Book to Big Screen: Divergent

Book to Big Screen: Divergent

by Doug Langille

image from Divergent Wiki

I’ve always been a fan of dystopian fiction. I remember one of my first experiences was with John Wyndham’s ‘The Chyrsalids’. From that point on, I was hooked. I’m also a fan of young adult fiction. Some of the most inventive genre-bending plots and characters come from these stories. 

Still, things can be overdone and I was weary from Twilight, Harry Potter and the Hunger Games. Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed all of these immensely, but when I heard of Divergent, I stifled a groan.

Listening to my better-half’s excitement and insistence that I watch the film, I decided to read the first book. I’m glad I did.

So what is ‘Divergent’?

Well, author Veronica Roth supplies her own summary:

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself. 

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

Got it? Good.

How does the film stack up against the book?
Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Well, in a nutshell: pretty damn good. Like all film adaptations, there are some creative liberties and I feel that it’s a fair translation. Hard-core fans may disagree.

Here are the big differences:

  • The film is generally far less violent than the book. When I read the book, I identified the Dauntless as ‘Spartans’. When I saw the film, I thought: ‘Lost Boys’.
  • Four is considerably older in the film than the book making the relationship with Tris possibly a little weird. This stood out during the final Fear Landscape, turning Tris fear of intimacy into a rape fear.
  • The romantic development between Four and Tris was given less attention in the film than in the book. Many scenes were missing.
  • Peter is very different, possibly more believable in the film version. He’s still a first-class jerk.
  • In the same way, the film portrays Abnegation as having stronger familial bonds. I think this works better.
  • Very little mention of Dauntless-born initiates in the film, specifically Uriah
  • Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews has a lot more of a role in the film. I think this spoils the shocking reveal of the Erudite plot that we read in the last third of the book.
  • Speaking of Kate getting screen time, the final showdown was different. In the book, Tris identified as Dauntless, not Divergent; Four shutdown the program not Jeanine under-the-influence.

There’s a slew of other small changes that can be easily dismissed as part of the adaptation to film.

Verdict?

Great book. Great movie. As usual, don’t expect them to be the same. Evaluate each pieces of art in their own medium.

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