Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Divergent Review

It is safe to say that I am a fan of Shailene Woodley, which is a pretty shocking realization to come to considering I am still trying to cleanse my soul of that abomination of a television series she starred on before her breakthrough role in The Descendants. After seeing her work in that film, The Spectacular Now, the otherwise terrible White Bird in a Blizzard and The Fault in Our Stars, it is pretty clear that Woodley is a special talent that needed the right material to show she could shine. Unfortunately, as hard as she may have tried in the hit young adult dystopian thriller Divergent, nothing was going to be able to elevate this film above mediocrity. 

Regardless of what reviews and others had said about Divergent, I still needed to give it a fair shake and find out if there was any meat on it's bones. After all, I had doubts about the quality of The Hunger Games franchise prior to the release of the first film, and I have since fallen in love with the story of Katniss and the revolution. Divergent is neither a good nor a bad movie, it is painfully mediocre. A major problem I have hear is the casting from the top down, as despite my admiration for Woodley in general, something wasn't right about her performance here. During quiet moments of reflection or her portrayal of emotional devastation, she fits perfectly into the role and her presence on screen feels right. However, when asked to be an angry, bad ass action star, it just doesn't work, which was correctly predicted by my wife after she read the book. 

What really killed me was seeing the extraordinary talents of people like Kate Winslet and Miles Teller totally wasted in roles far beneath their capabilities. Anyone could have played these boring, lifeless characters reciting material that, to put it kindly, was limited at best, so seeing faces that have previously proved their ability to steal a scene add absolutely nothing here was a hard pill to swallow. 

The story of Divergent takes place in a futuristic Chicago after society has become as simplistic and uninspired as the film itself. When a person begins their adulthood, they must choose a faction to enter into and commit to it for life, no questions asked. However, sometimes a person either doesn't fit into just one or they refuse to accept such a narrow, limited fate, and they do not comply by what is expected of them. Those people are known as Divergent, which is exactly what happens to our heroine of the saga, Tris Prior, played by the aforementioned Shailene Woodley.

I was never troubled by the quality of this movie, but I also was never really compelled by it either. Divergent just sort of is, it exists and it did an adequate job of entertaining me for a while. I will gladly check out the sequel and see if the experience is enhanced in any way, as perhaps the best is still yet to come for this franchise. A step in the right direction would be to limit, or hell, even kill off the character of Four, played (terribly) by the hunky cardboard cutout Theo James. I'm not familiar with this actor previously, so I can't speak to the overall trajectory of his career, but if this is his A game that is unfortunate. Divergent is a lukewarm bowl of bland but passable punch, and Theo James is the turd floating in it.


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