Tag Archives: Divergent

Stand Still, Look Evil


by George Wolf

Just last year, Divergent glimpsed a dystopian future where destinies rose and fell with the company you kept, and social cliques were used to enforce a merciless pecking order. In short, high school all over again.

Insurgent, part two in the latest “three books as four movies” franchise, ups the ante on action, but delivers little more than some flashy CGI amid a formula growing increasingly tiresome.

Tris Pryor (Shailene Woodley) and her boyfriend Four (Theo James) are on the run from henchmen sent by Council leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet). Seems Jeanine has uncovered a strange, Hellraiser-looking puzzle box containing a message that could end the civil strife among her subjects. But this box can only be opened by a “divergent” with enough specialness to pass a variety of deadly tests…so Jeanine is hunting them all down to find the one.

Whoops, I mentioned “the one,” so I’ll pause now while director Robert Schwentke swoops in for a quick tight shot of Tris looking pensive. Get used to it.

There are some nifty visual sequences, but the core of Insurgent remains overly familiar young adult elements and overly bland presentation. The special girl burdened with a uniqueness she didn’t ask for, angst, melodrama, parental issues, walking among the rubble…all the basics are here. Ironic, then, that Schwentke (R.I.P.D., Red) doesn’t seem interested in moving his film beyond the ordinary.

The dream/virtual reality red herrings are as numerous as they are obvious, and those high drama arm -grab turnarounds are better left to the daytime soaps. Woodley is one of the best young actresses working, and she is plenty spunky during Insurgent‘s action scenes, but she’s saddled with dialogue and direction that is difficult to elevate. Even the great Winslet is reduced to standing still and looking villainous.

Attempts at social commentary are clunky at best, while contrivance in the script finally gives way to outright laziness, as when the common folk are enslaved by a behavior modifying implant which can’t be removed – until it is.

Tris is told, “We finally found a way to remove it.” Okay, then.

Two more Divergent films may be coming, but Insurgent will only leave you eager for the next round of Hunger Games.





Apparently High School Still Sucks


by Hope Madden

High school sucks, but like all harrowing experiences and universal truths, it can lead to valid and valued artistic expression – nearly all modern adolescent literature, for instance.

Whether it’s The Hunger Games, Ender’s Game or the more clearly allegorical Divergent, the story is basically the same: a powerful system requires helpless parents to submit their precious children to bloodsport (high school); cliques are mindless and dangerous; the kid with the most power is a manipulative asshole; only the outcast can ultimately thrive. (Hell, even the magnificent Harry Potter series plays off the same riff.)

While it doesn’t make prom seem very appealing, in the hands of professionals, it can make for a compelling tale.

Director Neil Burger does a lot right with this film. Not everything, but a lot. He’s blessed with a straightforward script that won’t confuse the uninitiated. A hundred years after a great war, the world is broken into factions, each of which match individual personality types (and, to a certain degree, high school cliques): the smart kids (Erudite), the nice kids (Abnegation), the pot heads – I mean, happy, peaceful types (Amity), the honest (Candor), and the brave/fun/bully/popular kids (Dauntless). And then there are the dreaded factionless – a fate worse than death, like unpopularity.

People stay with their faction, and all is peaceful. But unique souls who don’t really fit – divergents – ┬áthreaten the system.

Divergent also boasts two profound talents: Kate Winslet and Shailene Woodley. Winslet commands respect and awe as leader of the Erudites and general evildoer. Woodley plays our hero, the divergent Tris.

Both performers deserve stronger material, to be honest. While the screenplay, adapted from Veronica Roth’s novel by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor, offers a fairly smooth streamlining of the story, it too often proves a bit toothless. The strength of the performers helps to compel attention. Woodley’s onscreen chemistry with Theo James as love interest Four gives the film a pulse, and her big-eyed vulnerability makes the sense of loss and longing palpable.

Too bad Berger felt it necessary to include so much exposition. An unfortunate symptom lately of Episodes 1 of a trilogy, Divergent simply takes so long to get to the action that you get bored.

Roth’s source material offers several clever conceits to play with, and both Woodley and Winslet seem game, but Berger can’t quite settle on a tone or a pace. It’s too bad, because comparisons to The Hunger Games are inevitable, and Divergent could easily have become a worthwhile companion to JLaw’s Kickass Quadrilogy. Instead it’s a fun but forgettable way to waste time before the real blockbusters release this summer.