Shailene Woodley and Theo James in a scene from Divergent (Summit Entertainment)
Shailene Woodley and Theo James in a scene from Divergent (Summit Entertainment)
What it's about:

Set in a futuristic dystopia where society is divided into five factions that each represent a different virtue, all 16-year-olds have to decide if they want to stay in their faction or switch to another—for the rest of their lives. Beatrice Prior makes a choice that surprises everyone.
Then, Tris and her fellow faction members have to live through a highly competitive initiation process to live out the choice they have made. They must undergo extreme physical and intense psychological tests that transform them all.

But, Tris has a secret she's kept hidden, because, if anyone knew, it would spell certain death.

As she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, this secret might help her save the people she loves. Or, it might destroy her.

What we thought:

As a devourer of books in all of its forms,  I'm always nervous when a novel is being adapted to film, especially when the book in question happens to be one I consider to be amongst my favourites.  

Over the years, I've gone from absolutely loving some (Bram Stoker's Dracula, Silence of the Lambs, Lord of the Rings for example), to being somewhat impressed with a select few (The Hunger Games and some of the Harry Potter movies ) and finally, to outright hating others (Twilight).     

When I first heard Veronica Roth's Divergent was being adapted to film, my immediately reaction was to panic; my second to ignore all the promo and hype surrounding it.  So, aside from watching the trailer, I pretty much went in with little expectation and no preconceptions about the movie.

And what I found, was, for the most part, a pretty impressive take on the first installment of a trilogy.  

Cast in the role of Beatrice Prior (or Tris as we come to know her), Shailene Woodley, packs an impressive punch as the bold, fearless and courageous heroine of the movie.

When we're first introduced to her, we meet a mousy young girl, stifled by the restrictions and boundaries in which she's lived all her life. The post-war life she lives in sees a world that’s divided into 5 different factions:

Abnegation (those who live selfless lives and put others’ needs above their own),
Amity ( the peaceful ones)
Candor (the group that believes in living lives with the utmost honesty)
Dauntless (the brave, live-your-life on the edge faction)
Erudite (this division prides themselves on being intellectual and seekers of knowledge)

She, however, gets the opportunity to change faction at the choosing ceremony, where every 16-year old is eligible to decide whether or not they’d like to stay or switch factions. Being a faction member of Abnegation, Tris makes the bold decision to switch to Dauntless.

And it’s here where her test of valour and courage truly begins.

I think, what I loved most about this movie, is that director Neil Burger, has managed to accurately capture the essence, atmosphere and setting of the movie.

From the contrast of the different hubs and their way of life, to the juxtaposition of the abandoned sectors beyond the enclosed city everyone lives in, readers will be happy to know that it’s the one definitive aspects of the movie that enhances the experience for those who read the book.

What I also appreciate, is how accessible the film adaptation is.

In fact, the movie is depicted in such a way, that even those who’ve not read the book would be able to follow the storyline.  

I certainly wouldn’t recommend it (the on screen version misses out on a lot of the nuances of the book and relegates some of the characters to being nothing but background props), but if you don’t have time, or heaven forbid, are not a fan of books, then you certainly can get by without the added experience of the book.

The depiction of the various simulations each initiate has to go through is another impressive aspect of the movie.

In fact, It’s done so accurately and seamlessly, that it often takes a few minutes to process that Tris is sitting in a chair that’s hooked up to monitoring screens one moment, and that she’s in another virtual environment the next.

There is one scene within the simulation that I did find bothersome, and it’s one that’s caused (and is still causing) quite a bit of controversy - I’ll be writing a more in-depth analysis of this for our books section - because the context of the particular incident changes the entire meaning of that passage in the book.

And while I applaud what they’ve tried to do with it, I do find myself feeling conflicted about the way in which its portrayed and the implications that there’s something there that doesn’t exist in the book.

More than that I can’t say, but I do think it is something that will probably affect those who’ve read the books, as opposed to those who are choosing to watch the movie first.

But, on another and more positive note, I really enjoyed the action scenes. There’s plenty to see and events are jam-packed with amazing sequences that will keep you glued to the edge of your seat.

For a young adult adaptation, the movie does contain quite a bit of violence, although it is a lot tamer than what you’ll read in the books. Given that this is a post-apocalyptic setting though, the amount of brutality you see is realistic given the undercurrents of the tensions brewing between certain factions.

I loved the interactions between the characters, and believe that most of them are incredibly well cast. Theo James, who plays Dauntless trainer Four in the movie, is particularly notable in his role.

Shallow remark alert: It definitely helps that he’s major eye candy and that he provides a most excellent romantic interest for Tris. And those tattoos on his back… yum.

The rest of the cast (Kate Winslet in the role of the despicable Jeanine Matthews, Zoë Kravitz as Tris’ new found friend, Christina and Jai Courtney, who plays Dauntless leader Eric) are just as badass as Tris is.

It’s interesting to note the Shailene (Tris) and Ansel Elgort, who plays her brother Caleb in the movie, will be playing the leads in The Fault in Our Stars, another YA adaptation coming to the big screen in June.

All in all, Divergent, for all of the targets it misses, is one of my favourite book-to-film adaptations thus far. In fact, I think it’s better than The Hunger Games and Catching Fire combined, and is worth seeing a second time.

I’m certainly planning on it.

Oh, and I’m definitely adding this to my DVD collection too.

P.S. Look out for Divergent author, Veronica Roth who makes cameo appearance in the movie.