Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Things To Do

Review: 'Divergent' doesn't need to be 'Hunger Games' (w/video)

"The future belongs to those who know where they belong," declares the icy villain of Divergent, an action fantasy with fewer frills and thrills than The Hunger Games but feeling good about that. The movie knows its runner-up place, and capably fills it.

Divergent is another courting of YA moviegoers flocking to the Twilight saga and Panem's rebellion then scattering when unreasonable facsimiles are shoved at them. This wannabe franchise is the surest shot yet, given Veronica Roth's bestselling book series and catching a rising star in Shailene Woodley, a formula that stoked the The Hunger Games phenomenon. Similarities don't end there.

Woodley's Tris Prior could be Katniss Everdeen's cousin, born into dystopia and bred for greatness. She's part of the Abnegation clan, one of five factions in future Chicago, not unlike the 12 districts of The Hunger Games. These are divided by characteristics: Abnegation folks are do-gooders, helping the poor (yay!) Erudites are smart lawyer types (boo!). Candor speak in unfiltered truth for comic relief. Amity are peaceful and therefore least necessary in an action flick.

Then there are the Dauntless, the most photogenic of the bunch, an army of parkour daredevils romping through the decayed urban landscape like a road company of Rent. Dauntless spends its down time hanging around the Pit, a concrete commons area you can only enter by free fall. (Exiting isn't explained.) They prefer defying death by climbing girders and dead Ferris wheels, and hopping subway trains like extreme hoboes. Dauntless are so cool.

Tris wants to be Dauntless, a decision made after a hallucinogenic aptitude test shows her to be Divergent, a rare mix of three factions. She can't tell her parents (Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn) who'd be crushed to lose their little missionary. But the test isn't binding; in a choosing ceremony Tris decides to join Dauntless and never return to Abnegation. Good fashion choice.

As a transfer newbie with spunk, Tris is a razzing target for Dauntless lead bully Eric (Jai Courtney), sort of a buff Biff from Back to the Future. Tough at first then softening into Tris' love interest is Four (Theo James). Think James Franco in a gym. Lots of training sessions, mostly hand-to-hand combat and knife tossing. Some discussion about Divergents being targeted by the aforementioned villain, a Hillary Clinton clone played by Kate Winslet. Seeds planted for a franchise that'll probably pan out this time.

A sequel needs to hit the ground running faster than Divergent does. Find more notes for Woodley's elegantly plain face to express. Give Lecanto High grad Miles Teller more to do as Peter, Tris' nagging nemesis. Conjure more thrilling scenes like Tris' final initiation into Dauntless, a breakneck zipline through Chicago's skyline. Movie action typically zigs and zags but that scene sticks out because it's different, direct, unadorned. Nothing like The Hunger Games. That's where Divergent belongs.

Steve Persall can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365. Follow @StevePersall on Twitter.

Comments
What’s in theaters this week: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

What’s in theaters this week: ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story,’ Art and Short Film Mini-Fest

SHORTS: Art and Short Film Mini-FestA fundraiser for the [email protected] brings an Art and Short Film Mini-Fest to the studio tonight. There will be four short films, an exhibit of artwork by Corinne Leavengood and photography by Diana Lucas Leavengood. P...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Well, it’s different: Porn stars are doing stand up comedy this weekend in St. Pete

Well, it’s different: Porn stars are doing stand up comedy this weekend in St. Pete

IF YOU SAY SO: PORN STARS ARE COMEDIANSWell, it’s different. Porn Stars Are Comedians extends the concept of the podcast Porn Stars Are People ("the only podcast with porn stars where we don’t discuss porn or the business of porn"), hosted by Dan Fri...
Updated: 9 minutes ago
Artist and activist Benny Andrews at the MFA, 50 years of prints at the Tampa Museum and dresses inspire art

Artist and activist Benny Andrews at the MFA, 50 years of prints at the Tampa Museum and dresses inspire art

MIX MASTER: BENNY ANDREWS AT THE MFABenny Andrews was an award-winning artist known for his innovative use of collage in his paintings and works on paper, starting in the late 1950s. He was also an activist and advocate for African-American artists, ...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure

Top things to do this weekend: Margarita Festival, Rays’ Kiermaier as Star Wars figure

LIME TIME: Tampa Bay Margarita FestivalThis year, there are twice the bartenders and a new RFID wristband system for less waiting at the two-day Tampa Bay Margarita Festival with a margarita flavor for every taste. Music headliners are the Wallflower...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

A weekend of festivals: Sunset Music Fest, 97X Barbecue, WMNF’s US Festival tribute

THE BEATS GO ON: Sunset Music FestivalAt last year’s Sunset Music Festival, the focus was all on crowd safety. After two fans died from drug overdoses at Tampa’s largest annual rave in 2016, organizers heightened security across the board, yielding a...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

New restaurants on the horizon: Metro Diner and Zoes Kitchen in Tampa, Trophy Fish and Oak & Stone in St. Pete

OPEN NOW: BAHAMA BUCK’SFeel a shiver? Just in time for Florida’s sultry summer, Bahama Buck’s opened this week in Trinity with an avalanche of sno. The 2,346-square-foot island-inspired shop opened at 8815 Mitchell Blvd. with more than 91 flavors of ...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Waiting for ‘Godot’ to end: Half-okay performances mar an already irritating classic at Hat Trick

Waiting for ‘Godot’ to end: Half-okay performances mar an already irritating classic at Hat Trick

CLEARWATER — Hat Trick Theatre, the resident company of Ruth Eckerd Hall, closes out its season with Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. I must say it’s a stark choice, mainly because I can’t get two sentences into this without using the word "stark....
Updated: 2 hours ago
5 things to do under $5: Sand mandala construction, Blast Friday, get outdoors at Bass Pros Shops

5 things to do under $5: Sand mandala construction, Blast Friday, get outdoors at Bass Pros Shops

As part of a Sacred Art Tour, eight Dalai Lama-sanctioned monks from India will be at the Florida CraftArt Galleries for a week.
Updated: 2 hours ago
Philip Roth, towering novelist who explored lust, Jewish life and America, dies at 85

Philip Roth, towering novelist who explored lust, Jewish life and America, dies at 85

Philip Roth, whose sexually scandalous comic novel "Portnoy’s Complaint" brought him literary celebrity after its publication in 1969 and who was eventually hailed as one of America’s greatest living authors for the blunt force and controlled fury of...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Despite hurdles, Ballet Nacional de Cuba returns to Tampa after 15 years

Despite hurdles, Ballet Nacional de Cuba returns to Tampa after 15 years

For decades, the reputation of the Ballet Nacional de Cuba has never dropped below excellent. In a country that prides itself on art, the company represents the best of the best, with a colorful style all its own, a blend of Russian precision and an ...
Updated: 4 hours ago