Movie Review: Divergent


Director: Neil Burger
Writers: Evan Daugherty (screenplay), Vanessa Taylor (screenplay), Veronica Roth (novel)
Release: 2014


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.

Krysta 64

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Goodreads: Insurgent
Series: Divergent #2


Summary:  Since the Erudite took over Dauntless and invaded Abnegation, Tris and Four are on the run to Amity to rest and regroup with their allies.  Neither was ranked in Dauntless’ hierarchy, but as the city becomes more and more dangerous, both find themselves at the center of preparations for the upcoming war.

Review: Insurgent is an exciting follow-up to Divergent, beginning right where the last book stopped and dropping readers right into the middle of the war with Erudite.  The book has a  lot of action, just on a much grander scale than Divergent as Tris and Four have left the Dauntless compound in order to explore the other faction headquarters and the rest of the city.  The portrayal of the different factions is one of the novel’s strengths, as Roth gives each one unique customs and a distinct personality, ranging from the adamantly peaceful Amity to the straightforward Candor.  In general, however, Roth makes sure to make clear that no faction and no individual is as one-dimensional as most of the citizens believe.

Tris and Four do get some very nice romantic moments in Insurgent, though unfortunately they spend a large portion of the book arguing.  I read through a few hundred pages before I realized the book was actually putting me into a bad mood because everyone was yelling so much.  Precisely why they are arguing is a little unclear.  Maybe it is just stress from all the danger and battle preparations.  Perhaps Roth thought she needed to “spice up” their relationship.  Luckily, they get over their differences eventually, and Tris gets over all the issues that were holding her back for most of the book, and the ending gets much more exciting than the beginning.

Roth also continues to insert philosophical statements in surprising places.  Tris comes to see that other people view the world in shades of grey, while she and Four tend to look at it as black and white.  In the end, she stands up for absolute morality, arguing that no matter how she looks at it, controlling people’s minds has to be wrong.  It’s hard to argue with that!

Insurgent is a very strong second book, and although the ending is expected rather than surprising, Roth has set up herself up well to deliver a thrilling finale where everything changes.

Published: May 1, 2012

Join the Erudite!

Bookalicious is the Erudite faction leader in the newest promotion for the release of Insurgent by Veronica Roth on May 1. She and nine other bloggers were selected to receive ARCs of Insurgent and represent Erudite online  in a contest to generate the most traffic for the book.  Those of us not selected for Erudite (or the other factions–Abnegation, Amity, Candor, or Dauntless) can still participate by supporting a team!  Below is the information, re-blogged from Bookalicious, on how you can join the Erudite!  Click here to sign up!

Join the Erudite!

We know you like to read. That’s why you are reading this post. The Erudite are the true readers. They love books, they live for reading and they use their knowledge in every day life. My friends, this describes you. By joining Erudite you are not only proclaiming your love of knowledge, but you are also vowing that there are good among the faction. That we are not inherently evil, though many of our ilk have made bad decisions.

Joining the Erudite gets you:

  • A chance to win one of two signed copies of Insurgent.
  • A chance to win a $25 gift card donated from the others in our faction.
  • A personalized thank-you email from your faction leader.
  • A grab bag of swag from your faction leader.
  • A BOX of ARCs donated from your faction leader.
  • More prizes to come.

What will be asked of you:

  • That you take the Erudite faction into your heart and promote our good deeds.
  • That you share these two links & in as many creative ways as possible.
  • That you put our button on your blog.
  • That you use these hash tags on Twitter. #TeamErudite #DivergentNation
  • Optional things that you don’t have to do. Blog, get involved with our upcoming promotions.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Summary:  In a futuristic Chicago, all citizens choose one of five Factions at the age of sixteen: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, or Erudite.  Their faction becomes their family.  Beatrice “Tris” Prior has grown up in Abnegation, learning to forget herself and serve others.  But on the day of her choosing, she picks Dauntless.  Now, she must survive her initiation, convincing herself and others that this is where she belongs.  Because someone told her she could have chosen one of three Factions, that she is really Divergent.

Review: I listened to the audio book of Divergent because it was the only way I could borrow it from my library.  It is narrated by Emma Galvin, and at first it really ruined my experience of the story.  Somehow, Galvin managed to read every sentence in a voice that made Beatrice seem fearful and pathetic.  She could read, “I ate a piece of broccoli,” in a way that suggested Beatrice was terrified of vegetables.  In some cases, I managed to ignore this by repeating the sentences with different inflections in my head.  Eventually, as I was hoping, Beatrice made some life decisions that made her braver, and Galvin changed the tone of her narration.  After that, she made a pretty good Beatrice.

Narration aside, I really loved Divergent, but I appreciated it more as a romance than a dystopia.  The story is based on the premise that all people belong to one of five factions: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, or Erudite.  This is fine, except that the majority of people seem to manifest the values of only a single Faction—and they do it unceasingly.  In one of the beginning chapters, Beatrice describes a scene at her school where the students are waiting for a test.  The Candor are debating, the Erudite are reading, the Abnegation are sitting silently, the Dauntless are messing about, and the Amity are playing a group hand game.  This is apparently how the Faction members spend all their free time.  Unfortunately, even the argument that they are conforming to social norms cannot convince me that Erudites whip out a book any time they have a free second.  It seemed more stereotypical than a convincing depiction of a society forced to act a certain way.

In fact, there were really no moments where I looked at the society in Divergent and thought That’s really awful.  Of course there’s an evil plot and people trying to control each other by hiding information and messing with their brains—things one would expect in a dystopian novel.  But somehow I was never horrified the way I was by Uglies or The Hunger Games.  In some ways, the evil plot and who was directing it was too obvious.  In other ways, there was no build-up to it at all and things just suddenly started happening.

The aspects that really kept me reading were not the main plot.  First, I was fascinated by life in the Dauntless compound and how Tris was going to get through her initiation.  Roth clearly chose the most interesting Faction for the main setting of her book, and she exploits it well with descriptions of crazy stunts and a wild initiation—nothing like the month of community service that Abnegation initiates perform. It did take Tris a little too long to ponder the difference between being a bully and truly being brave and to notice that some things about the Dauntless have become corrupt.  The real definition of courage is one of the few important questions the book stops to ask, and I would have liked for it to be more prominent.  Tris finally does address it, however, and it is one of the finest moments of Divergent.

Second, I wanted to see the romance unfold.  Who the main love interest will be is relatively obvious soon after he is introduced, but Roth does an amazing job of developing a relationship between him and Tris; this is not a story where the characters fall in love at first sight.  They have a lot of little encounters that I was literally gushing over.  It was sweet but not too gooey because they are Dauntless, after all.  They have a nice balance of knowing the other person is strong but understanding that sometimes they are weak.

Roth has created a very interesting world in Divergent, and I would like to have an inside look at the other Factions.  This book has some great opportunities for readers to choose Factions the way Harry Potter fans declare allegiance to a particular house.  Roth’s world-building and the romance are the main reasons I will be reading the sequel Insurgent in May. Frankly, I am not overly interested in how Tris and her friends plan to save their city.

Published: May 2011

Discussion Questions: (1)  What Faction would you choose?  (2) What would you encounter in your fear landscape?  Tell us in the comments!