Emily Manchester, Contributing Writer
An evolving trend among young adult literary fiction is the emergence of coming-of-age heroines who rebel against dystopian societies. First, there was Katniss in “The Hunger Games,” then Cassia in “Matched” and now Tris in “Divergent.”
The success of “The Hunger Games” has opened the door for more of these books to be adapted for the big screen.
“Divergent,” sadly, was not up to the task. Fans of the book were surely disappointed by the confusing sequence of events in the movie that strayed far from the pages of the novel. Non-readers were left with more questions than answers though, as the movie failed to clarify important information.
“Divergent” was unable to find the necessary balance that shows a strong resemblance to the book yet still provides a speedy narrative that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats. Not only did the movie lack the coherent flow of the book, but it dragged on, leaving audience members in the back of their seats checking their watches.
Shailene Woodley gives a mediocre performance. To be fair, the second-rate script leaves her with little opportunity to capture much of Tris’ spunk. Woodley, an otherwise talented actress, does a nice job of expressing convincing emotion and making herself accessible to viewers.
Theo James, who stars alongside Woodley, plays Four, Tris’ mentor and later boyfriend. James’ talent is apparent in his performance and the onscreen chemistry with Woodley shines through.
The hidden gems of the movie, however, are Ashley Judd, who plays Tris’ mother, Natalie, and Kate Winslet, who plays Jeanine Matthews, the sinister leader of the story’s futuristic setting, Erudite. Judd portrays a strong character, not only reminiscent of the literary Natalie, but as an actress perfect for the onscreen role.
Winslet delivers a chilling performance, capturing the quiet, calculated evil of Jeanine Matthews. Despite the addition of scenes not from the book, Winslet manages to maintain her character’s seemingly amiable, yet disquieting demeanor. These added scenes play up Jeanine’s role as a villain so much that it often diminishes Peter’s evil role in the story.
Miles Teller, who portrays this character, Tris’ tormentor during initiation, is anything but evil. At best, Teller’s Peter is merely rude, very unlike his character in the book, who goes as far as stabbing an initiate in the eye during training.
Downplaying Peter and other characters such as Will, Al and Molly takes away from the story. Viewers who didn’t read the book were left confounded by the string of unexplained onscreen characters whose roles seemed almost out of place.
Slow-going and confusing, “Divergent” lacked serious tension until the last twenty minutes of the film. It didn’t leave audience members wanting more and surely failed to entice viewers to return for the second installment of the series.