Book-to-Movie Adaptations are Getting Better:
Divergent Lives up to the Book
Divergent (2014): Directed by Neil Burger
Commentary Piece by Casey Cook
ATTENTION: SPOILER ALERT!
Divergent (2014) has got to be one of the best book-to-movie adaptations ever created. Director Neil Burger managed to capture the entirety of the book. He left out only minor details and kept all the original parts of Veronica Roth’s story with nearly unnoticeable changes.
I am the kind of person that has to read the book before going to see the movie. So I was completely ready to judge and criticize the movie harshly. Just like after watching Hunger Games (2012), I loved the books and hunted for every mistake in the movie.
Don’t get me wrong, Hunger Games was a great movie, but it could have been better. There were changes about it that disappointed me and certain parts I waited for never came.
A couple other adaptations that could have been better include The Golden Compass (2007) and Eragon (2006), both of which fans have been disappointed by their movie outcomes. For these enthusiasts, it might be beneficial to stick to the books.
The problem with judging Divergent was that the movie was great. Period. So far it received a 7.6/10 star rating on IMBD and as more people watch it, that number will increase. The movie is so close to the book that it’s hard not to fall in love with both the book and the movie.
First was the cutting of seemingly unimportant characters like initiate Edward and Dauntless-born Uriah. Neither of those characters were important to the plot, but they did contribute to Tris’s personality growth. Edward’s role as best in the group warned Tris to watch herself when Peter mutilated Edward in his sleep. Uriah was Tris’s in with the Dauntless-born tribe and was her biggest motivator when her friends became cold toward her success. They both played small parts in the book (and even smaller parts in the movie), so I can understand why they were taken out.
Then there is the ending, which was the biggest change in the movie and was geared more toward Jeanine’s villain-ism. The book did not have Jeanine in the computer room, but instead it was Tobias manning the computers and inputting the commands by himself. To me, it was not completely clear that Jeanine was orchestrating everything while reading the book (it was more of a joint effort of Jeanine and Dauntless leader, Eric). Having Jeanine in the computer room gave that typical good vs. bad final fight. There’s that heightened thrill and suspense of whether or not the good guy will beat the bad guy. Will Tris win? Will Jeanine fall? Etcetera, etc.
I have yet to read the rest of the trilogy, so I don’t know what Jeanine’s importance to the ultimate ending will be (once the trilogy is over). I think this was an acceptable change since it did not change Tris’s fight with Tobias and it gave that added pleasure of good prevailing over bad when they thwart Jeanine’s evil plan.
Divergent fans will definitely be pleased with this adaptation, and whether you loved the book or not, you will surely enjoy the movie. The acting is splendid and well done, and the visuals are amazing.
Shailene Woodley (Tris) did a fantastic acting job and with her acting experience in The Secret life of the American Teenager (2008-2013) she was the perfect person for Tris—both beautiful and talented.
And if you want to talk about beautiful, there’s Theo James (Four). Four was mostly serious, but showed subtle emotions toward Tris to keep up his macho appearance in front of everyone else. James portrayed Four wonderfully.
Then there’s Miles Teller (Peter) who executes the part of the bad guy flawlessly. Teller is someone who is easily recognizable which made his role as Peter perfect since Peter was not in the movie as much as he was in the book.
Put all these great characters in the perfect space and world and you get one heck of a movie. The visuals were stunning, from the city and the broken-down buildings to the angry crows. When the CGI and special effects were put together, it made the post-war Chicago world, more believable and real.
Along with great looks comes great music; Ellie Goulding is featured with three of her songs throughout Divergent. The uniqueness of her voice fits perfectly by showing that aspect of individuality in herself and in the characters.
Lately, movies have been adapted to mimic their book counterpart. The better adaptations include Ender’s Game (2013) and Catching Fire (2013), which are both extremely well done and close to the book (Ender’s Game did a great job showing Ender’s side of the story, and even though they left out Valentine and Peter’s story, the movie did a fantastic job keeping to the plot within book).
The hardest part about adapting a book into a movie is to figure out which aspects can stay and which aspects need to be changed or removed. If every movie was perfectly adapted to their book, we could easily be sitting in a theatre for days.
Stories are worth telling, and in books, story-tellers can express their tales in any length of time and in any way (as long as it keeps the reader interested). Movies have bigger restrictions and with thousands of authors’/fans’ imaginations to compete with, they have a lot of expectations to live up to. So far, Neil Burger has lived up to those expectations. Let’s all just hope Burger will make Insurgent just as good as Divergent was.
What do you think? Did Divergent live up to your expectations? Let us know and write a comment!
Neil Burger studied fine arts at Yale University before transitioning from painting to experimental film in the late ’80s. He is a filmmaker whose has an unyielding obsession with the concept of truth versus illusion. He’s known for The Illusionist (2006), Limitless (2011) and Divergent (2014).