When I first read the Divergent series, I absolutely fell in love with the story, the characters and the writing. Since revisiting the books and seeing the film, however, I can’t help but feel a little differently. At first, I was definitely swept away and thought it was all super original and exciting, but now I’ve had a long time to think about it, I’m not so sure.
Initially, I enjoyed the film but going back and re-watching made me realise just how long it feels. A great deal of nothing happens for well over an hour and a half, and it’s so exhausting to watch. I was really impressed with how closely the film followed the book, but it actually seemed to highlight the fact that neither book nor film have a great deal of plot driving it forward. All the action is bunched up into literally the last 20-30 minutes of the film, and up until this section the whole thing feels more than a little pointless. Maybe the story was like this in the book too, only less noticeable since we also have Tris’ narration, thoughts and feelings to keep us entertained too, but the film just felt like it would never end.
The info-dumping at the beginning of the film infuriated me. There is little worse in a film than a huge pile of back-story being shoved in the audience’s face through narration, and then that narration suddenly disappearing until the end. It drives me crazy. Either find a way to weave the exposition naturally into the film or be consistent and have the narration throughout. It seems to happen a lot with young adult and dystopian/scifi films, probably due to the sheer amount of world-building that goes into these books, but it would be lovely if this vital information could be given to the audience in a different way. It just feels a lot like cheating.
I loved nearly all the characters in the book because they all seemed to be pretty well-developed, especially Tris’ Dauntless friends and her family, but felt that some of them really didn’t translate well on-screen. Theo James really didn’t work for me as Four/Tobias; I thought he was too cold and hard to portray the Four that I envisioned in the trilogy. I wasn’t convinced by the romance between Shailene and Theo whatsoever. I think Shai is a great actress but after seeing her on-screen chemistry with Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars, there is just no comparison here. To me, Four felt far too detached and emotionless and it made the romance with Tris feel random, unwarranted and even out of character. The book definitely wins out in the romance department as it’s a gradual, creeping realisation between the two which develops in a much more logical way.
I thought Shailene in particular was brilliant. I love how you can see every emotion pass across her face and the way she’s able to convey Tris’ inner emotions without even speaking. One of my favourite scenes is the Choosing Ceremony purely down to Shailene’s performance. She’s clearly agonising over the choice the way it’s depicted in the book, and it just feels so real. This is the moment where Tris struggles over the decision over who she is and who she’s going to become, whether she is selfless enough to choose Abnegation or brave enough to be Dauntless. It’s a hugely important scene that sets up the entire movie and, in my opinion, Shailene nailed it.
I did enjoy reading the Divergent trilogy, mainly down to the exciting story and Veronica Roth’s easy to digest style. The books really do make for a good read and while I could definitely have been kinder about Divergent, I actually did enjoy the film for the most part. A number of scenes could definitely have found their way to the cutting room floor, but it’s always fun to see a book you enjoyed come to life.
Now that the story and background are set up properly, the rest of the films should be much more dynamic, action-packed and interesting to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series translates to film, and only hope we get more sustained excitement throughout rather than cramming it all at the end!
Did you enjoy the book to film adaptation of Divergent? Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve mentioned? Let’s chat in the comments!