Review: ‘Divergent’ film will disappoint book fans

No real surprise: Another young adult book sensation fails to find same magic on screen.

Promo Photo

No real surprise: Another young adult book sensation fails to find same magic on screen.

For those who have read Veronica Roth’s hit young-adult novel Divergent, the movie can only be described as disappointing. The character development and emotion pale in comparison to the depth provided by Roth in the book.

Divergent tells the story of Beatrice “Tris” Prior, who is faced with the opportunity to escape her selfless and restrained family for a more daring lifestyle. In post-apocalyptic Chicago, society is divided into factions based on what values are considered most valuable to keep peace.

Tris shocks those she knows by pledging her allegiance to the courageous Dauntless faction, leaving Abnegation and her parents in the past. However, she quickly discovers her mind works differently from the others in a dangerous way.

In the Neil Burger-helmed adaptation, a few major scenes are discarded and many are even changed, dramatically altering the theme of how humans should and do react to fear. Important plot twists become horribly predictable, and viewers are carefully guided along the story with little room to make decisions for themselves.

While many probably think that the minor switches to the story do not matter too much, the fact is that the things taken out are necessary to understand the complexity of the relationships and actions of the characters. Subjects such as the severity of suicide, assault, and drinking are cleverly avoided for the sake of creating a “feel-good” movie.

Actress Shailene Woodley (The Spectacular Now, The Descendants) provides a glimpse into the dry humor and eventual tragedy of Tris’s life, quirky at one point and gut wrenching at the next. Her unexpected outbursts capture the character well, even if Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor’s script sometimes does not.

Tris’s love interest and trainer Four is played by Theo James, a face previously unrecognizable to most. Girls everywhere are now swooning over the “older guy” Tris falls for and eventually teams with. James’s performance is as expected: somewhat playful, but never amazing.

The high point of the movie is its soundtrack. Fast-paced and electronic songs – including several by Ellie Goulding – intensify the action and danger of the film. Music takes the role of creating the sounds of trains and beating hearts.

Those who have not read the books should see the movie; they might like it. If you’re a die-hard Divergent lover, stick to the novels.

Overall rating: 5/10