If you’re part of the Hunger Games fandom, you’ve likely heard of the Divergent trilogy of books written by Veronica Roth, and are aware of its movie adaptation. Lionsgate and Summit promoted the movie with the help of Catching Fire by showing the trailer in theaters with the second Hunger Games installment and also added a sneak peek at the movie on the Catching Fire DVD/Blu-ray. Being a fan of the books, I was excited to see the result, and I was lucky enough to attend a Divergent movie premiere in Montreal on Thursday, March 13th.
Some people are calling it ‘the next Hunger Games’, but to me, it is the first Divergent. Young Adult movie adaptations are inevitably compared to each other, but these two dystopian stories find themselves compared more often than most. Both center around a young female protagonist, both teenagers live in a post-apocalyptic world where the government is (or is in the process of becoming) corrupt, and they both must stop an evil character. However, the similarities stop there, because both stories are very complex and different.
I entered the movie theater with very high expectations. And those expectations, for the most part, were reached. When casting news started appearing online last year, I wasn’t sure about their casting choices, but the movie confirmed that everyone they cast did their character justice. Shailene Woodley as Tris Prior blew me away. She was fierce as well as emotional. I felt connected to her and I was always on the edge of my seat. In one scene towards the end, which I’m not going to spoil, she made a lot of people cry, and I must admit I was close to tears. The action scenes in the whole movie were simply flawless.
Theo James as Four was also the right choice. He was mysterious at the beginning, leaving people not sure if he can be trusted, and even if some parts of the story had to be compressed, we slowly came to understand him. We saw that behind that strong façade he was also human, that he knew fear and pain just like everybody else, if not more than everybody else.
All of the other characters were perfectly cast, despite the fact that some had very little presence in the movie. Maggie Q as Tori was almost scary in some way, but her past was explained to Tris in a scene in the tattoo parlor and we could tell why she was the way she was. I also really liked Zoë Kravitz (the daughter of our Cinna, haha) as Christina, and Ben Lloyd-Hugues as Will (who I got to meet). Even without much screen time, Lloyd-Hugues managed to show Will’s former Erudite side, and a funny quote from him to Tris taken straight from the book will surely please fans. Al, portrayed by Christian Madsen, was also good, but we didn’t really get to see his sadness from being away from his family. I spotted Ben Lamb as Edward, but only in one or two scenes at most.
As far as the Prior family is concerned, everyone was perfect. Tony Goldwin did a good job as Andrew and so did Ashley Judd as Natalie. Their reaction after the Choosing Ceremony was really touching. All of their scenes towards the end of the movie were extremely well done. Ansel Elgort, who was portraying Caleb, did a good job at showing his character’s interest in Erudite from the beginning, even in just a few seconds, which I liked.
Tris’ Dauntless enemies, Peter and Molly, were played by Miles Teller and Amy Newbold, while Drew was left out. Teller showed Peter’s jealousy for Tris, but Newbold’s Molly wasn’t very menacing, and she even congratulated Tris in one scene, which is something that surprised me. However, what Peter says soon after might be the reason for Molly’s congratulations. The one and only Kate Winslet was portraying Jeanine Matthews, and she did it in a way that I never imagined. Her expressions looked very Erudite-like, and we could see the terror that she felt towards the end, since she had more scenes than in the book.
Director Neil Burger was able to capture the heart of the story, and did it beautifully. I liked the fact that it was filmed in Chicago, where the book takes place. It was nice seeing shots of the city, especially since the Dauntless headquarters are dark. It allowed us to see more colorful backgrounds. Tris’ narration in the beginning and end of the film helps audiences understand what took pages to explain in the book, and I think it was important to explain the history of the city.
All in all, I recommend this movie to both book fans and people new to the story, because everything is very well explained. There is emotion; there is action; there’s everything an average moviegoer wants. Fans of the books will be pleased with how closely it follows the book, even if there are inevitable differences, that were all understandable. Tributes will also enjoy this movie for its post-apocalyptic setting and the young protagonist. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5, and I can’t wait for you to see it on March 21st!