Ahead of its wide release, Divergent fails to impress reviewers.
Divergent – the YA dystopian adaptation of the year, had expectations soaring before its release. Not only is it based on a much beloved book with a devoted fanbase, it also has a stellar cast and strong story going for it. Divergent is set in a future society, where, after some manmade disaster has wiped out large chunks of the population, people now separate themselves into factions, based on their dominant virtues. There’s Candor for the honest, Dauntless for the brave, Abnegation for the selfless, Amity for the peaceful (you’d think those two could unite their causes). 16-year-old Tris finds out she’s Divergent, meaning she belongs in more than one faction and makes a choice, which will change her life forever.
Shailene Woodley is great, but can't save the movie.
The premise certainly sounds exciting enough, and right on point with the zeitgeist. Add to that the names of this year’s It-girl Shailene Woodley and the as-of-yet relatively unknown, but very, very attractive Theo James (what else could we ask for in a teen movie love interest?) and it sounds like a recipe for success. Early reviews, however, have not been all that great. Divergent premiered on Tuesday (US wide release is set for Friday) and it’s already getting bad press. A 22% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is definitely a bad omen.
One of the biggest problems with Divergent is that, aside from its two leads, everyone else feels either miscast or underused – so says Jocelyn Novek for The Associated Press. Novek is particularly unimpressed with the villainess Jeanine Matthews, “played by a blonde and stiletto-clad Kate Winslet in one of her less convincing performances (in a sadly under-written role.)” Miles Teller as the minor antagonist Peter also got the short end of the stick, script-wise, Novek says. Add to that the bleak landscapes and it’s hard to get excited about Divergent.
Critics seem to agree that this is one of Kate Winslet's weaker roles.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Sheri Linden is more or less on the same on the same page. “Even with star Shailene Woodley delivering the requisite toughness and magnetism, the clunky result is almost unrelentingly grim,” she writes.
Variety’s Andrew Barker points out a similar problem – too much exposition, too many bleak landscapes and not enough action to balance it all out. “And by trying to cram in as many explanatory info dumps as possible, Burger neglects to tend to the elements of the film that could easily make up for any narrative deficiencies: namely, a sense of place and a feeling of urgency.”
Whatever chemistry the leads muster, doesn't make up for an otherwise slow start.