The Book: 2011
Divergent by Veronica Roth (Katherine Tegen Books)
The Film: 2014
Divergent directed by Neil Burger (Summit Entertainment)
SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t read the book, this review will contain plot spoilers.
I loved Veronica Roth’s book Divergent (read my review here) and was excited to see the movie, but YA books-turned-movies tend to have trouble negotiating that razor-thin line between cool and corny. So I was worried going into the theatre that Divergent would fall short, that it would be overly cheesy and end up making me angry. But I actually quite enjoyed it. It ended up being a lot better than I expected.
The beginning…well, it leaned more toward the corny side of things with a young Beatrice chasing after the Dauntless, her obsession about her reflection and a prolonged choosing ceremony.
That said, I think Shailene Woodley makes a good Tris. Her character motivations in the film are different than the book—her family dynamic is different, more inclusive, and she fears sexual force rather than intimacy—so it’s hard to make an accurate comparison. For those that haven’t read the book, her character holds up in the film, but I think I still prefer her motivations in the book, especially the fear of being intimate—it’s something we don’t see a lot of in the media anymore.
Side note: I found it awfully icky that Tris’ brother, Caleb, is played by Ansel Elgort, the same actor who later this year will be opposite Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars as her love interest. I know that’s not the actor’s fault—he just happened to be considered right for both parts—but still. Ew.
But from the moment Tris’ blood hit the Dauntless coals to the march on Abnegation, this movie got my adrenaline pumping. The initiation training, the Dauntless compound, the train jumping…it was all high energy and interesting. I think it did the book justice.
As did Theo James’ portrayal of Four. He is not at all how I pictured Four but he was one of my favourite characters in the movie (and not just because he’s yummy). He was so badass! And he had the best deadpan responses. Also his character development was pretty solid throughout. I also appreciated that the romance scenes between him and Tris weren’t overly saccharine.
Eric was pretty fantastic, as well, not as the character from the book but as his own character. Jai Courtney owned the part with confidence. As for the other characters, Will and Christina were great, but Peter wasn’t nearly psychotic enough. He came off as a jerk but nothing more and could have used a lot more development. (Blaming the writers here, not the actor.) If you’re looking for complex characters, the book is obviously better as you get to delve into the characters’ motivations and fears, but there are enough hints for the most part that it gets by.
The simulations were very well done and I think the film excels at showing how Tris is different from her peers in the way she handles them. I really liked getting to see the difference between how a Divergent and a Dauntless react.
The final scene in the Dauntless computer lab was over the top and toned down my feelings about the movie. I get why Jeanine and her minions are in the lab, because they explain details that non-readers need to know, but I found it unnecessary—Four could have done that on his own. I did like Kate Winslet as Jeanine, though; she was very cold and calculated.
Overall, Divergent was a fun movie-going experience. It had a good balance between straight-from-the-book details to make readers smirk and new details that add something to the story and make it its own. I left the theatre feeling pumped and wanting to punch a punching bag. I’d see it again.
Have you seen the movie? Share your reactions in comments.
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