Divergent Movie

Director: Neil Burger
2014


You’re different. You don’t fit into a category. They can’t control you. They call it Divergent. You can’t let them find out about you.
Tori in Divergent Movie

Divergent is the first in a series of highly anticipated movie adaptations of the bestselling Divergent series written by Veronica Roth. Beatrice (Tris) Prior is a sixteen year old girl who lives in the city of Chicago, however it is no longer the Chicago that we know. The city is split into five factions based on the citizens personality characteristics: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the knowledgeable). Tris was born into the Abnegation faction, but when she turns sixteen she completes an aptitude test that is supposed to indicate to which faction she is best suited. The problem is that Tris’ test is inconclusive. She shows equal aptitude for Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless. She is Divergent. She is warned never to share this information. The faction leaders see Divergent as dangerous and those who are discovered to be Divergent are killed. Which faction will Tris choose to devote her life to? Will she be able to hide that she is Divergent from the faction she chooses?

You can see the trailer for the movie below:

 

Divergent was okay. A shoulder-shrugging, glad I’ve seen it, but I don’t love it, kind of okay. It was a strange experience because the things I liked and disliked in the book became reversed after I watched the movie. While my issues with the balance of the plot were improved (i.e., less initiation and more hostile take-over), the characters felt one-dimensional.

I thought that the pacing of the movie was much better than the book. In the book, the majority of the plot is devoted to Tris’ time working through the initiation in order to get into Dauntless (the faction she chooses on the Ceremony Day). Consequently, the hostile take-over by Erudite happens very suddenly and there is next to no real build up to that level of violence. In the movie, however, this imbalance is fixed. There is a much better set-up for Erudite’s actions because Jeanine Matthews (played by Kate Winslet) crops up more often (from the Choosing Ceremony to visiting Dauntless Headquarters and so on) and voices the “truth” about the government being corrupted. I use quotation marks because this is what Jeanine Matthews believes to be true, but whether this is actually true or not remains to be seen. This gradual build up in tension meant that the hostile take-over wasn’t a total surprise. Also, the decision to cut down the initiation process, reducing the number of stages to two rather than three worked well because, again, this allowed more time to be spent building up to the hostile take-over and on the events that occur during the hostile-take over itself. Overall, I was fairly happy with the amount of action in this movie, and the movie ticked along nicely. I wouldn’t say that I was sat on the edge of my seat, desperate to know what was going to happen movie next like in The Hunger Games Moviebut in comparison to other movies, the action is good.

The characters in the book were strong, but the characters in the movie were weak. None of the characters really had enough air time for the audience to get to know them, except for Tris. I think that Tris’ (played by Shailene Woodley) was a fairly good representation of Tris in the book. Woodley did a really job of showing how headstrong Tris is and how she comes alive when she’s afraid. The moments where Tris runs for the first time with the Dauntless, jumps from a train, flies down the zip line, climbs the Ferris wheel etc… are all good examples of Tris feeling more alive when the adrenaline is pumping. I don’t think Tris was quite as headstrong in the movie as she is in the book. Most of Tris’ quips in the movie were said a little too tentatively for my liking. I imagined Tris speaking her mind in a rush of sudden anger and then wondering if she should have said that, rather than the uncertainty coming out in her voice.

I don’t feel like the audience got to know many of the other characters though. For example, Tris’ brother Caleb is really forgettable. When he is on screen, he’s rather unlikeable, too. Also, Al and Will blended together. I spent quite a bit of time trying to remember which was which. It didn’t help that the actors look so similar! I just didn’t connect with either character and I didn’t care about what happened to them.

               
On the left is Al, and on the right is Will

Some of the characters were done better than others. The audience does get a better idea of Christina. Her honesty (Candor transfer) and her bravery (Dauntless quality) does come across. I don’t think the audience gets to know Christina very well, but perhaps well enough considering the size of the plot. Four (played by Theo James) was disappointing. I will admit that I went into the movie biased because he is so much older than Tris. In the book, Tris is 16 and Four is 18. In the movie, Four is around 24. The problem is that he doesn’t look 24 to me. When Tris and Four were together, all I could see was the age difference. Maybe it’s just me. What do you think?

 Tris & Four

Don’t get me wrong, there were moments where I thought, ‘wow, Theo James is hot’, but I just couldn’t look past the salient age difference between Tris and Four. Aside from my obvious issue with the age gap, I thought that the strength of Four’s character was well played. I missed the vulnerability to Four that you see in the book though. For example, when Tris and Four go through Four’s fear landscape (under simulation, they work through his fears), Tris really keeps Four going because he’s so afraid and the reason he takes her through his fear landscape is to reveal who he  really is. Yet, in the movie, he didn’t seem all that afraid and he takes her through his fear landscape to train her. Part of what made Four likeable in the book was that he let Tris see underneath his steely exterior, and although this translates to some extent in the movie, I was disappointed. I will say that the fight scene between Four and Tris was amazing!

In the book, I felt that all the antagonists fell flat. I thought that Eric didn’t really do anything to make his character memorable, and that remained the same in the movie. In the book, both Peter and Molly were rivals with Tris, both of who went out of their way to upset or hurt Tris. Peter in particular stood out in the book because he had a sharp tongue and was fierce in the fighting ring. In the movie, Peter and Molly practically weren’t even antagonists. Tris and Molly fight once, but after Tris speaks up against Eric during one of the training sessions she earns respect from Molly and then Molly kind of drops out of the picture. Peter became nothing more than a school-yard bully. He spends the majority of the film taunting Tris and although he does beat her up at one point in the movie, this is part of the initiation. In the movie, it is also never revealed that one of the three people who try to kill Tris is Peter (Al of course is one of the others). The only antagonist that surprised me was Jeanine Matthews, the leader of Erudite. She wasn’t a very strong antagonist in the book as she only crops up at the end when it’s revealed she’s behind the hostile take-over. However, as mentioned before, Jeanine takes a central role in the movie. Kate Winslet does a great job of conveying Jeanine’s unwavering belief that she is right to kill off Divergents because they are a threat to society. For example, she says, “The future belongs to those who know where they belong.”

I think that the entire Abnegation faction was misrepresented. The faction is selfless and they are teasingly called “stiffs” because they aren’t physically affectionate with each other. In the movie, Tris’ parents are affectionate. They hug their children and hold hands etc… Although this did help develop a family connection between Tris and her parents, it didn’t showcase the Abnegation correctly. Ultimately, the affection showed by the Abnegation affected the development of the romance between Tris and Four. In the book, because the Abnegation faction is not affectionate, the stolen touches between Tris and Four develop the chemistry. In the movie, because Tris’ family is affectionate, these moments didn’t develop as much chemistry. Aside from this though, I didn’t really root for Tris and Four. There was just a lack of chemistry between the characters. There were one or two moments where I felt the chemistry but it very much felt like a little crush on both their parts that could go either way. As a result, the confession at the end of the movie was little unrealistic.

The ending of the movie was different to the ending of the book. We’ve written a separate, hidden post about the ending specifically. Of course, this will include spoilers, so only click on the link if you are okay with spoilers or have already seen the movie. Click this link to read my thoughts on the ending: The Ending of Divergent: Movie vs. Book.

Final Verdict: An enjoyable movie with lots of action, but ultimately lacking in strong characters and chemistry.

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