A review by Edward and Nalini Haynes
Dark Matter’s minion said, ‘Possibly one of the best movies I’ve ever seen… better than the Hunger Games… The special effects are hardly noticeable because they blend in, they don’t overshadow the characters and story… The movie has something for everyone: it has action, drama, intrigue, philosophy, romance; whoever you are, it has something for you…’
My response: ‘I should record you debriefing and just copy it down.’
Beatrice is Abnegation, part of a self-effacing faction in a city split rigidly into 5 factions (Abnegation, Candour, Dauntless, Erudite and Amity) with inflexible rules controlling citizen’s lives. Failure to live up to the expectations of a faction results in death or exile as ‘factionless’. Beatrice is Divergent, living in fear of exposure, while struggling with the aspirations of her faction. On her choosing day at the end of high school, Beatrice chooses Dauntless, the fearless soldier faction.
During the journey to Dauntless headquarters, Beatrice meets other faction transfers who, like her, are wearing the ‘wrong’ colour and are struggling with Dauntless expectations – like jumping on and off a moving train. Beatrice and Chris from Candour meet, their friendship forming quickly under adverse circumstances.
Tris trains obsessively to survive, afraid of being exposed as Divergent. Training is tough but the escalation of political intrigue looms over all, threatening to tear the city apart.
Divergent the movie is an excellent conversion of the novel. The minion, who hasn’t read the books, followed the movie easily, never feeling lost or jolted out of the story. The action builds while the intrigue creeps in.
Divergent passes the Bechdel Test, a simple gender bias test, with flying colours. Beatrice, later called Tris, talks to her mother, Chris, Janine Matthews and Tori, all named women. Although there is an element of romance in Divergent, the focus of the women is their relationships with each other, personal survival and control of the city as a whole. There is no sense that the women are there as eye candy or to service the mens. THIS IS AWESOME.
Differences between the novel and the movie
In the books the name of the city is revealed in book three but it’s revealed in the opening scene with the word ‘Chicago’ overlaid as we see the opening sequence. The opening scene is excellent place-setting: a ruined and rusty ship, grassland, pan to the fence, over the fence into the city to see both the ruins and hurrying people. The fence was rather overdone I thought. Someone has been watching Game of Thrones and got excited, I thought. And yet the fence says so much about the city and the people, especially when you see Amity fearlessly farming outside the fence.
The faction clothing could be a bit controversial. Abnegation clothing was grey but there was far more diversity and fashion in their style of clothing than Veronica Roth described in the book. Candour uniform was a white jacket often with black trim, worn over black clothing. Likewise, Erudite tended to wear blue jackets over black. Instead of Dauntless wearing pure black and having a choice of fashions, they tended to wear grey and black with red trim, and sometimes red or blue tees. Dauntless clothing looked like a uniform. Tris never wore the little black dress.
Some of the incidents from the novel are missing – for example, no-one ended up with an eye patch – but the most important events are included in the movie, especially where characters are developed.
The zip-line is on steroids. Seriously, that zip-line (flying fox) seemed much tamer in the book.
There’s a lot more of Janine Matthews (Kate Winslet) in the Divergent movie than I recall from the book. This is partly to set the scene – like with President Snow in the Hunger Games, key players are introduced early – but also adding conflict while revealing the dynamics earlier. I think this is necessary to keep movie goers who haven’t read the books engaged.
Casting worked well. I loved Kate Winslet and Ashley Judd, especially their fairly natural appearances showing their age and beauty.
Divergent the movie is fast-paced, action oriented science fiction with intrigue and a hint of romance. Highly recommended.
★★★★☆ four out of five stars because I’m writing this, not the minion!