The movie Divergent opened in theaters in March to an abundance of excited fans waiting to see the story unfold (and perhaps a little eye candy) on the big screen. Together those fans would help secure the number 1 spot for Divergent during its opening weekend. It has since been released on DVD and continues to get noticed by many fans across the world. So it’s about time that I offered up my humble opinion on this film.
Divergent, based on the best-selling YA novel by Veronica Roth, focuses on life in a dystopian society where people are divided into 5 factions: Abnegation, the selfless, community-service oriented group that maintains all political offices; Erudite, the smarties who are the scientists, computer programmers and inventors of the bunch; Amity, the peaceful farmers; Candor, the outspoken, brutally honest lawyers and judges; and Dauntless, the risk-taking and adventurous individuals who provide quasi-military protection for the community. Upon reaching the age of 16, each member of the community must choose the faction in which they will live out the rest of their lives.
Tris, the main character played by Shailene Woodley, discovers that she does not fit into one perfect category. In fact, she is what they call Divergent, exhibiting traits from several factions. Because Divergents cannot be so easily controlled or predicted, they are perceived as a danger to society, which in turn places them in danger. The story takes us on Tris’ struggle to fit into the Dauntless faction, while keeping her secret and getting closer to her mentor, Four (Theo James).
After devouring the series in 2 sittings, I was eager to see the story come to life. However, I was gravely disappointed with the results. While the movie did its best to develop the story, I fear that bad casting choices and changes to the plot may have affected the quality of the film. In the books, Tris’ character is constantly described as being small and petite. This trait enables her to strategically pull the weak, little girl card when she needs to, while also causing others to underestimate her. It’s essential to her interaction with other characters, as well as her own psyche. In contrast, Shailene Woodley is 5’8 with long legs and a definite height advantage over her character’s best friend, Christina (Zoë Kravitz), who is supposed to be the tall lanky one. This height swap alters the dynamic between these two characters losing a little bit of the book in the process.
Theo James, on the other hand, was perfectly cast for the role of Four. And I don’t think the screaming teen girls had any problem with his addition to the movie, which provided a nice amount of eye candy for the hormonal masses and adults alike. However, I did feel that the chemistry between Shailene and Theo was a bit lacking, but that could have been more of an issue with the script than their acting.
Because the script left out scenes between Tris and Four and altered others, their relationship felt rushed and a bit forced on the audience. There was no build up or evolution between the two characters. While the stoic nature of the characters is central to their story, it also does not translate well on to the big screen. In the books, you have Tris’ inner dialogue to fill in significant details such as how she is feeling and her nervousness around Four. However, there is no way to truly demonstrate this on film.
Overall, I was disappointed that the movie did not remain as close to the book as I would have liked. Altering the dynamic between characters, leaving others out, and changing scenes completely (no spoilers for you!) slightly skewed the development of the characters and the plot. I’m not quite sure where they will take the next installment of the series, but I hope it’s a much better adaptation than the first one.