By Amy MacInnis
Watching Divergent play out on the big screen got me reflecting on the book again. I was reminded particularly of things I appreciate about the novel. First of all is Tris’s love for her family and their importance in shaping her identity. This came across really well on film, possibly even more than in the book. Something else that powerfully struck me on screen was the cool rationalization of Erudite leader and villainess, Jeanine, played excellently by Kate Winslet. The movie did not include the troubling line Tobias speaks to Tris that I criticized in the book review, affirming the non-abusiveness of their relationship. Finally, seeing rather than just reading about the capture-the-flag game brought home its purpose as tactical training for future soldiers.
However, many aspects of Daunless initiation were understated in the movie. The danger of initiates’ tasks and the cruelty of some of the characters were much more evident in the book. I thought about some of the things excluded from the movie—like an initiate who falls to her death jumping out of a train, and a leading initiate who gets stabbed in the eye in cold blood by a competitor—and I realized just how violent Roth’s dystopian world is and how corrupted courage can become if it is used as a means to power. Even toned down, though, the violence in the movie was unsettling and thought provoking.
A couple minor things bothered me about the movie. Tris, played well by Shailene Woodley, was meant to appear quite thin and frail in the book, but seemed strong from the beginning on film. Additionally, the actresses were obviously wearing makeup in Abnegation, which would be completely contrary to the faction’s attitudes. Overall, though, Divergent was a satisfying adaptation of the book, reminding me how much I liked it.