces was able to help me see that this movie can been much more than was intended, especially if it is to be turned into a hunger games like trilogy.

  23. WATCH EQUILIBRIUM ITS WAY BETTER THAN THIS LAMEFEST

  24. The whole time I was hoping and praying that it would be over in the next 5 minutes. This movie blows. What a waste of 220 minutes of my life that I’ll never get back