Divergent Review

Please note that this review is not 100% spoiler free regarding the events that take place in the first Divergent book and several aspects of the movie. If you wish to remain completely unspoiled, read with care.

To begin, I’m going to lay all my cards on the table: for me, Divergent was not a movie that I assumed would be enjoyable.

From the moment it was announced that it was officially being made, I couldn’t shake the feeling of dread within, and it remained throughout the casting and filming process. I didn’t love the initial casting of Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior, the female lead of the dystopian society novel, and I didn’t love the fact that the actor playing her love interest was eleven years older than the character he was supposed to be portraying. I shrugged my shoulders, sighed, and resigned myself to a bad, cheesy adaptation of an excellently written book that had held depth-filled characters, humor, action, romance, and allegories.

Okay. I’m going to admit it now- I was wrong.

Divergent tells the story of Beatrice (Tris) Prior, a young girl who lives in dystopian Chicago. In her society, people are divided into five factions: Candor- those who value honesty above all else, Amity- those who appreciate peace more than anything, Erudite- those who think that knowledge is the most important thing, Abnegation- Tris’ original faction, which lays weight upon selflessness, and Dauntless, the bravery faction, which is the faction that Tris ends up choosing in the film.

I went to see Divergent on opening weekend with my twenty-year-old cousin and two of my aunts, who are both well into their fifties. The theater was filled with females ranging from preteen, teen, and full grown women, along with a few boyfriends who were forced to sit through a two and a half hour movie during which they were totally ignored in favor of the attractive love interest, Four.

It was easy to forget that you were in a theater filled with people once the movie started.

In spite of the fact that I had been a skeptic, I realized that I had secretly been hoping the entire time that this movie would turn out well. And when all of the Dauntless began jumping off of the moving train within the first three minutes of the movie, I felt relief rush through me. I sat back in my chair, took a deep breath, and let a smile drift over my face.

This was going to be a good movie.

Shailene Woodley has a very specific way of acting that she applies to each character that she plays. It is far more natural than most actors play their parts, which is a skill that seems to be more useful on Indie movies than big Hollywood dystopian blockbusters. Woodley also has one setting of personality (innocent) which makes it difficult to see her as a strong, confident hero like Tris. Although her acting style did rub awkwardly against the nature of Theo James’ Four, who got most of his experience on British dramas such as Downton Abbey, it coaligned well with Miles Tellers’ Peter, who was Woodley’s co-star and love interest in The Spectacular Now.

Theo James brought his character, Four,  to life with aplomb. James needed to be able to be commanding and romantic all in the same role, and he brought this to the character almost from the first moment that Four was on the screen. Between the dialogue and his facial expressions, the viewer was able to watch Four slowly fall in love with Tris throughout the ten weeks of initiate training, but could also see the way he guarded himself around her. Unfortunately, his character got the Bella Swan treatment, in that the writers forgot to bring his sense of humor into the character. Four would occasionally make smart, witty quips with a blank expression that took a few moments for the audience to erupt into laughter, but mostly, his humor was gone.

Some critics of the movie state that the romance seemed cheesy and contrived to those who weren’t already invested in the relationship from the book. There were several hints from Four about his feelings for Tris in dialogue. Tris’ feelings seemed to come out of nowhere, which was slightly amusing because of how quickly her and Four’s relationship progressed into love. The dialogue that followed their first kissing scene- which was supposed to set up Tris’ intimacy issues- just translated as awkward and cringe-worthy to the audience.

Several scenes were standout, such as the war games scene, the zipline scene, and the final scene. Also, any time the characters were under the influence of the serum, the graphics were seriously impressive and creative. All of these scenes gave the readers beautiful graphics, scenery, and some really cool cinematography. The ending was changed in order to give Kate Winslet’s Jeanine more screen time, but it was still interesting and worked well with the tone of the movie.

The music was wonderful. It featured three songs from Ellie Goulding, which I had initially thought would throw the viewer out of Divergent’s universe. However, the songs fit perfectly with the mood of the movie, and often created a sense of euphoria around what was occurring on screen. In general, the soundtrack, composed by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL, fit well with the movie and created a hyped up atmosphere for the moviegoers.

I would give this movie an 85%, but as a fan of the books and somebody who already had an understanding of the plot line and an allegiance to the characters, I am predisposed to liking the movie more. If you would like the position of a mature adult, I can give you the review of my Aunt. She is an over fifty woman who often frequents church and is both a mother and a grandmother. Upon asking her what she thought of the movie, she said, “Theo James is hot. End of review.”