Divergent ably embodies the book within the medium of film; that is a non-trivial and rare accomplishment. Some have gone on to say that it’s better than the book; not so much. Although I do think the film better conveys the drive of Dauntless and the fighting, much of Tris’s development and building of her relationships don’t make it into the film. Nuances are missing as well. However, it is one of the best book-to-movie transitions I’ve witnessed (along with the Hunger Game series) in recent years. I think Veronica Roth’s involvement as well as using a really good but not ultra-famous cast helped. Also, there were the eyes: both Shailene Woodley and Theo James eyes were able to convey so much. (My 18 year old daughter made this point to me after she plunged into the Mr. James’ eyes; despite said swimming in the pools of his eyes, I have to concur). I believe the novel also lends itself to film. By that I do not mean it’s shallow; rather much of the struggle that occurs is within dialogue and response to the world around the characters rather than internal reflection. I also mean that it is a well written book (for more about the story itself, please see my Divergent book review).
Divergent is an engaging action film, love story and political commentary. It is about relationships and community while focusing on what we do as individuals within that community. There is no loss of self in Abgenation even whilst letting go of one’s agenda and ego. Some of the irony here is that the Erudite do suffer from the vice of arrogance due to their gift of intelligence, even as they accuse the Abgenation that they keep the government back through giving to the factionless and through their own greed. So we see in this film a government attempting to control people through factions and expectations to avoid a World War IV (since they’re trying to recover from WW III). So why do we love Divergent so much? Isn’t it just another movie with a teenage girl protagonist who is more capable than she realizes, more attractive than she hopes and in more danger than she than she fully fathoms? Haven’t we already seen this in the Twilight (Bella), Hunger Games (Katniss), Beautiful Creatures (Lena) or Immortal Instruments, City of Bones (Claire) series? While there are many similarities, only Tris and Katniss fight against repressive governments, have no special powers (although they do have various gifts) and only Tris is trained to fight. Divergent also more directly shows the benefit of family, fighting against this notion of “Faction over family.” Only Divergent has a 1-1 love relationship while the others are more entangled. I also like the Tris isn’t just fighting for “freedom’s” sake but for family and friends and in self-preservation. Too often we see freedom as the highest value rather than how we use that freedom; even the Hunger Games series suggests that today’s freedom fighters may, all too easily, become tomorrow’s oppressive government.
Combining competition and rivalry juxtaposed with love and trust wrapped into action and intrigue are some of the reasons we love Divergent. As I indicated in my book review, my teenage boys thought this would be a copy-cat also-ran. It is not. It stands on it own and does so in surprisingly good ways. It doesn’t hurt to have a good ensemble cast ably directed and great source material. It also doesn’t hurt to have an amazing soundtrack interspersed the dulcet tones of Ellie Goulding:
I encourage you to see the movie; you’ll come to love Tris and 4. Ashley Judd does an amazing job in relatively brief screen time of fleshing out care and compassion in Natalie (Tris’ mom). I also encourage you to read the book.
Blu-Ray @ Amazon