Divergent Is Safe, Derivative

Latest YA dystopian epic not bad, but it's no 'Hunger Games,' critics say

By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 21, 2014 1:29 PM CDT

(Newser) – A dystopian sci-fi movie with a courageous young heroine based on a popular YA novel hits theaters this weekend—and no, it's not that other movie. No, this is Divergent, the story of a girl in a strictly segmented society who doesn't fit into any of those segments. Critics are divided; the movie is well made, everyone seems to agree, but it doesn't exactly feel fresh. Here's what they're saying.

  • Chris Vognar at the Dallas Morning News says what everyone's thinking: "Hey, we gotta kill time between Hunger Games installments somehow." Divergent isn't as good, but at least it's no Twilight, "and its key demographic should gobble it up." Still, toward the end "you feel you could be watching almost any movie with a scheming villain and an underdog hero and two more high-priced chapters to set up."
  • Director Neil Burger is talented, and produces something better than the book. But then, the book was just an "ambitious young author's attempt to re-write The Hunger Games without bringing the lawyers down on her head," and Summit has happily produced it "to crank up the franchise machinery … without the bother of creating something fresh," complains Ty Burr at the Boston Globe. It's "a cynical exercise on every possible level."
  • The novelist "appears to be one in a long line of religious conservatives who think there’s nothing more dangerous than intellectualism," writes David Edelstein at Vulture—the movie's bad guys are the "Erudites" devoted to intellectual pursuits. But if you can ignore that subtext, it's fairly entertaining. Shailene Woodley is so good that "she ends up doing a lot of the screenwriters' work for them."
  • Claudia Puig at USA Today also noticed the "anti-intellectual bias," but she didn't find that redeeming entertainment value. "Too much of the movie … is spent on a tedious array of physical challenges, evaluations, and psychological tests in dimly lit places," she writes. "Despite two strong lead performances and a welcome dose of female empowerment, this somber tale feels too familiar and formulaic."

This image released by Summit Entertainment shows Shailene Woodley, left, and Theo James in a scene from "Divergent."   (AP Photo/Summit Entertainment, Jaap Buitendijk, file)
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An official trailer for Divergent.   (YouTube)

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