Review of Reviews: Divergent Opinions

It’s a marketing blitz! Divergent is everywhere. You can’t avoid it. But billboards, magazine articles, collectible Divergent magazine issues (People), previews, TV ads, handsome romantic interests—do not a blockbuster guarantee—sometimes not even close to it. (As in Anchor Man 2. Replace “handsome male lead” with “beloved Will Ferrell.”), although teens may flock to this movie regardless.

Divergent, however, is getting mixed reviews. Here are three samples–

1. WE’VE GOT A WINNER!!! She’s Lisa ParkinHuffington Post’s Young Adult (YA) literature expert. CHECK OUT THE TITLE OF THE REVIEW in the Huffington Post:

Divergent Movie Review: Readers Will Love It (Spoiler Free)

Parkin comes from the perspective of a book reviewer and she loved the book. Towards the beginning of the review, she says that she does not want “to spoil anything for Divergent newcomers,” and so she will not “share more details for other book fans on [her] young adult book review site, Read.Breathe.Relax. 

As a YA novel expert, she reviews this movie in two ways: a movie in itself and a book adaptation. She does this “for the mental sanity of any hardcore book fans….” I like that. Here is a summary of her review of each aspect–

Divergent as a Movie: Good cinematography: future Chicago, city of dystopia

Good casting: Shailene Woodley really embodies the spirit of Tris [main character], the young girl who’s trying to make the biggest decision of her life and is thrown some serious complications.

Plus, Theo James as Four [romantic interest] was just brilliant. He simply IS Four, and manages to capture the tough exterior of the character while showing that Four does in fact have a softer side.

He's all that.
He’s all that.

(it’s true!).

Divergent as a Book Adaptation She repeats my dream words:

Again, to avoid spoilers I won’t go into much detail here. 

Her favorite parts of the book were all in the movie.

So the reviews in this post all mention Theo James’ good looks. Parkins doesn’t say it straight out as do the other two criticis–but she does say that she was too busy “fawning over Four” tocare about the movie’s faithfulness to the book.

Takeaway: She loves it. Couldn’t love it more. Just loves it. Really. Loves. It.

Extras: Parkin’s analysis of the theme– 

It’s about family and choices and wanting to feel like you belong. It’s about community and our innate fear of being alone. And most importantly, it’s about fighting what’s expected to be who you really are.

2. With an anticipatory eye roll, I moved on to Owen Gleiberman’s review on

Spoilers: if you haven’t read the book, but wish you had before seeing the movie, no worries, Owen Gleiberman’s got your back! He gives the whole shebang away.  

The Takeaway: B+

Extras: Gleiberman believes that both female and male leads bring incredible artistry to their acting–

Hair down, new tight outfit and this demure suburban housewife wife goes bad-ass
Hair down, new tight outfit and this demure suburban housewife wife goes bad-ass

Shailene Woodley (Tris) Woodley, through the delicate power of her acting, does something compelling: She shows you what a prickly, fearful, yet daring personality looks like when it’s nestled deep within the kind of modest, bookish girl who shouldn’t even like gym class.

That sure is compelling–and unique. Just ask those who have done s0 before her:  Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie–been there done that.

As for Kris’ love interest, Four–

It helps that the drill sergeant, named Four, is played by Theo James, who’s like an unflaky James Franco with a surly hint of T-shirt-era Brando; he brings off the neat trick of playing a hardass who is also a heartthrob.

That is a neat trick. Don’t you think? So hard to do. Just ask John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart. Or if you like ’em live, Matt Damon, Robert Deniro (when he was younger), Tom Cruise  and Liam Neesam.

Bad-ass heartthrob
Hard-ass heartthrob

But I have a greater objection: Mr. Gleiberman, Theo James is no James Franco.

3. Here’s a fun review from (What is anyway? The US Weekly of the internet? I can’t tell. Its critic, Alonso Duralde, has impressive creds)

Takeaway, the long version: the title says it all–

Divergent’ Review: A Little ‘Hunger Games,’ a Little ‘Harry Potter,’ a Lot of Dull

thewrapSpoilers: They’re there all right, but easy to skip.

Takeaway, the blunt version: don’t bother going.

The format of the review is discombobulating. A bit of it is on the left. See the red line of text between the paragraphs? They look like subtitles, right?

They’re not. They are promotions for other Divergent -related stuff on their website–videos, photographs and articles. They all start with  “See video:” or “Also read:” or “See photos:”  It’s incredibly distracting. These tacky interruptions are demeaning to Duralde, especially because it makes his clear, interesting prose hard to follow.

Extras: He too refers to Theo James‘ attractiveness–he says that James is “handsome but stiff.”

I like the subtitle:

This Frankenstein of stitched-together YA parts never stands on its own two feet, even with Kate Winslet giving full-on Faye Dunaway.

In the first two paragraphs is an interesting discussion about the fact that the creations of stories build inevitably upon past stories, but it is in the story’s telling–its innovation–that makes it good.  That is how Divergent diverges from great storytelling, he believes. He talks about Romeo and Juliet borrowing “heavily” from Ovid’s Pyramus and Thisbe. It never occurred to me that Shakespeare was ripping off another work. I thought that every story was invented by Shakespeare and there’s been nothing original every since. (Elizabethan urban myth?) 

PS.  Theo James  is one of those actors who is really good looking if there are no contenders in sight, a là Matthew Bomer.

Rant: why mention that Theo James is handsome in the first place? It’s not like he became handsome for the role. It’s not like Matthew McConaughey  and Jared Leto losing a gazillion pounds for their roles. Did the reviews of the first Toby McGuire Spiderman mention that James Franco is good looking? And isnt’ beauty in the eyes of the beholder? Let the audience decide whether he’s handsome or not. They’re going to anyway.

Is it because Theo James is not a good actor but has one thing going for him (his looks)?

On the brink
On the brink
That’s what I’m talking about

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