The main character is unbelievable (and not in a good way), and played poorly by Shailene Woodley. The whole point of the character is that she has control over her fear, but she spends most of the movie acting like she’s terrified of her own shadow and pretty much everything else in her environment. Except heights. She’s apparently not afraid of heights. She’s supposed to be bright, but she never shows this, and she’s supposed to be selfless and helpful and have empathy for others, but she also never shows this. “Bright” seems to equate to “mildly curious when things are seriously weird” and “selfless” seems to boil down to “willing to not hurt someone in some circumstances”.
I haven’t read the books (I hear they’re good, which is why I even gave this a chance), but I sincerely hope they do a better job of describing the society this takes place in. It doesn’t make sense on any level in the movie. The people who designed it are supposedly geniuses, we’re told in the opening exposition, but they’ve gone and designed a social order that would actively cripple their own purposes. And they’re willing to die to defend this idiotic order. It’s not even a convincing dystopia. It’s “they’re the bad guys because … well … we’re not sure, but they must be the bad guys because they’re nerds and the good guys are jocks!” I guess.
The male love-interest (Hollywood seems to think that “strong female lead” = “even stronger male object-of-lust for her”), played convincingly by Theo James, is seven years older than the female lead. This is awkward because they have a (PG-13) semi-make-out, and it looks like it’s an adult man hitting on a 16-year-old girl. The actress is older than that, but looks years younger than her age. It’s a little creepy in the movie.
Theo’s role as Four (yes, that’s his name, and it’s not clear to me if this is some sort of tribute/parody/whatever of I am Number Four, or is oblivious to it) is well-played, as is Jai Courtney’s portrayal of “bad guy” Eric. Both are poorly written, but well-played. Or at least well-enough played to stand out as good in this movie.
Again, Eric’s the bad guy because, well, he must be because he’s a “meanie”. Stupid and petty and profoundly ignorant of how to train soldiers (despite that being his job), and that makes him the villain, of course.
I don’t know how much of the incoherence is from the conversion to a movie, and how much comes from the Veronica Roth books. Either way, the style reminds me of the juvenile style that made Eragon such a miserable book and movie.
I’ve had very good experiences with “young adult fiction” movies recently. More so than with a lot of more “adult” fare. Hunger Games, the movie version of I Am Number Four (the books sucked, the movie rocked), and a few others, have been very, very good. This one doesn’t live up to that at all.
3 on a 1-10 scale.