I’m shocked. Honestly, I’m so shocked. This is a YA adaptation I actually liked! What I’m more shocked about, however, is the terrible reviews this movie is getting. As some of you may know, I only read this novel very recently and had some conflicting feelings towards it (you can read my book review here). Yet, I’m surprised at how much I enjoyed this movie.
Based on the best-selling novel by Veronica Roth, Divergent is set in a dystopian world in which society is divided into five factions; Erudite for the intelligent, Candor for the honest, Amity for the peaceful, Abnegation for the selfless and Dauntless for the brave. When inhabitants of this society turn sixteen they must choose a faction they wish to belong to, leaving their families forever. However, not everyone belongs to just one faction; there are those like our protagonist, Tris (Shailene Woodley) who has more than one of these traits, making her a threat to the supposedly idyllic society she lives in.
What’s so brilliant about this adaptation is the focus on the character development of Tris and Woodley does a sound job in portraying both her strengths and vulnerabilities. I’m even more impressed by Theo James who portrays the aggressive but sensitive romantic interest, Four. No, it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that he’s incredibly beautiful and has lots of muscle (well…maybe a little), but more that he doesn’t make Four brooding, but retains the strength and fearful aspects the character in the books has. The chemistry between Woodley and James is palpable and it was nice to watch their characters and relationship blossom on screen. Kate Winslet, an excellent addition to the cast, takes on the role of antagonist Jeanine and manages to perfectly capture the intelligence and despicable nature of the villain.
The movie doesn’t have a problem with pace at all, managing to balance action packed scenes with more emotional ones. One thing that I think contributed to it was the great soundtrack which at time, made me feel like being reckless and running with the dauntless.
However, the movie isn’t without its faults. One of the main flaws is the development of secondary characters, or lack of, I might say. The other initiates that Tris works with are barely in the movie and are sometimes glossed over. Whilst I love the charm and humour that Miles Teller brings to all of his other characters (you’ll know what I mean If you’ve seen The Spectacular Now), it would have been nice if he could have maintained this charm whilst also portraying Peter in a more sinister light and depicted as a real threat to Tris.
This movie does a great job of setting up the world that Roth has created as we understand the politics and the friction between communities. However, this movie is very self-conscious that it is merely the first instalment in a future franchise. “What movie isn’t a sequel or the set up for a new franchise these days?” you might ask. Yet for some reason, the open ending left me incredibly frustrated and felt like I had been used to invest in something I hadn’t yet bought.
With all that in mind, I have to say that this is one of the more recent adaptations I really enjoyed. Clearly, studio execs are hoping that this “franchise” will garner a similar reception or fanbase as the Twilight series and The Hunger Games . Whether it will be that successful we will just have to wait and see.
Based on: Divergent by Veronica Roth
Screenplay by: Evan Daugherty , Vanessa Taylor
Directed by: Neil Burger
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Zoe Kravtiz, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Maggie Q, Ashley Judd
My Verdict: 8/10