Movie review: “Divergent”

Kaitlyn McCurdy

divergent poster
Image credit: Summit Entertainment, Lionsgate

My friends badgered me for weeks to read “Divergent” before we went to see the movie on March 20. I’ve had the book for years, since a friend loaned it to me back in freshman year and I never got around to reading it (sorry, dude).

I finally read it, mostly because I couldn’t not hang out with my friends at the movies, you know?

And…I might have fallen in love? Become obsessed? However you want to phrase it. I mean, how could I not love a book with a strong female lead (hallelujah, not another Bella Swan), action packed plot and amazing love story? I’m a sucker, okay.

The book follows Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) in a dystopian Chicago. In her world, everyone is split between five factions: Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Erudite (the intelligent), Dauntless (the brave) and Tris’s home faction, Abnegation (the selfless). At 16, everyone goes through a Choosing Ceremony, where they pick their lifelong faction, at the risk of leaving their home faction. As you can guess, this is when we meet Tris: her aptitude test and Choosing Ceremony. She learns she is Divergent (not good!!!!), and she can choose between three factions (Erudite, Dauntless and Abnegation), whereas most people only have an aptitude for one. Tris chooses Dauntless, and is put to the test with the faction’s initiation, which is lead by Four (Theo James!!!!). However, bigger problems are brewing behind the scenes, and Tris has to learn just how brave she really is.

Well, that sounds really cheesy. Let’s move on.

So, you know, I go into the movie and I’m both excited and nervous (as all readers are with movie adaptations), and I’m thinking “can’t suck, right? The author was a producer.”

However, right after leaving the movie, I was … incredibly disappointed. I figured it might be that I finished the book three days before, so I avoided making a full opinion.

I saw the movie again a week later, and I think I’m fully okay to express my thoughts.

I didn’t hate it. But I didn’t love it,and I’m incredibly upset by some of the changes the moviemakers chose to make, and I’m even more appalled that Veronica Roth let it happen.

Essentially, the main flaw of the film was it lacked character development. This book thrives off complex, amazing and well-written characters, and pretty much all of them fall flat in the film.


Will says a few sentences and then meets his end. When Tris freaks, it feels more like “I killed a person” rather than “I killed my friend.” And that is an incredibly important distinction for Tris.

Peter, a main protagonist and borderline psychopath, seems like a playground bully. He doesn’t take any of the drastic measures that he does in the book, and instead spends the movies making jackass comments instead of actually being a psychopath.

Four loses a bit of his depth, as the film only touches upon his backstory. His fear landscape was also horribly done. Rather than making it seem like he’s still afraid, it seemed like since he’s been through it so much, he’s immune to the fears. Which is entirely false in the books. The lovely thing about Four is his complexity. He’s both stereotypically masculine (strong, assertive, aggressive) and wonderfully compassionate, sensitive and insecure, regarding his family. In the film, he’s hardened, and I can’t back that. Also, in his fear landscape, he does what a Divergent would do, not a Dauntless, and that really frustrates me.

Tris, as well, suffers. She never is shown to win a fight, even though in the books she kicks the crap out of Molly. Her struggle between being Dauntless or Abnegation is very much glossed over, as shown in her final fear landscape. At least she still is a badass in the film. They can’t take that away from her.

Al is just there in the background. Edward is mentioned once in passing, but it’s not even the most important thing that happens to him. Will and Christina’s relationship is only hinted at. Uriah may or may not be in the movie? As in, there’s a character that could be him or Zeke, and it’s never confirmed which.


So, yeah, the characters kind of annoyed me. Maybe I’m nitpicky, or maybe I’m rightfully angry that some amazing characters lost a lot of their complexity.

As mentioned earlier, there were tweaks. Oh, were there tweaks. Like, most of the ending (no!!!!!!!!!). I know that’s expected when it comes to movie adaptations, I get it. But some of these tweaks could really ruin the next two films and lose a ton of plot points. I’m hoping this series doesn’t turn into “Percy Jackson,” where almost every single detail was changed.

Though there were (obviously) things that annoyed me, I was overall… pretty okay. It’s a fun watch, and the actors, specifically Shai, Theo, and Kate Winslet, who takes on her first villain role, just knock it out of the park.

I just really hope the next two films do a bit better at sticking to the books, at least character-wise.

Book lovers, see it. If you hate it, you at least saw Theo James’s face for two hours on a big screen.

Oh, also, check out the soundtrack. Really great. So great, I’ll leave some SoundCloud audios at the bottom of this. And make sure to watch Caleb’s (Ansel Elgort) face when he runs, if you see it. Priceless.