Monday, March 24, 2014

Divergent Movie - Review

If you missed opening weekend for Divergent and have not read the books you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.  I was lucky enough to see and early preview last week.  Because I knew the movie was coming out, I made sure to read the book.  Why?  I watch the movie first without reading the book it is unlikely that I will ever read it because what is the point if you know how the story ends?   I took my oldest daughter to the movie with me and she did NOT read the book (she does not like to read period).   We both loved the movie.

Reading the book helped somewhat with understanding the plot but it is definitely not a pre-requisite to seeing the movie.  I answered maybe one or two questions for my daughter early on but after that she got the gist of the story and enjoyed the film.

Divergent is a story about a young teenager living in a post apocalyptic world,.  In this future there is little left of the US outside of Chicago, IL.  The lakes are dried up and the land surrounding the city is destroyed - miles and miles of wasteland surround the city.  In order to keep peace, a system has been established where at the society has been split into five factions - each member is to be aligned to one faction, selected at the age of 16.  The factions are as follows:
Abenation - selflessness
Amity - peace
Dauntless - the protectors
Erudite - knowledge
Candor - honesty

For each individual to commit to a faction there is annua ceremony
- First all 16 year old children are tested for predisposition to a certain faction
- Later at the celebration they select the faction they belong to regardless of the test results.  The testing is simply given to guide them.  Many, despite their predisposition to another faction, will chose their home faction.  To chose a faction outside of the one you were raised in means turning your back on your family (thus the mantra faction before family).   Selecting a faction does not guarantee acceptance however.  The faction must also accept the individual - those that are not accepted by their faction cannot join another and essentially become factionless - this is very similar to being homeless.

Tris, the lead character shows us early on that she is not cut out for the faction that she was born and raised in (Abenation).  She is not naturally selfless and struggles with having the innate instinct to help others - for her it is always an afterthought.  Tris is really counting on the test results to help her determine what faction she is best suited for but when she takes the test, the results are inconclusive.  In panicked secrecy the test administrator tells Tris that she is something called Divergent and that it is very dangerous - if the government finds out that she is Divergent her life will be in danger.  Tris has never heard of Divergence before and is not sure what it means and why it is dangerous.  The test administrator purposely "loses" the results of the "inconclusive" test.

Not being a natural fit for a faction makes Tris anxious about the ceremony.  She is still not certain what she will do but she is confident that her twin brother will stay with Abenation as he is naturally selfless and has always seemed "in place" at home.   Her mother encourages Tris and her brother to follow their hearts but she struggles with this as she does not want to turn her back on her family.  Tris soon finds that she does not know her brother's heart - or her own - as much as she thought.

From this point on we see Tris fight and struggle to find her place and fit into society.  While she acclimates to her home, she tries to hide any indications of being divergent, she discovers that being divergent is only one danger.  There are many who wish to change the structure of the factions but these plans are built on corruption, repression and inequality.  With the help of four, her group leader and mentor, she starts to learn more about herself.

I felt like the movie stayed mostly true to the book - there were a few notable differences but overall I was pleased with the results.   Many people were mixed on their feelings of Shailene Woodley being cast in the lead role.  I do have to say though that after reading the book I can see why she won the part - The character Tris is a complex one - on the surface she seems reserved, quiet and plain.  Her personality seems flat and she keeps her emotions to herself.  Underneath though there is a fire inside Tris.  As she grows as a person and gains confidence in her abilities and her place in society, she begins to find her voice and her purpose.  Shailene seemed to understand this and was able to bring the character to life.

The most important thing that Tris learns about herself is that being diveregent means not being able to be stereotyped or put into a category - as a divergent she is multi-faceted and less likely to conform.  This ends up being critical to her place in fighting repression of the government.

I found that I actually enjoyed the movie better than the book - this happens almost never.  I find that the book is consistently better than the movie,  This was a pleasant surprise because although I enjoyed the book, I found myself constantly comparing it to the Hunger Games which is unfair.  Both series have similar themes but they are separate and should each be weighed on their own merit.

My teen daughter LOVED this movie.  She definitely identified with the Dauntless faction so it was interesting to see her response to watching others who were a little wild and crazy but ultimately want to protect others (that is completely her!).  She was also assigning each of us their factions.  My husband would be Dauntless too, while I would be Erudite and my youngest would be Candor.  We still are not sure where my middle daughter would fall - (maybe she is Divergent!)

There really is too much to put in a review - there are so many other pieces to the story that are best revealed by viewing the film.   If you are looking for a good movie I do recommend this one.  Some movies I wait for the DVD but others I categorize as worth a theater visit - this is one that is worth a trip to the theater.  Please keep in mind that this is not appropriate for younger children as it is geared towards young adults.  There is quite a bit of violence and other content that is more appropriate for mature audiences.        

Want more official details?  Divergent goes digital!  Check it out....
Official Site: "

Disclosure:  Movie passes were provided to me for review purposes.  I did not receive any form of compensation nor was I required to write a positive review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

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