I went into Divergent knowing only what the trailers had told me beforehand. I was wary, because it looked like a pretty typical dystopian movie with some romance thrown in–because teen girls love romance, right? But I was also still excited because I really like Shailene Woodley and the concept sounded creative and intriguing. I hadn’t read the book, and I planned to do so only after I saw the movie–boy, am I glad I did.
Going into the movie without the constant need to be comparing to the book was a wonderful feeling, and it allowed me to enjoy the movie without nitpicking at everything as I watched. When I left the theater I basically turned to my boyfriend and was like, “That. Was. AWESOME.” The next two days, I spent all my free time reading the book, both because I was finally allowed to and so I could write up this comparison review.
If you didn’t already know, Divergent is about Beatrice (Tris) Prior and her struggle to understand who she is while hiding it from others in a future dystopia. At age sixteen, citizens take an aptitude test to tell them which faction (Abnegation, Amity, Erudite, Candor, or Dauntless) they are destined for. Those who don’t fit just one are labeled divergent–and dangerous to the stability of society.
I’m sure you can guess where Tris’s results fell.
Given the option to stay in her birth faction, Abnegation, or choose a new one, Tris becomes a transfer to Dauntless, the protectors of the city, facing the limits of her own strength and bravery while simultaneously endangering herself as a divergent. Here she meets other transfers and the two initiation training leaders, ruthless Eric and mysterious Four. Hijinks ensue: romance, initiates beating the crap out of each other, attempted murder. It’s a plain old romp in the park!
As expected, it wasn’t perfect, but an adaptation never will be, and I think that’s actually a good thing because if they were exactly the same, certain things probably wouldn’t come out as well; a one-hundred percent transfer from page to screen just couldn’t always translate right.
One complaint I can see viewers making is that there wasn’t as much depth to Tris’s feelings in the movie as in the book, but when you go from a first-person narrated book to a movie that really cannot do a first-person narration the whole time (because who would want to see that when it would basically be an audio book), it’s impossible to get that far inside her head.
Certain changes I noted include the emphasis on technology: while in the book some things were still simple, such as chalkboards for the rankings, the movie chose to amp it up in this department. My theory is that this was to appeal to a more sci-fi crowd, and probably a broader audience overall. While it’s a noticeable change, it’s not one that takes away from the story, instead making it a little more entertaining in its tech factor.
Additionally, and much along the lines of the shallow look at Tris’s own feelings, many of the secondary characters became much less fleshed out in the movie than the book. The evil characters weren’t as evil (though pretty close), and the dynamics in Tris’s friendship with fellow transfer Christina weren’t as prominent. While in the books they had struggles during initiation, their friendship was pretty happy-go-lucky in the movie. However, one character whose creep factor was increased was Jeanine, the Erudite leader, which I liked both because it made her more clearly loathsome and it meant seeing more Kate Winslet, which is never a bad thing.
One of the most noticeable (and irksome) changes for me was the ending. While the film’s ending is made into a bigger fight scene, particularly with Jeanine, that’s not what I had a problem with. Rather, it was Tris telling Four that she loves him. In the book, she doesn’t do this, and that had a bigger impact to me. It didn’t rush things, which makes the book stand out from others in the same genre to me. This is an instance when I really think the movie was trying to play it safe and use themes and scenes that are proven to “work,” instead of taking a chance to let the relationship develop longer and into the next movie.
As for that fight scene I mentioned? I liked it. It drew out the end action a bit longer. In the book, the fight between Tris and a mind-controlled Four wraps up fairly quickly, with them escaping the Dauntless faction right away. In a way, this movie scene was more believable, because in the book the computers controlling the rest of the Dauntless faction are unguarded. In the movie, there are plenty of people surrounding it, making saving the day a bigger challenge.
Like I said, the adaptation is not perfect. Sometimes that was okay, even beneficial, other times it was bothersome. As a movie, though, it was, as I said, “AWESOME.” It’s a reliable action film with a female lead I thoroughly enjoyed, and it could have done a far worse job of translating the story into a different medium.