Movie Review: Divergent with book spoilers
What would you do if society says you have to fit in a box and you don’t? Divergent based on the widely popular YA series by Veronica Roth takes a female lead who just doesn’t fit in one place in a world where not fitting in gets you killed.
If you haven’t read the books here’s so details. Set in a dsytopian future Chicago. Everyone is born into a group called a faction you stay there till you are a teen. You take a test which will tell you which faction you belong in and it may not be the one you are currently in. At the choosing ceremony you are free to decide to stay where you are, go where your aptitude test tells you are pick something different. Choosing is for live and you leave everything before if you change factions. The faction are Abnegation (selfless); Amity (peaceful); Candor (honest); Dauntless (brave); and Erudite (Intelligent). Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) are the children of Abnegation leaders. If you haven’t read the book this review contains book and film spoilers. Tris during her testing finds out she’s Divergent meaning she fits into more than 1 faction in her case Abnegation, Dauntless and Erudite. When it comes time for the choosing ceremony she picks Dauntless.
Final warning if you haven’t read the books its going to be spoiled. Don’t complain if you keep reading after the jump.
Tris is warned that being Divergent is a death sentence by the woman who administers her test Tori (Maggie Q). When Tris gets into Dauntless Tori once again warns her that she needs to keep hiding. Tris as an initiate has to train and beat the cut-off to be accepted into Dauntless or be kicked out and join the factionless. Similar to the book her friends are Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) and in the beginning Al (Christian Madsen). When she jumps into the compound she meets Four (Theo James) While she’s clearly startled by him and his looks well the tight closeup on his face means you are too. In fact there are so many close shots of his face with a steely look and its so disarming how good he looks that it pulled me out of the film at least 3 times.
Divergent takes its slow sweet time with putting Four and Tris together. He steals looks at her and ignores her, she stares at him and asks questions that he shoots down. They don’t get together until she is attacked and almost through off the edge but its about 94 minutes into the film. She also has her initiate antagonist Peter (Miles Teller). If you saw The Spectacular Now he does a great job of being the raging asshole that Peter is. The casting is in general really spot on, Tony Goldwyn as Andrew Prior and Ashley Judd as Natalie Prior are believable. Jai Courtney with his facial piercings and odd haircut is a menacing Eric. Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews is as good as you expect. There are of course storyline issues. Edward has no speaking lines and barely seen. The part with the butter knife doesn’t happen. Will and Christina don’t really seem to be dating. Seems like a small issue but considering how big of a deal his death is in subsequent books not showing them up under each other messes up that rather large plot point. Also Zeke and Uriah are merged, I can only assume they aren’t in the rest of the trilogy.
I sat there trying to decide how much of an issue is this. Divergent is a book. One I enjoyed much more than The Hunger Games but I realize you have to make changes. I get it but when you have a movies that roughly 2 and a half hours you start to wonder why some stuff was cut. They never show the entire aptitude test. Max (Mekhi Phifer) is never introduced which is just callous. We see him, he talks and nobody says his name? How does that work? I think by spacing out so much of how Tris and Four come together other parts of the movie fail. After the Bella Twilight full on hatred because of how weak she is as a character, the love triangle of The Hunger Games you get people who aren’t sure they want to get involved with each other of Divergent. (All 3 films are Lionsgate or Summit releases). Its a slow burn in the books but that doesn’t translate so well in film. Audiences get bored to quickly. They do reinforce the strong female lead that is Tris a lot of her stubbornness is shaved off, her cocky moments are missing, her vulnerability after the attack looks genuine.
Divergent has to walk a thin line of keeping the baseman happy by being book faithful and being compelling enough for the non-book readers to want to see this and the subsequent sequels. This isn’t a slam dunk here. The nuances of Divergent may or may not irritate its fan-base. It doesn’t stand on its own without knowledge of the source material. The finished product feels like there’s so many deleted scenes that needed to be there. But where to cut? I honestly couldn’t say what they needed to leave out other than shortening the training. Divergent will bring in the fans, the zipline scene is very good and the mind control simulation where the Dauntless attack the Abnegation seems long but it plays well. Divergent let me feeling like an enjoyable run down a carnival slide that gave me elbow scab I can’t stop picking at. I still want to ride again and see how they recover with Insurgent.
My Rating: Redbox
Director: Neil Burger
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Release Date: March 21, 2014
Run time: 2 hours 19 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13