'Divergent' Review Roundup: Dystopian Young Adult Novel Adaptation Receives Mixed Reviews
Divergent, starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James, is based on the young adult novel of the same name written by Veronica Roth.
As in Roth’s dystopian tale, Tris (Woodley) finds herself dubbed an all-dangerous “divergent,” which means she doesn’t fit neatly into one of the warped society’s castes. Choosing to pursue a life as a “dauntless,” she meets Four (James), who tries to help her hide her divergent status and keep her out of the eyes of divergent hunter Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet)
Divergent keeps rather strictly to Roth’s book – which kept rather strictly to the formula for creating a smash hit among young adult readers. Some critics found the film adaptation dull for that reason – the novel was too derivative. However, there were also reviewers that loved how true the movie stayed to the book, while still others praised the film for diverting enough from the text to create something even better.
"Woodley's strong presence allows her to be all that she can be as Tris, dividing her time between scared and self-confident. And British actor James, though a decade older than his 18-year-old character, never overplays his hand. Their engaging performances are money in the bank and make it clear why playing it safe was the smart way to go.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
"Ironically for a film about non-conformity, it adheres to the playbook rather slavishly.… Despite two strong lead performances and a welcome dose of female empowerment, this somber tale feels too familiar and formulaic.” – Claudia Puig, USA Today
"Now here's the hard thing: It actually has to be good, with characters who aren't cutouts and a plot that doesn't feel like padding — even as, in accordance to Hollywood rules, it leaves room for a couple of sequels, the second of which can be released in two parts…. Give it points for hitting the basics. But it still shows signs of a sameness — a little "Ender's Game" here, a lot of "The Hunger Games" there. It's sci-fi set in a recycled future.” – Stephen Whitty, The Star Ledger
“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. With the film adaptation of “Divergent,” the first novel in Veronica Roth’s trilogy of dystopian thrillers, director Neil Burger has crafted a popcorn flick that’s leaner, more propulsive and more satisfying than the bestseller that inspired it.… The movie serves up an even more fully fleshed version of Tris. She’s fascinating for what she does, not merely for whom she likes.” – Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post
– Chelsea Regan
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