As Lionsgate prepares for the inevitable conclusion of it’s financially bountiful Hunger Games franchise, it has begun to look elsewhere for lucrative movies. One such place is Divergent, which assembles a cast chock-full of todays most up-and-coming actors and a reasonably experienced director, Neil Burger, to bring to life the reasonably popular book of the same name.
Trying to stuff the books complex premise into a two-and-a-half hour film seems like a daunting challenge, so it’s surprising for me to report that for the first act or so the world of Divergent is very open and inviting. Information comes across in intriguing ways, while also allowing characters to be developed sufficiently during these exposition-heavy opening scenes. Thankfully, Shailene Woodley is really good here, conveying a world of information in simple facial expressions, although I felt Jai Courtney and Miles Teller (whom I adore) were too over the top in their mild antagonism in early scenes. Still, things seems to be going well, until they try to go too big, too fast.
Kate Winslet plays our main baddie here, Jeanine, and while it’s nice to see the actor doing something new in her career she also doesn’t help elevate the role beyond just a meager villain. Her character’s explanation for doing all of the bad things she does feels really, for lack of a better word, stupid and everything becomes overly contrived as they try to wring as much dramatic tension as possible in the third act. By this point, everything also becomes overly convenient for Beatrice on her journey, as despite being 140 minutes long, the whole affair feels oddly short. Giving it just another 10 minutes or so to soothe out the film’s various plot points would have helped things substantially.
Burger seems to have a penchant for close-ups in this film, as well as making some nicely coherent action sequences. I do wish he could have put a limit on the music that’s overly prevalent in the film, as the angsty rhythms may appeal to hipsters and fangirls alike, but just distracts from the movie. I do wish, as a whole, Burger was a bit more ambitious with the story he’s bringing to life here, which renders Divergent being nothing more, and nothing less, than just a serviceable film.
Grade: C+ (Divergent has it’s moments, but it’s overly flawed script guarantees it being merely average)