~ post by Katie G
“Cover to Reel” is a regular column in which I offer my two cents about that age-old debate of whether or not a movie did any kind of justice to the book it’s based on.
If you have a teenager, have been around a teenager or know that teenagers exist, you have heard at least minor rumblings about the Divergent movie. Divergent by Veronica Roth is the first book of the Divergent Universe trilogy that tells of young Beatrice/Tris’s journey through dystopian Chicago.
I usually argue about whether or not a movie adaptation can even do a book justice. But in reality trying to argue the merits of a movie against it’s book predecessor is like trying to compare caterpillars and butterflies – it’s pointless. They are both unique and one (the book, of course) will, almost always, outshine the other. The rare exceptions now include Divergent.
Veronica Roth’s novel is about a girl’s struggle to define herself within the microcosm she was born into: a futuristic Chicago founded on an attempt to restrict human emotion and expression by dividing everyone into personality cliques. You have the smarties (Erudite), the reckless (Dauntless), the selfless (Abnegation), the hippies (Amity) and the ones-without-tact (Candor). The story feels a bit high-school and coming-of-agey (fitting for a YA novel, really), but it’s a page-turner. You have fun watching Tris grow-up, fall in love, and kick some ass. It gives this former high-school reader a sincere image of what it means to come into your own – rebellion mixed with maturity and hard decisions.
The movie, directed by Neil Burger (The Illusionist, Limitless) and adapted for the screen by Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman) and Vanessa Taylor (Alias, Game of Thrones), came out last Thursday.
Burger’s movie is a truly faithful adaptation that is just as thrilling and, somewhat obviously, serves as anticipation for it’s forthcoming sequel (all the books in the trilogy have been published and green-lit for the silver screen). These two really do compliment each other. The movie picks up the pace a little bit while the book gives you (per usual) that much more insight into the inner workings of the heroine. Actually, these two are so in-sync with one another that I still have a hard time distinguishing between the two.
There are some good performances in this movie. Most critics agree and praise the performance by Shailene Woodley (The Descendents) as the still-water-run-deep but ardent young Tris. Tris has a gravitas and a rebellious edge just below the surface, waiting to be exposed. Woodley’s performance captures this perfectly. I can’t wait for her to grow out of playing teenagers.
Alongside her is the-guy-I-could-have-done-seeing-without-his-shirt-more-often, Theo James (Underworld: The Awakening). He plays Tris’ leader and love interest, Four. The incomparable and ever poised Kate Winslet (Titanic, The Reader), in a pleasant turn of face, plays Jeanine Matthews, our villain and head of the Erudite clan. There are other small, surprise performances by Ashley Judd (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) as Tris’ mother, Zoe Kravitz (Xmen: First Class) as her best friend Christina, and Maggie Q (Nikita) as Tori Wu, sage tattoo artist/advice giver. There’s even an interesting come-back cameo by Mehi Phifer (ER, 8 Mile) as Max, for all of us that were alive and growing-up in the 90s.
Mix all that with a poppy, emotional soundtrack featuring Ellie Goulding and you have a fun cinematic experience as well as a movie adaptation that Veronica Roth should be more than proud of.
I have no real critiques. I do think that neither the book nor the movie delve deeply enough into the moral and ethical ambiguity surrounding such a societal structure, but both give the feel that you’ll learn more as the story continues.The next book, Insurgent is followed by Allegiant, the end to the trilogy. Neil Burger will not return to direct either of the last two films, but I believe Roth’s books give just enough plot and filler for any producer and director to work with. As you continue to read the series, or if you already have, I don’t think you’ll have to worry about too many bits flying off the chopping block. If the movie Divergent is any indication, all your favorite parts of Roth’s stories will remain intact.
Definitely give both of these a try. Even if you’re dragged to the theater by the aforementioned adolescent, I promise you’ll find it enjoyable.