Friday, April 11, 2014


After a terrible war, the dystopic society of what we know today as Chicago is supposedly the last hub of civilisation, and is divided into five factions - each faction dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue they consider the one that could have prevented the war, and which will prevent future conflict.  Each faction values the opposite trait of that which they blame for causing the war in the first place: 1) Abnegation, the selfless who blame selfishness; 2) Candor, the honest who blame deceit; 3) Amity, the peaceful who blame conflict and fighting; 4) Erudite, the intelligent who blame ignorance; and 5) Dauntless, the brave who blame cowardice.

Every year the sixteen year-olds in this society must take an aptitude test determining which faction they are best suited for.  Then they must make the most important decision of their lives: will they remain with their families in the faction they were born into, or will they forsake their families and transfer to another faction?

The choosing ceremony

Divergent, based on the book of the same name by Veronica Roth, follows Beatrice Prior, an Abnegation born who never felt like she belonged.  Despite trying her hardest, being an Abnegation does not come easy.  Beatrice possesses traits completely unacceptable to the way of life of Abnegation, such as curiosity and sarcasm.  Beatrice is also very intrigued by the Dauntless faction and can't help but smile when she sees the fearless climbing poles and jumping out of trains. 

Instead of helping her to make the right choice, Beatrice's aptitude test leaves her even more confused when her results are inconclusive.  Beatrice's evaluator informs her that she is what is called a divergent, a person equally suited for more than one faction.  She deletes the computer records and leaves Beatrice with a warning to never share this information with anyone,  not even her family.  Beatrice struggles with her choice, feeling drawn to Dauntless, but knowing that abandoning her family would hurt her parents terribly.  She expects the decision is much easier for her brother, Caleb, who is a natural Abnegation; selfless to a fault.  The choosing ceremony brings the surprise of a lifetime when Caleb unexpectedly switches to Erudite.  Beatrice knows she now has no choice.  She has the perfect opportunity to prove herself a natural Abnegation – the most selfless choice of all stands before her.  Beatrice cannot let her parents lose both their children in one day; she will choose Abnegation.  However, after Beatrice has drawn blood from her hand and her palm hovers over the grey stones of Abnegation, at the last second her hand moves to the left and her blood drips on hot coals, proclaiming her Dauntless.  My favourite quote from the book was omitted from the movie:

A new life deserves a new name, and Beatrice renames herself Tris.  Once inside the compound the new initiates learn a terrifying truth: Only the top ten initiates will ultimately become Dauntless, the ten with the lowest rankings will be rejected and become factionless, rejected from society and forced to live on the street.  Tris is by far the smallest initiate, physically her chances don’t look good.  She will need to work hard and rely on all of her skills to secure a place in Dauntless. 

The initiates are welcomed into Dauntless

Being Abnegation born, members and initiates of other factions are hostile towards Tris, especially the Dauntless born.  While Tris does make some friends among the transfer initiates, she is not secure in these friendships as her new friends alternate between exploiting what they know to be her weakness (her physical strength), and deeply resenting her strength (her mental strength) and progress.  Tris soon finds herself in danger from friends and foes alike. 

When Tris' score improves significantly, she is attacked and must fight for her life.  Who hides behind the masks might surprise her

Tris forms an unlikely friendship with the transfer initiates’ instructor, Four, even though he seems to have just as much of a problem with her Abnegation roots as everyone else does. While they do seem to have a connection, Four’s behaviour is unpredictable.  When he and Tris are alone he is unguarded, compliments her and gives her advice; in front of the other initiates, though, Four seems to be harder on Tris than any of the others.    

Four watches Tris during fight training

Abnegation, despite being peaceful, neutral, and calm, has a fierce ongoing rivalry with the Erudite.  Abnegation is the faction in charge of the Government, and the Erudite, who seek power, believe that Abnegation are in fact selfish people who only provide for their own faction.  When Erudite starts releasing reports heavily critising Abnegation, Tris seems to be the only one to grasp the seriousness of the matter.  When Erudite leader, Jeanine Matthews, is regularly spotted at the Dauntless compound (responsible for the military defence), Tris starts suspecting that Erudite is planning to overthrow Government and destroy Abnegation;  But how can one lone, lowly initiate prove it?   And more importantly, how can she stop it; especially when Tris starts hearing snippets of conversations confirming that Erudite is flushing out and killing all divergents.  The question is why?  What danger do divergents pose to Erudite?  Or more appropriately, what power do divergents wield?

Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews; Theo James as Four/Tobias

The film version of Divergent is very true to the book.  It was skilfully done, and the casting is spot on.  Shailene Woodley is the perfect Tris Prior and Theo James does a wonderful job of bringing Tobias Eaton to life.  Their chemistry is wonderful, making Tris and Tobias’ journey all the more enjoyable to watch.  The look of the film is exactly right, pretty much what I had expected, and the Dauntless compound looks very much like it did in my head. 

Tris and Tobias' tattoos are wonderful works of art! I just wish the movie made mention of the fact that Tris' tattoo was in honour of the three members of her family that she lost when joining Dauntless.  Omitted from film, in the book Tris also gets tattoos of the symbols of Dauntless and Abnegation similar to Tobias getting all five.

As with any adaptation there are small changes, but nothing that upset me over much; expect that the character Uriah is not in the movie – he’s one of my favourites, but I think the producers wanted to avoid even the hint of a possible love triangle.  I think it’s safe to say the whole world is sick of love triangles.  There is much less violence and death in the film than there is the in book.  I was looking forward to the fight between Tris and Molly, but instead of Tris beating Molly like in the book, for some reason Molly beats Tris.  They meet again later and have a small with a small scuffle during the game of find the flag, which Tris wins.  I do appreciate that in the film Tris is the one to find the flag, where in the book Christina took it because Tris couldn’t reach it, even though Tris was responsible for their team’s win. 

Tris inside a fear simulation to test her mental strength

Another addition to the film I really enjoyed is the showdown between Tris and Jeanine Matthews in the end.  This scene is not in the book, but after seeing it on screen I wish it was.  Kate Winslet does a good job of playing the sneaky Erudite leader.

All things considered I am very happy with the film version of Divergent.  The release of the sequel, Insurgent, has been earmarked for 2015.

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1 comment:

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