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The student news site of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology


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‘Divergent’ (2014) is a YA dystopian staple

Image courtesy of Summit Entertainment
Theo James and Shailene Woodley portray Four and Tris in Veronica Roth’s bestselling novel, “Divergent,” film adaptation.

Selling more than 35 million copies worldwide, Veronica Roth’s best-selling dystopian trilogy of “Divergent” took the world by storm. Director Neil Burger and his team faced the daunting task of condensing the richly detailed world of “Divergent” into a two-hour movie. Filled with action, romance, character development and passion, it’s clear I’m a fan. 

This film introduces us to a world where conformity is the norm, and deviation is dangerous. “Divergent” takes place in a future dystopian Chicago where society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to cultivating a specific virtue: Abnegation (selflessness), Amity (peacefulness), Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery) and Erudite (intelligence). The story follows Beatrice “Tris” Prior, a teenage girl who discovers that she is Divergent, meaning she possesses qualities of multiple factions and doesn’t fit neatly into any one category. Upon reaching adulthood, citizens are required to undergo an aptitude test to determine which faction they are best suited for. However, Tris’s results are inconclusive, indicating that she is Divergent. This revelation puts her in grave danger, as Divergents are considered threats to the societal order and are hunted down by the government.

Despite her upbringing in the selfless Abnegation faction, Tris elects to join the brave Dauntless faction during the Choosing Ceremony, rechristening herself as simply “Tris.” At the heart of “Divergent” is Tris Prior, portrayed by Shailene Woodley. Woodley’s portrayal beautifully captures Tris’s internal struggle as she navigates her identity and fights against the oppressive forces that seek to control her.

In addition to Shailene Woodley, the film boasts a talented ensemble cast, including Theo James as Four, Kate Winslet as the ruthless Jeanine Matthews and Miles Teller as the sarcastic Peter. Each actor brings their character to life with nuance and complexity, adding layers to Veronica Roth’s perfectly crafted story.

However, as much as I enjoyed “Divergent,” it’s not without its flaws. The movie relies heavily on familiar tropes of the Young Adult (YA) dystopian genre. At times, certain plot points feel predictable, and some characters can come across as one-dimensional like Peter. While we see some sort of character development towards the middle of the movie, it goes right back to the classic sarcastic character. This makes the film seem sort of uneven, with certain scenes feeling rushed while others drag on unnecessarily about different characters. 

Behind the scenes, the production faced its own set of challenges. Shailene Woodley’s casting as Tris Prior was met with some skepticism initially, but her transformative performance shut people down. Woodley did rigorous physical training to convincingly portray Tris’s journey from a timid initiate to a fearless leader.

The chemistry between Woodley and Theo James, who plays the mysterious Four, was essential to the film’s success as well. The two actors spent countless hours rehearsing their scenes together, building a relationship that transported seamlessly on-screen.

Despite the cast and crew’s dedication, “Divergent” faced its fair share of setbacks during production as well. Budget constraints forced the filmmakers to make difficult decisions about which scenes to include and which to cut, leading to some compromises in storytelling. Additionally, inclement weather and logistical challenges on set caused delays, putting pressure on the production schedule.

Ultimately, “Divergent” never fails to make me want more. Luckily, Veronica Roth knew her fans and wrote the rest of the trilogy, consisting of “Insurgent” and “Allegiant.” It is definitely a must-watch for all dystopian lovers. 

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