Book to Movie Popgeekery

From the Page to the Screen: Hopes for the Divergent Movie

Today’s the day! Divergent officially is out in theaters this evening, and like any obsessed dystopian YA fan, I’ve got my tickets and I’m ready to go. (Anyone else planning on watching the movie tonight?!)

Divergent Divergent (Poster)

My experience with the book trilogy overall is mixed – I was a big fan of Divergent (it made my top 10 books of 2011!), not so happy with Insurgent (too much time spent on melodrama and tepid kissing, not enough time spent on the actual story), but ultimately happy with the way things ended in Allegiant (I know that’s controversial, but I loved the twists and gutsy ending).

When it comes to the film, well, I’m not exactly sure how Divergent is going to play out on screen. Some of the sneaks and previews I’ve seen look fantastic, and I’m thrilled with the casting choices. Kate Winslet is a powerful actor and I’ll watch her in anything; casting her as the Erudite power-monger Janine Matthews is brilliant. Similarly, secondary character choices of Maggie Q (YAY Maggie Q, I love you so hard!) as the Dauntless Tori, and Jai Courtney (aka Varro from Spartacus and the new Kyle Reese in the new Terminator movie) as sadistic Dauntless leader Eric, are brilliant. Also, I should mention that I’m happy to see some diversity within the main cast (Maggie Q, Mekhi Phifer, Zoe Kravitz).

DIVERGENT (Maggie Q and Shailene Woodley)

Then, there are the main characters – the duo upon whose shoulders the success of the film franchise rides. I’m also very happy with the choices here: the beautiful, charismatic Theo James as Four (he might seem a little old for Four, but I’m not really going to complain) is a great pick. Of course, the real success of the series depends on Tris – and I’m very, very happy with the empathetic acting chops of Shailene Woodley. She’s a substantive actor and has a great presence that I think will play nicely as the ruthless and calculating Beatrice Prior.

Divergent Movie

Of course… there are also the fears. Because, while I’ve been generally happy with some of the previews and sneak peeks (the extended sneak on the recent Catching Fire blu-ray release, for example), there’s also the fear of extreme cheese. The previews showing Four stripping off his shirt and throatily baring his dreams – and super secret, super fake-looking tattoos – to Tris (“I want to be brave, and selfless, and smart, and kind, and honest”) makes me nervous. The scenes showing Four apparently taking out a room of enemies with a single punch makes me nervous. Some of the training sequences and fear landscape tesitng scenes I’ve seen so far make me nervous. The fact that one of the screenwriters for that terrible Snow White and the Huntsman movie is one of the writers for this film makes me extremely nervous.

BUT… I choose to be hopeful. Because I really, really want this movie to be good.

Here are the specific things I’m hoping to see in the film adaptation of Divergent:

4. I really hope that the movie takes the time to build the world (and isn’t just a string of action sequences). I can see how Divergent could easily become a hodgepodge of pretty scenery, training sequences, and romantic interludes leading up to an incomprehensible and rushed finale. There’s a lot of action in the books, which should lend itself nicely to the screen – I just hope that isn’t all there is to the movies. I sincerely hope that the screenplay is evenhanded.


3. I want post-apocalyptic Chicago to come to life. From what I’ve seen from previews and such, this shouldn’t be a problem. I really love the rundown apocalyptic look applied to the Windy City’s iconic landmarks. (On that note, I also want the movie to capture some of the almost anarchistic joy of the books – Tris on the zipline, soaring free from the Hancock building with her fellow Dauntless. I’m excited for that scene.)

2. I want the romance to be heartfelt and believable. Is there chemistry between Shailene’s Tris and James’s Four? I hope so, otherwise the next two movies are going to get really awkward. I also hope the buildup to the romance is slow and has some authenticity – I’m uncertain on this front. (I’m not hugely confident that this is the case from the previews, but I’m trying to go into this with an open mind!)

Divergent (Tris and Four)

1. I want Tris to be convincingly brave. This is the most important thing of all, because if Tris doesn’t deliver, then the whole movie (and franchise) is shot. Like I said before, I like Shailene Woodley as an actor and I think she has a great centered presence on screen. Does that translate to a young girl taking a leap into the unknown, gradually becoming a competent fighter and soldier? We shall see. I have every hope that Shailene’s Tris will succeed.


Of course I have other hopes, too! I sincerely hope the word Divergent isn’t said every 10 seconds (as it seems to be in the trailer). OK, kidding (but not really…). I sincerely hope that the secondary characters get a good deal of screen time and some meaty scenes; I hope that Winslet’s Jeanine and Courtney’s Eric aren’t written as one-note villains; I hope that the stakes (and deaths) that we see in the book show up in the film.

But that’s enough from me! Anyone else have hopes/expectations/fears about the movie?

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  • Dana
    March 20, 2014 at 2:14 am

    There are certain books-turned-to-movies that I feel take away something of what I got from the experience of reading them in the first place, and as a general rule I do not plan on ever watching them on the screen (with the exception of the Hunger Games, because hello, Jennifer Lawrence is fabulous and they did a pretty darn good job of being true to the story.) While I liked Divergent, I was not such a fan of the series to begin with that I would make the effort to read the books a second time. Same goes for the rest of the recent YA series-turned-to-movies that have recently come out. I get anxious when it comes to a beloved book being made into a film, such as Harry Potter or Hunger Games, but lately I just really do not care either way for the recent releases. Maybe because they just look so campy in the commercials, maybe because the acting feels a little off in all the previews, or maybe because reading the book was enough of an experience that the movies just feel really superfluous. So while I wish the best for those who do decide to see it, I think I’ll be passing on this one as well.

    That being said, I’d be curious to get your take on the movie after you’ve seen it, Thea. Did it deliver? Was it everything you hoped for? Did it bomb? I hope you do update us!

  • Nathan (@reviewbarn)
    March 20, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Even I, who disliked Divergent greatly and never moved on in the series, am looking forward to this movie. The stuff I hated about the book, mostly a plot that I just couldn’t suspend belief for and some insane plot holes, are to be expected in a hollywood showing and much easier to cover up. Add in what appears to be some great casting and I think this has potential to be a rare movie that is stronger than the book.

    At least I hope so.

  • Susan Elizabeth
    March 20, 2014 at 9:20 am

    Can’t wait! I was very impressed with how The Hunger Games translated to the big screen and I hope the Divergent movie does the same justice for the books.

  • KT Grant
    March 20, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I think the movie could go either way. The recent YA book adaptations to film have done very poorly (TMI, Enders Game, Vampire Academy), plus the box office has been weak, especially during this time of year. I don’t think Divergent will be as big as The Hunger Games (I think it hurts comparing it to THG and is a bad marketing move on the studio’s part), plus the trailers are horrible and low quality. I think Divergent will do respectable at the BO, but I don’t see Divergent breaking box office numbers.

  • Victoria (aka Zemfirka)
    March 20, 2014 at 9:43 am

    I loved the first two books, was not quite certain about the 3rd (but I appreciated the gutsy ending). As for the movie, I had high hopes, but the more previews I see the more my high hopes are dissipating. 🙁 I do want to see it still, but I feel like they are going to make it into a love story more than anything and I don’t think that’s what the books were about (at least not primarily).

  • hapax
    March 20, 2014 at 10:51 am


    I hope it tanks.

    Not because of anything against the series (I thought that it was actually better than THE HUNGER GAMES — more plausible, more gutsy, and without the Love Triangle of Doom) but because I am so heartily sick sick SICK of YA dystopias that I am secretly hoping for a rash of Fluffy Rainbow Unicorn Friendships! as the next Big Thing.

  • Thea
    March 20, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    Hey everyone! Thanks for chiming in 🙂

    Dana – I wholeheartedly agree that there are books which seem completely unfit for the screen, but I have a weird obsession with watching everything….like the Beautiful Creatures adaptation or the City of Bones adaptation. I didn’t particularly like either book, nor was I very excited for either movie but I HAVE TO KNOW. Sometimes it pans out (I actually really liked the film version of Beautiful Creatures, moreso than the book), sometimes it’s just as bad as I imagined it would be (City of Bones, you were terrible). I’ll let you know how it goes, though! My review will be up at Kirkus next week 😀

    Susan Elizabeth – You and me both! I had really, really high expectations for The Hunger Games films, and I honestly feel that both films exceeded expectations (I love Catching Fire so, so hard… more than the book, if I’m being honest *ducks*). Fingers crossed that Divergent also delivers!

    KT – I have no idea or expectation about box office sales (although apparently early predictions call for $70M to open!). I agree that the Hunger Games comparison is only going to result in disappointment. I guess we’ll see the effectiveness of the hype machine soon enough!

    Victoria – I totally understand that fear. It looks like the movie marketing is *really* trying to play up the romance and that makes me very, very nervous. Hopefully the film itself is better than the trailers/sneaks have painted it? Are you watching the movie? Let me know what you think!

    hapax – You cynic, you. Fair enough! I still love the dystopia… well, when it’s written well and an actual REAL dystopia that isn’t a vehicle for crappy romances (or worse, romantic triangles).

    That said, I would watch a bunch of Fluffy Rainbow Unicorn Friendship movies. Can we make that a thing? Let’s make that a thing.

  • Jennifer @ A Librarian's Library
    March 20, 2014 at 5:14 pm

    I will probably see it this weekend, but I must admit, I am a little nervous. While the previews have been growing on me, I still do not like some of the choices. The compound doesn’t look right (but I’m hoping maybe seeing it in movie context will be better than preview context. And Shailene is not Tris for me at all (she is Hazel Grace, but she isn’t Tris), but I am hoping that she will convince me. So we shall see!

  • Linda W
    March 20, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    I’ll see it tomorrow. Already have the ticket!!!

  • Melissa
    March 24, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    I saw the movie on Friday, and overall, I really liked it. I thought that Tris was convincingly strong, but at the same time, I was a little uncomfortable with the way that the scene between Tris and Four played out during her final fear simulation / test.

  • Ally
    April 20, 2014 at 11:22 pm

    As the teenage girl that I am, it is my nature to obsess over EVERYTHING (Twilight, THG,etc) because at the end of the day our peers influence our everything, our thoughts, actions, and preferences.
    The first dystopia I read was, unsurprisingly The Hunger Games. I read it out of spite because at the time it was being compared to Twilight, and I was defensive and determined to prove to those idiots that The Hunger Games was not, and would never be the next Twilight.
    What I wasn’t prepared for was that, it wasn’t the next Twilight; it was a billion times better. Then I found myself, dare I say, critically thinking and analyzing text, and “shudders”…researching. How could something so perfect be an allusion to the boring old Roman Empire?
    After that my perspective of literature changed. I found myself reading things such as Wuthering Heights and Othella, and actually enjoying it. Not only did I find myself with an A in English, but my teacher signed me up for AP English…as a freshman.
    So, because I’m still an obsessive teenage girl, I waited in line for the premiere of Catching Fire for like…ever with all my friends. The trailer for Divergent sparked my interest, and because I’m obsessive and I neeed to read everything, I read and loved it.
    So again (with all my friends of course)I camped at the movies and I went to see Divergent.
    And… I was a little disappointed. Of course I loved Four (teenage girl remember) but the movie lacked some of the things I loved the most, like Tris’ shoulder tattoos. C’mon the tattoos were a reference her internal conflict of her choice between Abnegation and Dauntless, between the two parts of her; brave and selfless.Plus Four and her tattoos were so fake looking. Also, they changed the plot quite a bit and cut out a few key moments.
    All in all I love the Trilogy, I cried at the end of Allegiant, but i wouldn’t dare change it. In fact, if Katniss died rather than Finnick(cried too, didn’t care to much for Peeta and Gale…but Finnick was my bae) and Prim and just about…everybody else I’d like the Games a little more.
    [I know this may seem like a lot, but I’ve been reading all your reviews and these thoughts accumulated. Not to mention my new love for reading sparked a new love for writing as well.]

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