'Divergent': What the Critics Are Saying
The sci-fi title, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James, hopes to launch a new franchise.
Hitting screens on Friday, Divergent aims to become the latest young adult book adaptation to become a big screen franchise.
The Lionsgate and Summit Entertainment sci-fi film, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James, was directed by Limitless helmer Neil Burger. The PG-13 film is based on a book trilogy by author Veronica Roth, and the title is already being compared to The Hunger Games and Twilight franchise titles.
The Hollywood Reporter's reviewer Sheri Linden deemed the film a "rocky start" to a new potential franchise. "[T]he story’s elements of spectacle, decay, symbolism and struggle only rarely feel fully alive," Linden writes. "Lackluster direction in the early installments of other YA franchises hasn’t slowed their momentum, though. Divergent will be no exception."
In a review that may be featured in publications nationwide, The Associated Press film writer Jocelyn Noveck notes that the film is too similar to other YA adaptations. "For a film predicated on the principle that being different - or "divergent" - is what makes you special, Divergent just doesn't diverge enough from the pack," Noveck finds.
Meanwhile, The New York Times film critic Manohla Dargis sees several flaws in the title. "It’s hard not to root for Ms. Woodley ... but she seems palpably uncomfortable here," Dargis writes. "There’s a tentative, awkward quality to her physical performance that at times registers as a lack of confidence and that, as the story progresses, is badly at odds with her character’s intensifying ferocity."
At The Washington Post, reviewer Michael O'Sullivan compares the film positively with the novel. "It’s rare that a movie is as good as the book on which it’s based. It’s even more unusual when it’s better," Sullivan writes, adding: it's "leaner, more propulsive and more satisfying than the bestseller that inspired it."
Bill Zwecker, Chicago Sun-Times columnist, gives the film a three and a half star review. "[T]he screenplay does a good job at capturing the essence and the substance of the world Roth created," Zwecker writes. "The strength of Burger’s movie is the fact that a non-reader of Roth’s work can enjoy Divergent and not be confused by any aspect of the storyline."