“Divergent” overcomes expectations

The adaptation of the young adult novel benefits from a talented cast

I’m going to be honest. I had little expectations for “Divergent.” Movie adaptations of young adult dystopian novels have not worked out well. “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” “Vampire Academy” and “Beautiful Creatures” have had the pleasure of being both a critical and a commercial failure. Even “Twilight,” while commercially successful, was rightfully attacked by critics everywhere. Tris Prior may not be to the caliber of Harry Potter or Katniss Everdeen, but it is a step in the right direction.

Set in the future, the people of a broken Chicago are placed into five factions: Abnegation, Amity, Erudite, Candor and Dauntless that all symbolize selflessness, kindness, intelligent, honesty and bravery, respectively. Born into the Abnegation faction, Beatrice Prior has never felt like she belonged. When she takes the aptitude test that will tell her what faction she belongs to, the results are inconclusive. She is Abnegation, Erudite and Dauntless, also known as Divergent, as that is the title of the book.

The movie comes alive after the choosing ceremony, where Beatrice, who will soon be only known as Tris, chooses Dauntless. It is only when she knows who she really is that Shailene Woodley, or Tris begins to live up to her hype. The emotional transition is just as important as the physical, and Woodley flourishes playing the spit-fire Tris becomes. The rest of the cast are able to overcome the lack of development of their characters. Theo James has the perfect mix of brutish fierceness and heartthrob dreaminess as Four, Tris’ love interest. He makes the audience scared while fighting opponents and makes them swoon when speaking to Tris. Kate Winslet eats up her role as Jeanine Mason, an Erudite who cannot wait to control all factions. Her seasoned acting levels out the younger cast.

In transition from novel to movie, liberties are often taken. In this case, some of these changes did not have to occur. It will be interesting to see how the second movie will be affected by the changes they make from the book. Personally, I cannot wait to find out.

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