Veronica Roth’s beloved book series makes its way to the big screen.
Divergent is the first of a series of popular books written by Veronica Roth. The novel Divergent was released in 2011 and shortly afterwards Summit Entertainment purchased the rights for the movie adaptation and began production in 2013. During that same year at San Diego Comic Con, I attended a press conference for the film, which is where I learned more about the project. To be 100% honest, I never heard of Divergent prior to the conference so I was curious to learn what it was all about. During the press conference, Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort, and a host of others all spoke about the project and it got me interested in seeing the film.
Divergent takes place in a futuristic Chicago where all humans are sorted into 5 different groups. These groups are known as fractions and they include Abnegation (selfless), Amity (peaceful), Candor (honest), Dauntless (brave) and Erudite (intelligent). The film focuses on Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) as she takes her aptitude test which will determine what fraction she belongs in. Her results come up varied making her a “Divergent.” This leaves Beatrice the opportunity to pick the fraction that she wants to be a part of. Beatrice picks Dauntless because she doesn’t feel like she belongs in Abnegation with her family.
After picking a fraction, Beatrice must now prove her worth as a Dauntless by doing a series of three interrogations. During the interrogation process, Beatrice is pushed to her limits to see if she has what it takes to become a member of this group. Beatrice at first seems weak, but as time goes on she begins to overcome every challenge that is thrown her way. During her last interrogation test, Beatrice discovers that the Erudite leader, Jeanine (Kate Winslet) is using a serum to brainwash the Dauntless to attack and destroy Abnegation. It is now up to Beatrice and Four (Theo James) to save not only their own fraction, but also Abnegation.
Right off the bat, I really wish that I had read the book prior to seeing this film. According to my wife, who is a huge fan of the book series, made mention that the film adaptation of Divergent is very loyal to the story and doesn’t leave much of the book out. With that being said, the pacing of this film is really slow. The first hour of Divergent consists of a lot of character introductions as well as story setup. This makes the film feel really long especially for those with no knowledge of the story prior to the film. As slow as the film is, I think it was a smart idea to do it this way because otherwise people would have been complained that nothing was explained and the film lacked character development.
Putting that aside for now, the entire second half of the film is really intense and has a lot of awesome moments. I loved the whole fear interrogation that Beatrice had to go through plus I really enjoyed seeing Kate Winslet play a villain for once. There are several other action packed moments that had the fans screaming with the delight at my screening. I think Divergent as a whole is good origins tale.The film is obviously setting up the events for the next two films. I really believe that if non-fans can push through the first half of the film, the second half will really capture their attention. I don’t know if they will come out loving the film, but I doubt they will come out hating it.
The main reason why I feel the film succeeds is simply do to the acting, which all around is pretty solid considering most of the younger actors in Divergent haven’t had many roles prior to this. Shailene Woodley is the heart and soul of this film. As Beatrice, she is the glue that holds the film together. Without a strong actress like Woodley in the lead role, Divergent would have been absolutely dreadful to sit through. I have met Woodley twice in the past year and can honestly say she is one of the best up and coming actresses of this generation. She has this on-screen presence that really captures the audience’s attention and is good at playing roles that challenge her.When playing Beatrice, Woodley has to showcase different emotions and feelings. She also has to demonstrate that her character has depth and changes as the story progresses. Woodley does all these things flawlessly and really proves that she can be a lead in a smaller independent film or a big budget blockbuster.
Alongside Woodley, you have a solid cast of younger actors that include Miles Teller, Theo James, Zoë Kravitz, Ansel Elgort, and Jai Courtney, just to name a few. All these actors are really solid in their roles and I think they all help move the story along. Usually, when you watch big budget movies like this one, there are some weaker characters within the film but I didn’t feel that way at all. I think all the performances were equal and each character was different in their own way.
In terms of the story, I can see how some will say Divergent reminds them of The Hunger Games. There are a few similar themes especially the idea of people being placed in fractions within this film and in various districts in Hunger Games. The overall message of the film is also kind of similar since it deals a lot with anti-war and not conforming to society. I liked the layers in Divergent and it felt more realistic than Hunger Games. Divergent feels like something that could in fact happen. I can totally see our society being broken down in groups and placed in a specific area based on how a test defines our personalities.
All in all, I think Divergent will be loved by fans, but everyone else will be on the fence about it. I am not saying that I didn’t like the film because once I got past the first half, I found the myself engaged and I honestly enjoyed all the characters and the story. What I am saying, however, is that most of the moviegoers that watch Divergent, will probably feel indifferent towards it by the time it comes to a close. I highly doubt anyone will come out of this film saying they hate it like they did with Twilight, but I also can’t see the film capturing a whole new fan base right afterwards either, like The Hunger Games did. I think with the fan support this film will be a success, but it will take a lot for the non-fans to give it a chance. I think overall film is well constructed and am looking forward to seeing what will happen in Insurgent.
MovieManMenzel’s final rating for Divergent is a 7 out of 10.