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Friday, March 28, 2014

Divergent Movie Review

"Divergent" is going to disappoint people expecting another "Hunger Games" - hint: it's not - and satisfy those with lower expectations. Yes, it's another dystopic fantasy based on a popular young-adult trilogy, and yes there is a strong, young female at the center of it. But the obvious similarities end there.

While the book failed to hold my interest, "Divergent" as a movie is more engaging. It's certainly not life-changing stuff, but it serves as a fine escape for a handful of hours. This is in large part because Shailene Woodley is great at making you care about her and root for her. Look no further than "The Descendants" and "The Spectacular Now" for proof.

As Tris, the heroine of "Divergent," Woodley takes on a more action-packed role and pulls it off. Set in the future, where things are bleaker than modern times - think unemployment is rough? At least you're not in the wrong faction! - society is divided into five groups. You're either Abnegation, for the selfless; Amity, for the peaceful; Erudite, for the intelligent; Dauntless, for the brave; or Candor, for the honest. Or you don't fit neatly into any of these factions, in which case you're Divergent, and people would like very much to see you dead.

Tris is Divergent and she tries to hide it. She leaves her parents and Abnegation behind for Dauntless, lured by their cool-kid ways and how they jump out of moving trains like it's the thing to do. She soon bonds with Four (Theo James), one of the leaders, who seems like James Franco's edgy cousin with lots of tattoos. He doesn't like heights but he does like Tris, and he helps shield her secret from coming out. She needs all the assistance she can get, as the physical and psychological training of Dauntless is not for sissies, and one faction has an evil plan to wipe out another. (Oh Kate Winslet, what are you doing here?)

The plot is clearly pretty silly, but there is enough action to keep it moving quickly. It will do well with younger females who will love its "Be Yourself!!" message and pretending that James is their new boyfriend. Bad reviews from critics are inevitable, but they won't put a dent in the box-office bonanza of this film and the two to come.

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