What We’re Watching: Divergent

Promotional Poster for Divergent. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.
Promotional Poster for Divergent. Photo used under the Creative Commons License.
Hatchet reporter Tim Palmieri shares his latest cinematic experience. 

Divergent” 2014

★★★✰✰

If “Divergent” reminds you of “The Hunger Games” its not an accident.

The latest YA novel to hit the big screen, “Divergent” hopes to capture the success of Twilight and the Hunger Games. In a dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions distinguished by their unique characteristics and roles. Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) must choose her faction based on an aptitude test, but when her results are inconclusive, Beatrice soon realizes she is a threat to the structure of their world.

With so many dystopian novels transitioning to the big screen, it’s inevitable that audiences are drawing comparisons with the genre’s most popular story, “The Hunger Games.” Here are the standout comparisons:

Heroine Development

Character development drives these two stories. Beatrice Prior and Katniss Everdeen are both strong females willing to stand up for what they believe is right even if it means opposing their superiors. They both represent an independent, strong female heroine that is sorely lack in many films. While running around in the woods and shooting things come natural to Katniss, Divergent’s Beatrice has to learn to become a warrior and much of the film is dedicated to her development in her new fraction, Dauntless. The spotlight on Beatrice Prior ends up being one of the films highlights due to Woodley’s excellent performance.

Love Interest

The large number of hormone high teenagers hitting the cineplex to see their favorite lovers portrayed on screen means that chemistry and hunk-factor are important to The Hunger Games and Divergent’s success.  Compared to standard young-adult fiction, Divergent’s central romance is refreshingly different. While Katniss finds herself insnared in the typical, almost expected, love triangle, the connection between Beatrice and Four is more developed and becomes increasingly significant to the plot and central themes of the story.

Book to Film Continuity

“Divergent” remains faithful to Veronica Roth’s  novel, but major plot points failure to deliver on the emotional impact of the books. The Choosing Ceremony scene is not as powerful due to little prior development for the audience to understand the relationship between Beatrice and her family in the Abnegation faction. With such a successful book series to guide it, Hunger Game also tries to stick to  original content. But inevitably, the biggest hurdle for both book to screen adaptations is always character development. Like “Divergent”, “Hunger Games” often glossed over the more complex aspects of characters.

Despite these similarities, “Divergent” and “The Hunger Games” are two very different stories, but if “Catching Fire” is any indication, there is hope for improvements in Beatrice’s next chapter, “Insurgent.” The exclusion of characters, scenes, and traits makes “Divergent” lose the minute dynamics and flare that made the novel so special, ultimately leaving audiences with a barebones experience amidst traditional plot elements and twists.

Director: Neil Burger

Genre: Dystopian, Sci-fi, Action

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet

Release: March 21

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