It is always fun to see how Hollywood spins the latest popular book. Film renditions vary in quality, but “Divergent” by far exceeds expectations. Based off of Veronica Roth’s best-selling novel “Divergent”, the movie closely follows the book, not missing any crucial moments, and director Neil Burger successfully brings the dystopian world of factions and conformity to life.
The story follows teenager Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) as she comes of age and must choose which faction of society she will spend the rest of her life in. The five factions include Candor, which acts as the judicial branch and requires honesty; Dauntless, which acts as the military and requires bravery; Abnegation, which acts as the government and requires selflessness; Amity, which acts as the food provider and requires peacefulness; and Erudite, which acts as the brain of society and requires intelligence.
Part of choosing each faction involves taking an aptitude test to best match the personality of each individual to the faction values. During testing, Beatrice’s results are inconclusive, a phenomenon which is known as divergence where people are suited for more than one faction. Unsure of what to do, Beatrice decides to leave her Abnegation parents and start over in Dauntless under a new name, Tris.
In Dauntless, Tris befriends Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) and one of the initiate trainers, Four (Theo James). Tension among the factions increases and Erudite leaders target divergent individuals because they believe people who do not fit into a set category of society are a threat to the government and the faction system. Tensions come to a boiling point as Tris and her friends take on the threat to the security of the balance of their society in an action-packed series of events for the rest of the movie.
The overall concept and themes for the film are very thought provoking, sparking conversations such as what is the price of peace? Is it worth forcing conformity and prosecuting those that are unable to conform? What is the best ideology to achieve peace? These kinds of provocative questions are what makes this film so memorable even after the last credits have rolled down the screen.
Electric chemistry between Woodley and James makes the relationship between Tris and Four as captivating and as accurate as it was in the book. The tangled evolution of their relationship was executed perfectly, as they evolved from their original animosity towards one another to their magnetic chemistry in the end, all while following a believable progression.
The best aspect of the movie is how it elucidates the setting, which was not easy to picture from the descriptions in the novel alone. Set in Chicago in a future dystopian world, the film draws in audiences with breathtaking rolling shots of the impressive fence that encapsulates the society and magical shots of the city lit up during the night as Tris zooms across the Chicago sky-line. The trance-like vibe given off during such sequences as the aptitude tests are enforced by the soundtrack, which features current artists such as Zedd, Ellie Goulding and A$AP Rocky among others.
The only noticeable difference between the book and the movie is that Burger chose to tone down some of the violence of the novel to ensure a PG-13 rating. The scenes that were cut included the eye-gouging incident from Dauntless initiation and the incident where one initiate fell to her death during the initiates first attempt to jump off the train into the Dauntless headquarters. Despite these amendments, the movie maintains a similar vibe to the book, one of captivating action and thought provoking themes.
With or without prior knowledge of the story, the fast-paced plot will not cause your attention to diverge (pun intended).
The “Divergent” trilogy is the next must-read series for fans of The Hunger Games series, but even if you do not like dystopian fiction, your time will be well spent staring at close-ups of Theo James.
Release Date: March 21, 2014
Rated: PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality
Directed by Neil Burger
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, and Kate Winslet