This movie, like the book on which it’s based, understands its young audience very well. It’s all about what they’re going through — trying to figure out where they fit in, having to take tests that will determine their future chances of success, dealing with all the angst involved in knowing they need to leave home despite not having a clear direction in life. It’s a dark movie – literally and figuratively – that takes place in a dystopian version of Chicago one hundred years after some unidentified war left the city with a fence around it keeping in those who essentially fit into one of five factions – and keeping everyone else out. There are several “games and trials” (shades of “The Hunger Games”) and at least one hunky guy who takes off his shirt (shades of “Twilight”). But most of the movie just seems redundant, slow, and long.
This plot keeps winding around in circles, taking its time telling its story. In fact, there’s nothing much here to recommend it except Shailene Woodley’s performance. She has a kind of fierce intelligence you can see in her eyes, a feeling for the nuances of her character you can see in her every action. She makes Tris seem like a real and vulnerable person and she keeps us engaged in a movie that seems a bit misnamed – in that it’s not enough about Divergents. Admittedly, this movie was not made for anyone who has said good-bye to acne and adolescence, but “The Hunger Games” was primarily aimed at the same age range and that was entertaining for a much wider range of audiences. This one – except for the great performance by Woodley – not so much.