Movie Review: Divergent

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I don't often do little reviews like this on the blog (at least, not since the beginning of my blog years ago), but Ryan and I sat down and actually watched the Divergent movie yesterday for the first time, and I felt the need to actually write down my thoughts on it. It's rare that I actually feel passionate enough - good or bad - to write a review, but I have to be honest…I can't help it with this one.

Part of the great power and charm of Divergent, the novel, is the fact that this passive, conformist society had such a sociopathic underbelly just teeming with dissatisfaction, resentment and power struggles. I found it to be a searing and scathing portrayal of what society could actually become someday, so reading the novel was extremely profound. Likewise, watching Tris grow into her own, find herself in a militant and powerful faction was a real treat - not to mention empowering to women everywhere.

Unfortunately, when we watched Divergent, the movie, both my husband and I felt a little bit cheated by the adaptation. Yes, we realize that cinematic portrayals will always take certain liberties for dramatic effect, but we felt as though the movie lost the actual power of the novel altogether. Rather than focus on this broken society, we get a brief interlude here and there about why society is split into factions, and then we focus on Tris's relationship with Four from there on in. Frankly, I feel as though Tris's character didn't resonate nearly as much as she did in the novel either.

Four was, and is, quiet and brooding, and I could definitely appreciate the fact that he fit the bill for me in the movie. However, I feel as though part of his tortured past that defined him so clearly in the novel was also simply glossed over. Whereas I wanted to see Tris and Four connect on a deeper level than just their Divergent connection, I felt as though we were left to settle for a cinematic, teeny-bopper romance that didn't capture a fraction of the power within the novel. Furthermore, both my husband and I remarked that the introduction of Dauntless in the movie was vaguely reminiscent of West Side Story, and I half expected these "hooligans" to break into song and start snapping.

Yes, I'm being extremely harsh about this movie, but when I see an adaption like The Hunger Games soar despite my expectations, I begin to understand that it actually is possible. Yet, I want more than just a pretty onscreen romance. I want power, and depth, and backstory, and it can be done. Sadly though, the Divergent movie just didn't do it for us, and we were sorely disappointed.

Did any of you watch the Divergent movie? If so, what did you think about it?


  1. I have to agree--The Hunger Games films are, at this stage, nearly surpassing the novel which only goes to prove that other adaptations can do it too. I think the casting for Divergent is perfect--LOVE Theo James!!--but they definitely glossed over his tortured past and the entire movie as a whole felt like a watered down version of the book. It's been so long since I read Divergent that I actually questioned my enjoyment of the book after seeing the movie. It's entertaining but sadly not much more. :/

  2. Thanks for the honest review. I have been holding off seeing this movie, b/c I am sure it will disappoint me. I have read a few reviews and changes that they made that I am not so sure about. I hope If I Stay is an incredible adaption, just like Hunger Games or the Harry Potter movies.

  3. Aw, sorry you were a bit underwhelmed by this one Melissa! I absolutely adored it and was really pleased overall with the adaptation itself. Granted, it had been a long time since I'd read Divergent (I purposely did not reread before going to see it), so I couldn't tell you what they did or did not change overall.

    I just watched the Vampire Academy movie and sweet baby Jesus Melissa, this movie is the greatest adaptation ever made in comparison. I actually wanted to cry a little at VA it was so miserable, and it basically made a mockery of what was a very good book. *sobs*

  4. Alright so I'm about to watch Divergent this weekend and I get more and more apprehensive by the minute. My friends who had not read the series, liked the movie. But I've read the first two books and while I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, I did appreciate what it brought to the table. It's disappointing to know that the movie failed to capture some of the strengths of the book and I totally agree with Hunger Games being so wonderfully adapted that it had raised the bar high for any book adaptations wishing to follow from its success.

    I have to say that I would still continue with watching the movie, only this time I'd definitely manage my expectations.

  5. "Furthermore, both my husband and I remarked that the introduction of Dauntless in the movie was vaguely reminiscent of West Side Story, and I half expected these 'hooligans' to break into song and start snapping."

    THIS. BAHAHA! I completely, 100% agree. The Dauntless were stereotyped almost to the point of being eye roll-worthy. Furthermore, I definitely agree that Shailene Woodley's acting was a bit lacking as well.

    Thanks for sharing Melissa, and, as always, BRILLIANT recap! <3

    ~ Zoe @ The Infinite To-Read Shelf

  6. I'm sorry the movie didn't work for you. I've heard pretty similar things about the movie and have been really hesitant about watching it. It sounds like it isn't worth a shot, as many of the things you've touched on that weren't present in the movie were things I loved about the book.

  7. Oh wow, great review on the movie Mel! I really liked the movie and it's exploration of seeing the factions come to life and how Tris and Four were portrayed, but I agree it didn't get across the finer nuances of the actual novel. I still enjoyed it though.

  8. I have to agree that The Hunger Games movies so far are the best book to movie adaptation on YA (if you don't count the LOTR movies) and though I enjoyed Divergent, it was also lacking something for me... Too much Four and Tris and not enough building up on the subtext of the factions and the like...

  9. I actually enjoyed this one (although I did miss about 20% of the dialogue thanks to giggling / screaming / talking teenagers who freaked out every single time Theo came on screen). I had some problems with Tris & Four's relationship, it kind felt a bit fast in the movie. I'd have to watch it again to form any solid thoughts...but I do agree about wanting more power, depth, and backstory!

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