Several of us were able to catch one of the many advanced screenings of the movie, Divergent, based off the Veronica Roth book of the same name. Here’s what we had to say about it:
Jessi – Seattle, WA
The Cast – I’ll admit it. I wasn’t 100% sold on Shailene Woodley as Tris, but I have to say she does a great job bringing the character to life. I know we see her as Tris in trailers and TV spots, but it wasn’t until I saw her in the film that I was convinced. Miles Teller also deserves a shout out because I had a tough time imagining him playing such a ruthless bully, but he pulls it off well. And while he is Peter, there’s still Miles in there, which is good for a few laughs. As far as the cast is concerned — roles nailed all around!
The World – The vision in my head of the Dystopian Chicago that Veronica Roth has created paled in comparison to the movie version. Whether it was the opening shot looking into the city from outside, the Prior home, or The Pit — it was all visually stunning. I was quite impressed with just about all the sets, costumes, and city shots.
Other characters – While we see a lot of Tris and Four, I feel that some of the other characters in the film get neglected. Of course, as with any film adapted from a book, things are going to get cut; however, I do believe there are a few characters that deserved more screen time.
Overall – We all know it’s scary when you finally get to watch a movie you’ve been anticipating for so long, especially based on a book that you love. While some things were changed from book to movie — I’ll be honest, some changes I don’t love — I don’t believe they did any real harm to the story. Overall, I found Divergent to be a pretty faithful adaptation that fans of the book will enjoy.
Leslie – San Diego, CA
Overall I thought Divergent was a fantastically made movie. The movie is 2 hours and 23 minutes long, but I was so absorbed in the story I was never bored. As a fan of the book, there is always the possibility of being disappointed with the movie adaptation. That was definitely not the case with this movie. As expected there were changes made from book to film, but it did not take away from the story at all. It still follows the spirit of the book and some changes I felt actually enhanced the story. If you haven’t read the book, I don’t think you’ll have any trouble keeping up with and understanding the plot.
I thought the movie did a great job of explaining the world of Divergent without losing momentum from the movie. Another thing I loved about the film was getting to see futuristic Chicago. I truly thought it was breathtaking and I was so glad to see what I had only imaged before come to life. As for the cast, I thought they all did a wonderful job. Theo James is the living embodiment of Four and Shailene Woodley is an amazing Tris. They have great chemistry, you definitely can feel it every time they’re on screen together. I definitely recommend going and seeing Divergent.This movie has loads of action and romance I think all kinds of people will enjoy it.
Amanda – Chicago, IL
Divergent was one of the best book to movie adaptations. Fans of the book will not be disappointed.
A book-to-movie adaptation is a difficult thing to judge. For one, you’re comparing the book to the movie, and trying to figure out how closely they resemble each other. On the other hand, it’s a film, and the criteria is completely different. For “Divergent,” the stakes are high, not just for itself but for the future of YA science fiction/fantasy movie adaptations. After the success of “The Hunger Games,” “Harry Potter,” and “Twilight” died down, there have been more flops than not.
So how will it hold up?
What I saw in the theater was promising. For one thing, the movie stayed true to the book. I didn’t feel like any major scenes were cut, and the changes seemed both efficient and reasonable. I also thought the acting was above par compared to other YA movies. Giving Kate Winslet, who plays Jeanine Matthews, and Ashley Judd, who portrays Tris’ mother, more substantial roles was a smart move. Their performances were incredible.
Other things “Divergent” did well: a well-woven soundtrack that carried moments without dialogue, not shying away from the violence and discomfort of Dauntless initiation, and highlighting cast members of color.
What didn’t I like? Well, I’m biased. One of my favorite lines from the book is “I am selfish. I am brave.” It wasn’t in there. But apart from that, I wish the factionless had been highlighted more. They’ll become more important in later books and I didn’t feel like the audience understood their purpose.
When it comes down to the box office, I really don’t know what will happen. I hope that the turnout on opening day is large.
Megan – St. Louis, MO
The cast is amazing. Of course, Woodley and Theo James (who plays Four) were both perfectly cast and did justice to the characters they played. A few characters I didn’t give much thought to before I saw the movie were Peter (Miles Teller) and Jeanine (Kate Winslet). I’m not going to say Peter was likeable, but he did gain more laughs than any other character even though you hated that you were laughing. Before I say anything about Jeanine, I have to say that I am a knowledge hungry, power thirsty Erudite and Winslet does my faction proud. She is chilling in the way only a villain who does not believe herself to be evil can be and it is stunning.
The sets, both physical and CG, are stunning. I am not very good at imagining sets in my head when I read a book and the sets in this movie blew me away. Everything from the birds-eye views of a rusted, broken down Chicago to the rugged darkness of the Dauntless compound and everything in between seems so raw and real. The compounds for the different factions are stunning and exactly what is described in the book and it is not hard to imagine that selfless, brave or intelligent people would live there.
The highlight of the music is the integration of Ellie Goulding’s voice and songs into the movie. I am a fan of Goulding and many of the featured songs are from her previous album ‘Halcyon Days’, which I have listened to many times. While it did blend in to the score and film perfectly, it personally pulled me out of the movie watching experience. I have spoke with a few other people who saw the movie and they loved the addition of Goulding’s voice, so I guess it was just a personal thing.
Over all, I would give the movie an A. It was everything I thought it would be and more. I would hate to say that it was a carbon copy of the book, but it did the book justice. I am the kind of person who can watch a movie and separate it from the book in my mind, which helped me at parts of the movie where there were changes made from the book. If you have read the book you will be delighted and if you haven’t gotten around to reading the book you will be pleasantly surprised.
Adam – New York City, NY
While the critics may not love Divergent’s first installment, there are plenty of fans who will, which is more important in the long run.
As with any beloved book, the most exciting aspect is seeing characters and places, illustrated so many times in your head, playing out on the big screen, and this is where Neil Burger’s vision really succeeds. The sweeping shots of Chicago are pinpoint in their accuracy and splendor, and the producers make a concerted effort to have the appropriate number of extras to convey the big-city environment. Never does the film appear cheap, from the production designs, to the sets, to the first-rate acting that you can count on down the board. Even some of the book’s weaker points – such as the dialogue among the younger characters — are smoothed out, creating a more complete, mature product.
The storytelling is swift and strong, but perhaps drags on too long for novice viewers. This is why I expect the movie will resonate much more with book-readers, who know the backstories and already have developed affinities for the characters and factions. As one of those book-readers, I can personally attest that I did NOT find it too long, and I felt – if not quite on the edge of my seat – lumbering pretty close to the edge for most of the film.
The chemistry between Tris and Four is also fairly potent, with much credit to Shailene Woodley and Theo James for making it so. Early marketing efforts seemed to push the romance angle, which worried me, but that ended up factoring in appropriately within the tapestry of the picture. The love story is built slowly and externally, and by the time Tris and Four are reaching the movie’s climax, they feel like they belong together. Maybe it’s not goosebumps and a case of the feels, but it’s good, honest connection, with the potential for more in the next two films.
In summary, Divergent is a competent and, at times, enhanced projection of Veronica Roth’s work, with faithfulness to its source, solid acting throughout, and vivid sets and landscapes. Is it as powerful as The Hunger Games? No, but it’s not fair to make that comparison. When judged against itself, it’s a job well done, and one fans of the books will appreciate.
Nat – San Diego, CA
This adaptation of the book stays faithful in pretty much all aspects, including the overall story and the characters, including some of the supporting characters, and that’s due not only to the actors, but also the crew behind the camera.
The plot points and major parts of the story were done with care, despite some changes, both to make it recognizable to readers of the book and to make it understandable to those unfamiliar with the series. The changes that were made are pretty minor in the overall story, anyway, and will only be unacceptable to those who are dead-set on keeping their own vision of the story alive.
As I stated, the actors did a very good job of portraying their characters, even if the amount of screen time they were was minimized for the sake of time and pace. The veteran actors didn’t check out once the cameras were rolling, and I commend Tony Goldwyn, Ashley Judd, Ray Stevenson, and Kate Winslet for appreciating their roles. The newcomers were more than acceptable, and I was especially impressed with Christian Madsen’s emotional major scene. Shailene Woodley and Theo James were convincing as the two main protagonists who grow into their relationship with each other, battle aggressors within their community, and confront their own personal convictions.
I can only remember one aspect of a scene that I felt was a bit ridiculous, and luckily it’s a very short scene. Aside from that one scene, the rest of the movie doesn’t get mushy or borish or childish.
I found it to be a very acceptable and enjoyable movie.