Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini


Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Jai Courtney

Rated: PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 21, 2014 Released by: Summit Entertainment

Another franchise targeted to the YA crowd seems a little akin to very profitable ones like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter but isn't very well adapted from Veronica Roth's first book in a trilogy. Even if it projects some striking future realism with action and effects that can be categorized as adrenaline-fueled and seamless for the most part.

A still too dreary Divergent stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, and Jai Courtney and really is entertaining in superficial terms in following an oddly talented adolescent who has a cross-faction personality that goes against her charitable 'Abnegation' progenitors in postwar Chicago (exterior shots make good use of a ravaged metropolis that may resonate more with its inhabitants).

Woodley's Beatrice (or spiffed up to Tris) becomes privy after testing to her eponymous quality that doesn't sit well with the imperious higher ranking officials. She'll leave her parents (Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn) to join the soldierly (or reckless) group Dauntless. A challenging training awaits her with the handsome Four (a very tattooed and pierced James who becomes the requisite benevolent love interest) and cruel Eric (Courtney) presiding. Unbeknownst (or so it seems) to Candor and Amity factions is the shady Jeanine Matthews, a more genteel than wicked Kate Winslet of Labor Day, who has governmental plans for her brainy Erudite group.

The script by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor incorporates the mythology as like an extended trailer or much exposition to say the least. Character focus is lost in the approach to establish the narrative structure. As the 'action' progresses to the latter reels the more complex figures indicate who's more crucial to the movement of the saga, even perhaps to the uninitiated as a certain clarity is reached. Woodley, Winslet, and even Judd have some sequences to let their characters embrace material which really isn't spruced up by the uninspired direction of Neil Burger (Limitless, The Illusionist). They can be ingratiating from their gestures or countenance and physically adept but even their efforts (notably Woodley who was in more fully realized features like The Spectacular Now and The Descendants) falls prey to the flavorless rendering of Roth's more prevalent and persuasive underlying and overlying motifs.

Divergent, as some of its training scenes indicate, is too murky and dank of an affair to make it even more notable than forgettable, if well-intended fare like The Mortal Instruments or Ender's Game. In order to move forward or catch fire with some of its like-minded predecessors the filmmakers need to be more dauntless in order to make the kind of relevant, perhaps timely points to make it more sympathetic, whizzing and impactful instead of conflicting with the depths of storytelling as not to control and restrict the range of distinct and able actors, rising and veteran ones, like Woodley, Winslet and Judd.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Nina Sam Howard Jennifer Kathleen  Avg. 
Divergent  B   B-   C   C               C   B- 

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