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FILM REVIEW: Divergent

Divergent-UK-PosterTITLE: Divergent
STARS: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ansel Elgort, Mekhi Phifer, Kate Winslet
DIRECTOR: Neil Burger
RELEASED: April 4th 2014

As a big fan of The Hunger Games and dystopian stories in general, Divergent was a film that I had earmarked to see for a long time. I read the book by Veronica Roth at the beginning of this year and although I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Hunger Games, it was still a fast-paced enjoyable read. The trilogy of books is incredibly popular amongst teens and so the cinema was packed with excited youngsters on the film’s release date and I can’t pretend that this didn’t affect my experience of the film somewhat. Once I’d got past the squeals and overexcited hyperactivity, which did actually take some doing during the more risque scenes, I was able to sit back and enjoy it.

Divergent follows Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), a teenage girl who lives in a society split into five factions -Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the kind), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave) and Erudite (the intelligent). When they come of age, the teens of the society take an aptitude test to determine which faction they truly belong in. Tris and her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) were born into Abnegation but their test results cause them to rethink their true calling. Tris’ results reveal her to be a Divergent meaning that her aptitude test is inconclusive because she possesses qualities important to multiple factions. Divergents are extremely rare and are in fact considered dangerous by the government and because of this, Tris must keep her status secret. Although they are free to choose their faction, they must never return to their faction of birth and therefore their families, if they decide to transfer. Without too many spoilers, Tris is then thrown into turmoil as she fights to prove herself worthy within her chosen faction while encountering dangerous people and situations. Through it all, she meets and falls in love with the handsome, mysterious Four (Theo James) and she finds herself in trouble when powerful Erudite leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) learns of her secret and threatens to wage war against her and other Divergents.

As with most literary adaptations, Veronica Roth’s novel was much more entertaining, however the film did stick relatively close. There was a particularly blood-spattered scene in the book that was omitted from the film and I can only assume that producers thought it would be a little too much violence for a film that teens would be going to see. I think it would have added to the competitive nature amongst the initiates though as I felt that this was something that was lost that seemed to be an integral part of the book. There seemed to be a lot more of a friendly vibe amongst them in the film that was a bit off-putting for those that know the novel. The topless Four scenes also fell a bit flat for me although that wasn’t because Theo James doesn’t have a great physique -oh boy, he does!- but I did feel that it was something that was done for the cameras and the young female audience rather than something that was necessary for the character.

I’m not sure the casting was quite on point as Shailene Woodley doesn’t really have the kind of look and manner that I imagined Tris to have. Tris and Caleb’s sibling relationship wasn’t given much screen time and it was only towards the end that we even remembered Caleb. I know that Shailene and Ansel Elgort are also playing the roles of Hazel and Gus in The Fault In Our Stars this summer and I was keen to see how they played both brother and sister and young, doomed lovers. However, I didn’t really get to see much of them in Divergent.

It is a great dystopian full of action, danger and corruption but I would strongly recommend the book over the film. Don’t go into it expecting another version of The Hunger Games, as they really are very different. In my opinion, The Hunger Games is a better series with more developed characters but Divergent is still an exciting and engaging watch.

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