With the upcoming release of Divergent this Friday, Lionsgate will know if they’ve got a hit on their hands or if they’ll have to write off the young adult film adaptation’s $80 million production budget. Considering that Divergent is tracking to make upwards of $80 million in its opening weekend alone, it’s likely that the movie will be a big earner for the studio. So the bigger question is: will Divergent have legs for its second week of release? If you look at the film’s early reviews, it seems unlikely.
According to Variety, Divergent seems to use its 139-minute running time to set up its larger story that will span over three movies, rather than providing a solid movie in and of itself. While fans of Veronica Roth’s best-selling book series will show up to the theater, will the uninitiated will have a hard time trying to follow along? Variety’s Andrew Barker writes:
…director Neil Burger seems so concerned with laying franchise groundwork that he neglects to create an engaging standalone movie, and Divergent’s uncertain sense of setting, bloated plot, drab visual style and solid yet underwhelming lead turns from Shailene Woodley and Theo James don’t necessarily make the best case for series newcomers.
Forbes’ Scott Mendelson was more kind to the film, but still criticizes Divergent for its clunky world-building and exhausting mythology. Mendelson writes:
For too much of its 143-minute running time, Divergent tells a story mostly independent of its exhaustive world-building. The picture takes pains to explicitly set up the rules of its universe with the notion that said rules will play a large role in the narrative. But much of the core story takes place outside the rules and expectations of its mythology, with much of the details and deviations becoming merely distractions for the relatively generic story.
THR finds fault in the film’s screenplay and Neil Burger’s directing, but praises Divergent star Shailene Woodley for elevating the material to something more than the sum of its parts. Overall, though, Divergent sounds dreary. THR’s Sheri Linden writes:
…director Neil Burger struggles to fuse philosophy, awkward romance and brutal action. Even with star Shailene Woodley delivering the requisite toughness and magnetism, the clunky result is almost unrelentingly grim. Dystopia can be presented in dynamic ways, but this iteration of it is, above all, no picnic for the audience. Woodley, a sensitive performer, is hamstrung by the screenplay but lends her role relatability and a convincing athleticism.
Divergent is currently sporting a very low “rotten” rating of 14% on RottenTomatoes.com. The aggregator has only compiled seven reviews at the moment, so it’s most likely that this percentage will go up once more critics have weighed in. But still, just because the film is getting terrible reviews from critics, that doesn’t mean it won’t be a successful film franchise. The Twilight saga is full of terrible, terrible movies that have performed extremely well with fans of the books, so it’s likely that Divergent will see some action this weekend. The bigger question still remains on how successful the film series will be when it’s all said and done.
Divergent is set in a post-apocalyptic Chicago, where people are separated into five distinct factions based on dominant personality traits. But some are unique and cannot be classified. These people are labeled “Divergent” and have no place in society. The film’s story follows Beatrice “Tris” Prior, who is discovered to be divergent and must figure out how to survive in her dystopian world.
Divergent also stars Kate Winslet, Ansel Elgort, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Maggie Q, Jai Courtney, Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd, and Mekhi Phifer. Divergent hits theaters everywhere on March 21, in IMAX.