Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy of YA novels is the latest in a series of Hollywood attempts in trying to get establish that next Hunger Games or Twilight or Harry Potter film series. Many other YA novels turned movies tried to be a failed (I am looking at you Beautiful Creatures and Mortal Instruments: City of Bones). So does Divergent join the ranks of the former or will be part of the latter group.
After watching Divergent I can say that it is in the former. First off, it performed well in the box office and also it is a pretty faithful adaptation except from some areas that I didn’t quite agree with.
The basic story of Divergent is that we are in Chicago of the future. A war has happened that led the people of Chicago to divide their citizens into 5 factions: Erudite (the brainy faction), Amity (the peaceful faction), Dauntless (the brave faction), Candor (the honest faction) and Abnegation (the selfless faction). The heroine of our story, Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) starts off as part of Abnegation.
Part of the story is that when kids turn 16 the go through a test to see what faction they belong. However, Beatrice’s test is inconclusive as it told her that she could belong to three other factions. This makes her Divergent and dangerous so the test giver, Tori (Maggie Q) fudges her results to say Beatrice got Abnegation.
There is a Choosing Ceremony where kids like Beatrice can choose which faction to belong. To the surprise of many, Beatrice’s brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort) chooses Erudite while Beatrice choose Dauntless. Their parents (Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn) are stunned of their children’s choices.
We soon see Beatrice now called Tris get immersed in Dauntless training. Tris becomes friends with other faction transfers like Christina (Zoe Kravitz), Will (Ben Lloyd Hughes) and Al (Christian Madsen) but at first gets on the wrong side of her trainer, a man simply known as Four (Theo James). Tris also runs afoul of Eric (Jai Courtney), a Dauntless leader and Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), an Erudite leader.
The movie focuses on Tris training to become Dauntless and also uncover a plan by Erudite to overthrow the Abnegation faction. I am going to end my plot summary there so as not to spoil the movie for those that haven’t seen it yet.
One of the things that I really wished that Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor did was flesh out the Dauntless training a bit more. In the book, we see way more match-ups than the movie. Also, in the book, we really see how tough a time that Al is having in training and we see Peter (Miles Teller) being a more terrifying bully. There is a scene in the book where Peter, jealous of another initiate, Edward, stabs him in the eye. This forces Edward to leave Dauntless and become factionless, an important plot point in the next book Insurgent. But in the film, we don’t get that scene and I don’t even know who was supposed to be Edward in the movie. Peter comes across as a cocky SOB who likes to run at the mouth. As for Al, you felt for him when he killed himself in the book but when he did that in the movie, I didn’t feel anything.
As for the two leads. I thought that Woodley and James had a nice chemistry and we all knew it was inevitable that these two would fall for each other. However, when Tris declares her love to Four near the end of the movie to get him to recognize her, I thought that this was too soon. In the first book, Tris doesn’t know if it is love that she feels for Four until the second book. And I liked how in the book Tris is the only person, other than his father, to call Four by his real name, Tobias.
Of course, Woodley’s Tris is going to be compared to Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss but I think they are two totally different characters. Woodley brings a certain naivete to Tris and we her confidence grow as she knows what and who she is. On the other hand, Lawrence’s Katniss, already possess that confidence in herself. One thing these two ladies have in common is a unique speaking voice. I found Woodley’s voice to be almost too girly at times.
Kate Winslet made a fine villain for the majority of the movie but it was her last 5 minutes of the film was where she was truly awful. Her acting was very wooden and Winslet didn’t look particularly good; she looked really old.
The one person that I did enjoy a lot was James’ Four. Yes, he is handsome but there was something about him, maybe it was his voice or the way he smolders, but it just grabbed my attention every time Four showed up on screen.
It will be interesting to see what the filmmakers to do the second book, Insurgent. One thing that they need to keep is the fact that Tris got hurt in the arm. This is wound is featured prominently in the next book. I haven’t read the last book Allegiant yet but I’ve heard that people aren’t happy with it. I guess we will see.
One thing I am grateful for is that at least Allegiant is so far only one movie!