It’s a rare thing to go see a film adaption of a book you like and not be disappointed. That, however, is what happened when I went to see Divergent. The film is based on the book by Veronica Roth, which is first in a trilogy. The author wrote that she loved the film, and since I agree here is a brief quote from her:
I was completely absorbed by it. Even though I am so familiar with this story, I clearly remember grabbing the arms of my chair when Tris runs to catch the train after the Choosing Ceremony because I was nervous that she wouldn’t make it. (And then I thought to myself…YOU WROTE THE STORY, VERONICA.) It was beautifully shot—Chicago is such a gorgeous city, and to see it transformed into this futuristic wasteland was incredibly cool—and suspenseful, and the cast did a wonderful job.
The acting was excellent. Shaileen Woodly was perfect as Tris, and though Theo James isn’t exactly what I expected for Four I have no complaints about his performance. Honestly, I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted Four to be like in the film. Kate Winslet as Jeannie had the perfect balance of cool Erudite logic and bat-poop crazy to make her actions believable and her character menacing.
I also loved the interactions between Tris and her parents, particularly her mother. How they meet in the middle of the story is one way the film departs from the book, but it worked well to establish their relationship and make what happens near the end that much more poignant.
As for the characters not in the film … Uriah fans were up in arms over his exclusion, but I honestly didn’t miss him the way this film was structured. My main concern was that his absence would be a problem if Allegiant was made into a film. That was solved by showing Uriah’s name on the scoreboards during Dauntless initiation — he was there, but there wasn’t enough time to do his character justice on-screen.
In terms of being a good film (separate in my mind from being a good adaptation of the book), I thought Divergent delivered. I’ve already mentioned the acting and characters, and hinted at a good screenplay. Though things were cut from the book, the plot did not becoming choppy as a result or feel rushed and incomplete (which happened with Ender’s Game). The visualization was great, too. As you can see from this shot of the choosing ceremony, the faction colors were used to good effect in showing the divided society. I’m not really qualified to talk about the cinematography in technical terms, but scenes such as the zip-line sequence were filmed so that it kinda felt like you were there with Tris.
Bottom-line: whether or not you’ve read the novel Divergent, I recommend seeing this film. You can even count it as “research” if you’re writing a young adult novel 😉