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Movie Review: Divergent

One of the book-based movies that I’ve been looking forward to this year, That Guy and I met up with some of my former workers and a bunch of my teen volunteers to see Divergent opening weekend. Our group was a very mixed bunch- some of us (myself included) had read the entire trilogy, while others had read only one, and still others hadn’t read any of them at all but still were anxious to see the movie. 


After letting go of all my expectations of the movie matching the book (something that I have learned for all book based movies), I was entranced with it. To me, the movie is Tris’ transformation from who her parents want her to be to who she is actually is inside.

There are a ton of reviews of the movie already, but I think that these three really say things extremely well:


1. I adore Shailene.

I’m sorry, all the press that is comparing her to Jennifer Lawrence can suck eggs, because they are both awesome. In fact, there’s this:

 She’s perfect as the searching Tris, and grows into the character well. I can’t wait to see where she goes from here.

2. “Supporting” Casting

The supporting cast rocked, and I really wish they had more of a role. I can’t believe that with Maggie Q and the rest of the cast they only had small bits and pieces.

3. Fearscapes

I really got what they did with the fearscapes and the testings, and was worried how that was going to play out. I could completely see it going weird, hokey, and all bad CGI and everything, and it didn’t- the scenes were real and drew you in, and played on the emotions (in good and bad ways) so that the audience felt what the characters were feeling as well.

4. Costuming

I loved the costumes and the attention to detail- that the Erudite were meticulous and sharp edges while Abnegtion was greys and homespun. Dauntless was black and hard materials, while Candor was white and black and crisp and sparse. I wanted clothes from the various factions, which is saying something because if you know anything about me, I am NOT a clothes person. My fashion choices run to sarcastic t-shirts.

5. Fighting

The attention to the fight scenes were extremely choreographed and thought out, and were well-played, especially making you believe in the real fights. You could tell (as did some of my teens who are actually taking martial arts) what type of fighting styles the training came from, what type of moves they were going to make, and the fights actually MADE SENSE most of the time. Note- if you were in my theater, I do apologize, because we were the group yelling about how you should always pull up your hair in a fight.


1. The lack of diversity among the factions

I noticed it, That Guy noticed it, and my teens definitely noticed it when we talked about it afterwards- they were joking around that they had to be Dauntless because no other faction would take them based on their skin tone. There impression, and mine, and That Guy’s, is that all the other factions were white- everyone who was a POC was Dauntless- including the final scenes in the simulation room, the bodyguards I peg as Dauntless, not Erudite.

I’d have to go back and watch the movie for sure, but it made a huge impression that the only faction that even remotely had POC was Dauntless. It was huge for my teens, and if they picked up on it and joked on it, how does it effect others? I know a huge debate has been ongoing about the casting of Theo James, and I still come down against it because this would have been a huge chance to have a main character be a POC and show teens they have a place.

2.  Will/Peter/Al

The casting of Peter and Will were too similar to my whole group. It was hard for the non-readers to tell them apart, and everyone was extremely confused as to why Peter and Al had it in for Tris in the first place. They weren’t sure whether they were Divergent-born or not, and it just confused everything. In the book it’s extremely clear (and completely relates to themes that were dropped from the movie) yet it’s murky enough to confuse non-fan movie goers.

3. Lack of Explanation

The movie fast-forwards up to the Choosing Ceremony and right into the politics of Tris’ choosing without really explaining WHY there’s huge politics behind it. Yes, Abnegtion is under scrutiny, and yes, Marcus has issues, but why is that taking down the whole faction? (Notice you never heard about his wife, who deserted him and Tobias- and she’s huge in the next two books). Why is Erudite trying to take over? Why not Candor? Why now? Why are people looking to Tris and her brother as political fortune tellers? It’s murky, and not well explained.

4. Merging of the Transfers and the Divergent-Born

There’s this gigantic thing about how being Divergent-Born gives the initiates an advantage over the Transfers, and that’s why the Transfers (Tris, Christina, Will, and others) have to trained separately for the first stage of Initiation. It’s mentioned in the movie when the Transfers are handed over to Four. It’s a major plot point in the book, and fuels a number of sub-plots in both the book and movie (including people learning whether or not she’s Divergent, Peter’s jealous, and the attack on Tris). Yet, after that first mention, it’s a non-issue in the rest of the movie. Never mentioned again. Poof.

5.  Mom

Yes, I get that when you get a big name actress they need more screen time, yes, meeting up with her mom clandestinely means more tension, and yes, I get to hammer home the point that it’s Faction before Blood they cut the Family Reunion time after the first stage of Initiation. However, during the Family Visiting Day in the book is when Tris learns that her mom was Dauntless, not when she was shot. And when she was SHOT is when she learns that she was DIVERGENT. IMPORTANT POINTS TO BUILD PEOPLE.

So, did you see it? What did you think? Agree? Disagree? Share in the comments below!


  1. Good analysis! I thought Theo James was a great choice – he played Four's emotional journey so well, I can't see anyone else in that role. I agree that Shailene was fabulous, and that the secondary characters were completely underdeveloped in the film – it took concentration to figure out who Al and Peter and Will were, and it took mental effort to keep them straight, and it shouldn't have. I wasn't happy with the shift from “fear of intimacy” to “fear of rape”, and I wish they had done that better. But apart from those things, I thought it was very well done. Good special effects, great job on the fear landscapes, good casting. Not a bad adaptation by any means.

  2. Anonymous says

    I LOVE Shailene in this role. Theo James was absolute perfection. Them together is a dream come true! Overall I thought the movie was greatness. Like you, I was disappointed with the lack of explanation. It also bothered me that in the final test Tris's fear landscape was shown to everyone on screen. In the book only the leadership could actually see what she was reacting to, everyone else could only see her actions, not what was happening. Because of that it was Tris that told Four that she was afraid of intimacy and they overcame that together. Because of the change the movie made she didn't have to tell him, he saw it.

  3. Filmmaker Neil Burger is more interested in whizzy visuals and a thorny plot to pay much attention to the characters or larger underlying themes, which leaves the film feeling eerily superficial.


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