This review contains spoilers.
After speeding through author Veronica Roth’s bestselling novel I was prepared to jump on the bandwagon for the release of the film adaptation of "Divergent," starring Shailene Woodley and Theo James. As the type who likes to read the book first, then see the movie, it was important to stay away from making too many comparisons since movies can only come so close to emulating their literary counterpart.
But there are times where fans just have to say “no” to a director’s decision. With the book so fresh in mind, director Neil Burger’s choice to change a pivotal scene in a control room late in the film stung even more. The scene is set up differently than in Roth's novel and it loses the deep connection between Tris (Woodley) and Tobias (James). There was a slight glimmer of emotion, but otherwise it was too battle heavy between the surrounding members of Erudite and Dauntless.
Rewinding about 20 minutes or so, we arrive at the scene where Tris goes through her final run of fears under the serum. It’s an adrenaline rush up until Tris has to deal with her fear of intimacy with Tobias. In the novel she talks her way out of it in a peaceful manner whereas the film portrays a forceful encounter that was more distasteful.
On its own terms, the film satisfied with well-cast actors giving spot-on performances. Woodley, James and the rest of the cast members fit their characters perfectly. Woodley was terrific in the awkward yet determined role of Tris. Some of her best scenes were when she was standing up for herself and others, especially when she takes Al’s place in the knife–throwing scene.
The decision to cast James for the role of Tobias was brilliant based on the group of talented actors that were up for consideration (Alex Pettyfer, Jeremy Irvine, Alexander Ludwig, Lucas Till, Jack Reynor, Brenton Thwaites and Luke Bracey). There was something about James that fit the mysterious and wounded persona of the role of Four. James was not the original actor cast for the role but he is one of the better choices the director made.
The production design and effects worked together to drastically change Chicago to resemble a city redeveloping in the aftermath of war. The effects were frighteningly realistic but nonetheless fascinating for the people that are familiar with the city.
Even the decision to incorporate the movie soundtrack into the film was intriguing. It seems like an obvious statement to make but normally instrumental music plays a larger role in films like this one, but Ellie Goulding and Zedd played a part in setting the tone of the buildup to emotionally heightened scenes bringing originality to the production of the film.
It’s impossible to ignore the similarities between “Divergent” and the dystopian future of the “The Hunger Games.” But overall, “Divergent” was a thrilling adventure of freedom, control, romance and deceit. Was it worth the $10.25 at Showplace 16? Absolutely. Was it better than the “Hunger Games” films? They’re neck and neck. Would I watch it again? I am already tempted to buy another ticket for this weekend.