If you haven’t read the Divergent series by Veronica Roth yet, do so promptly. It is a very well written dystopian young adult piece set in futuristic Chicago. As is usually the case, the book is much better than the movie. It is definitely so in this case since the audience gets much more information in the book than it could possibly get in the movie.
From here on out there are spoilers.
The main problem with the Divergent movie is the lack of continuity with the level of violence in the novels. Now, before someone decides to jump down my throat about wanting a little blood and gore in my movie keep a few things in mind:
- They made a movies from a dystopian novel, which is generally not a rated G sort of topic.
- The book on which the cinematic adaptation comes has very specific acts of violence in it. (Like being shot in the head)
So-when Tris shoots Will in the book–she shoots him in the head. She repeatedly has nightmares about having shot him and often hallucinates when she needs to hold a gun again. In the movie, she just shoots him. The actual wound happens off screen and when there is a pan of Will’s body, he doesn’t appear to have a gunshot wound any where.
This raises two points for me:
- Much of the violence happens off screen and is greatly implied and not shown.
- The production value and presentation is middle grade at best.
Almost all of the violence, including the sparing matches included in Dauntless training, happens off screen. Many of the physical blows are blocked or are seemingly sped up.
The production value’s real flaw is in the tattoos. While I like the overall designs and enjoy that they are tribal–they look like sharpie marker on skin. Another issue for me is that the largest symbol of Dauntless culture in the books is the tattoos. They get tattoos to mark overcoming fears; Tris gets the birds to remind her of her family. The tattoos were barely touched on in the film. I think it might have been one of, if not the, shortest scene in the film.
So why did I give it three stars when I clearly have some problems with it? Because it was still a good film. Shailene Woodley plays the part of Beatrice Prior with precision. She fits the body type of the plain-but-pretty subdued girl like it’s natural for her. Theo James and Jai Courtney are rugged and stoic and do a gorgeous job of playing off of the other.