REVIEW: ‘Divergent’ satisfies but doesn’t impress
In dystopian Chicago, everything works together like a well-oiled machine – unless you make the mistake of standing out.
Unless you’re Divergent.
Directed by Neil Burger, “Divergent” is based on the book of the same title by Veronica Roth and features a world where everyone is divided into five factions: Abnegation for the selfless, Amity for the peaceful, Candor for the honest, Dauntless for the brave and Erudite for the intelligent.
Normally, an aptitude test reveals your faction. But when the test is inconclusive, meaning you equally fit the traits of more than one faction, you’re classified as Divergent.
That’s where the trouble begins for Beatrice “Tris” Prior.
Actress Shailene Woodley does a phenomenal job of portraying the unique combination of determined strength and reserve that is Tris, but unfortunately the rest of the characters fell short.
Much of the character development was sacrificed by the cutting of scenes. Due to the static, one-dimensionality of the supporting characters, much of the emotional intensity of key scenes was lost, perhaps most importantly the kidnapping of Tris by Al, played by Christian Madsen.
In the book, Al is initially extremely protective of Tris and even confesses feelings for her. In the film, their relationship is almost nonexistent, making his betrayal much less intense and greatly minimizing the dramatic climax.
This lack of character development is also problematic in the romantic relationship between Tris and her mentor, Four, played by Theo James. Everything seemed a bit rushed and almost forced compared with the book, as many of the key buildups were cut.
Pacing and development was a problem throughout the film. Many parts of the book were cut to squeeze it into the 2.5 hour time block, yet the director also chose to add many scenes not in the book.
One of the most noticeable added scenes was the mirror scene during Beatrice’s aptitude test. The scene shows Beatrice looking at hundreds of reflections of herself in the mirror, which highlights her lack of belonging in Abnegation, as Abnegation members consider it vanity to look in a mirror. Despite adding extra depth, the scene dragged on and should instead have been shortened to leave room for other parts of the test.
One of the positive changes was the lessening of the violence in the film version. The fight scenes were far less graphic than the book, and many of the deaths occurred off camera. This achieved a good balance by making the movie more child-friendly while still having enough action to keep older viewers engaged.
Overall, “Divergent” has managed to make a successful transfer to the big screen and still keep fans of the book happy. But if you’re just going to this film because you loved fellow dystopian film “The Hunger Games,” you’re going to be disappointed.
Despite being a fun movie, “Divergent” is missing that special flair that really makes a dystopian movie pop. But even though there’s nothing particularly stellar about the film adaptation, “Divergent” does make for an entertaining night out nonetheless.