CAST: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Zoe Kravitz, Ray Stevenson, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Ansel Elgort, Maggie Q, Mekhi Pfifer, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Christian Madsen, Amy Newbold
DIRECTED BY: Neil Burger
There’s been a lot of talk about Divergent being the next Hunger Games, and in many ways I suppose you could simplify it that way. What I liked about the Divergent book series is that it is different from any recent YA predecessor. You’re free of the “love triangle” nonsense, the film isn’t about vampires, werewolves, or witches, and really the film isn’t about kids killing kids.
For me, what worked about the film was that I had read the book. It’s almost impossible to separate yourself and analyze the book when you are already a fan of the characters on the screen. The exception is when your favorite characters are adapted and twisted into something awful (like Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool in X-Men Origins: Wolverine). Then you feel a whole new level of disgust and fan rage.
Divergent does a really good job of following the path set forth in the books. I would have maybe wanted a slightly longer film (pacing was not an issue for me) that gave Al and Tris a scene together, to really back up what happens between them later in the film. In the book, Al is actively pursuing a relationship with Tris, but Tris has already friend-zoned him. In the movie, Al is already friend zoned, so his decisions in the movie don’t carry the weight they could have. Also, Will and Christina become a thing in the book, which makes the confrontation between Tris and Will so much harder, because she knows the effect it will have on their friendship. Also, Peter is much more of a monster in the book than in the film. About 10 more minutes would have fleshed out these characters just a bit more, and perhaps we might have seen a little more of the Dauntless-born initiates, who aren’t hugely important in the book, but they do befriend Tris, and they do have names. It seems a bit random that they ask her to join them on the roof, and no one else, and their reasoning is never described, and she never hangs out with them again.
A small change I noticed was that Tris’s mom had to covertly enter the Dauntless compound. I guess they cancelled parents day in the movie. In the book, Tris’s mom shows up for a day when all parents are allowed to see their children, but I guess they wanted that left out of the film. It was explained in the book that most transfers don’t see their parents, and that day is mostly for the initiates born in the faction they chose, but sometimes parents show up. I believe Christina’s parents showed up too.
Anyway, the movie is a lot of fun, and I just missed a little exposition on some characters. It’s odd to request that a movie be slightly longer, but since pacing wasn’t an issue for me, I could have easily watched another five minutes or so, if it gave true closure to the characters on the screen and rounded them out a little better. It’s a fun film to watch, and while it might lack the political gravitas some believe that The Hunger Games had, that franchise didn’t weigh in on my ability to enjoy Divergent at all.
Shailene Woodley is great as Tris, and Theo James is adequate as Four. I thought it was interesting to have Kate Winslet and Ashley Judd in those roles, as it seemed to be baiting more adults into seeing a YA thriller (much the same way Emma Thompson wound up in Beautiful Creatures). I’m excited that the film is doing well at the box office, and I can’t wait for the sequel!
FINAL GRADE: A-