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"Divergent" underutilizes Shailene Woodley's considerable acting chops

Shailene Woodley as Tris must hide her true nature in Divergent
Paramount

Divergent Movie

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With any luck, the movie going audience that clamors to “The Hunger Games” and now “Divergent” will have a moment of clarity.

In that moment they might ask: "Do we really need to love stories draped with famine, war and destruction?"

Fresh off star turns in “The Spectacular Now” and “The Descendents” with George Clooney, Shailene Woodley has it all. And a film trilogy to boot.

With doe-like eyes and the ability to hit petulant and then 'tween sweet without missing a beat, she owns physical attributes that holler stardom. Cleverly paired with Ashley Judd who WAS that same edgy/sweet actress, now working the mother lane, this movie aims for cross-generational but lacks gas.

Set in the future, like “The Hunger Games” this is a story about "them" and "us."

Divergent” is "Tris" as she navigates her way out of a predetermined monotonous life (and sadly with a monotonous supporting cast). Her danger here isn't as palpable and omnipresent as it is for Katniss Everdeen, though it exists.

And while it offers little from the nail-biting part of town, what “Divergent” has is the same disturbing subliminal messages aimed at the '‘tween/teen audiences from numerous other predecessors. For example it is "ok" to kill an adult, or family member or parent -- if the government says so.

What started in “Warm Bodies” where a bff puts a gun to a parent's head with a threat of shooting if he bothers her bestie, “Divergent” takes it up a notch with to save your own skin, shooting a family member may be required.

The irony is today's military is queried on firing on American citizens, TV glorifies "Survivor,” and healthy, nuclear family characters are omitted from TV altogether. Along with loyalty and lay-down-your-life-for-your-loved-ones scenarios.

"Divergent" delivers the first suggestion to young minds that shooting those you should be protecting can well happen and without consequences. Here we have a universal litmus test promoting individual survival above all else on a 40-foot screen.

And while “Divergent” offers up an interesting premise of mind over matter, what is more disturbing is it’s curtain pulled back on today’s eroded society. One where Tim Tebow, a Heisman Trophy winner, handsome, humble and a virgin to-boot, can be media labeled as someone, who "can't play in the NFL"? You mean against the same guys he destroyed for years throughout his college career?

In “Divergent,” the explanation is made crystal clear.

The quick thinking, attractive, honorable people, like Tris, are to be destroyed since they exist as the greatest threat to the status quo and the government structure. Our history is wrought with ascending leaders preempted through assassinations, accidents or "suicides." The media existing as government's chief assassin.

Tris, for all her qualities, exists in a mirror of our world today. One where right is wrong and wrong is right. Thus she must be neutralized. Dead is even better.

“Divergent” isn’t escapism. Or happy or enjoyable. (Though Zoe Kravitz as Christine gets an honorable mention).

And while a toxic message can be gussied up with a sweet as pie actresses, clever bffs, handsome boy toys, and nifty special effects, maybe it's time audiences decide they would prefer a little sunshine for their $15 and two hours of non-refundable life.