Director: Neil Burger
Writers: Evan Daugherty (screenplay), Vanessa Taylor (screenplay), Veronica Roth (novel)
Beatrice Prior lives in a world where everyone knows where they belong. When individuals come of age, they choose a faction dedicated to their defining personality traits: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, or Erudite. Beatrice’s test results, however, do not assign her to one faction, but three. She is known as Divergent and she is a threat to the current system. Now she and her friends must discover what makes Divergents so dangerous before she is eradicated.
Review (Spoiler Free!)
I admit (albeit hesitantly) that I thought Divergent a mediocre book and never even bothered to read the sequels. I thus did not expect much from a movie based on the same, and which was marketed through pictures of Four’s back. Of course, marketing does not always mean much. Frozen, it turns out, was not actually about an annoying singing snowman. But I thought the attempts to make Divergent seem dark, edgy, and steamy were bound to fail. Fortunately, movie marketing misled again. I left the movie theatre enthralled with the vision the filmmakers had created and excited for the sequels.
I do not know that I can pinpoint exactly what made the film succeed. Perhaps, in part, it is because Roth’s prose is not the strongest and the movie was freed from that when telling the story. It seemed to me to be a strong, streamlined plot that knew exactly where to focus. The majority deals with Tris’s training, allowing viewers to revel in Tris’s newfound strength and freedom (strategic music choices emphasize the celebratory atmosphere of those early days), but the film knows when to move on to the bigger picture–the dystopian elements that threaten not only Tris but also the people she loves. It proves a good balance, allowing ample character development for Tris while always keeping the end in view.
I thought that the ensemble cast was also handled well, for the most part. A little more time with Tris’s family may have helped underscore the bond between them and I would have loved to see more of Tris’s friends–Christina in particular. However, handling a lot of characters at once can sometimes prove tricky and Divergent managed at least to keep Tris’s allies and enemies constantly in front of viewers’ eyes, if it did sometimes fail to distinguish them. (I really had a difficult time keeping track of Peter, Will, and Al.) Of Four I will just say that I was pleasantly surprised. I did not particularly like his character in the book, but Theo James works with the material he’s given and makes Four seem strong, intelligent, brave, and incredibly sympathetic.
All the actors are, in fact, fantastic. Some may feel that the dysptopian well has finally run dry, but the actors manage to invest this plot at least with some vigor. I was invested in their story, not because it was particularly novel or exciting, but because I came to care about the characters. I still do not intend to read the sequels to Divergent, but I am ready already for the sequels to the film.