"At the end of the day, I still really enjoyed the movie, both before and after reading the book. I would definitely recommend it!"
This review is going to follow a slightly different format because I watched the movie and then read the book. That being said, I'm going to state my thoughts on the movie when I originally watched it. Then I'll discuss my thoughts on the movie after reading the book and gaining more insight. I may watch the movie again, and I may post about my thoughts then (since my thoughts about the movie after reading the book are based upon what I remember of the movie the first time around).
Before the book:
Before reading the book, the movie completely blew me away. I enjoyed it SO much, and it's what actually gave me the final push to read Divergent. I feel like a movie has done a great job when it can get people to want to read the book. Though the movie felt incredibly long, I enjoyed almost every moment of it. After the initiation, events occurred at a fairly rapid pace, and it kept me at the edge of my seat for most of the movie. There was a moment when I thought, when will this movie end??? But really, I didn't mind the length, and I think it needed to be the length that it was.
What really stuck out to me was the acting and the world-building/setting. I know many people were skeptical about both Shailene and Theo, but I hadn't known enough about the book and the characters to really care. But their performances just BLEW ME AWAY. I felt that they did an amazing job with the characters, and they definitely made me care about the characters and their struggles. It brought the movie and story to life, and there was so much power, emotion, and strength in both of their performances. The rest of the cast was also really amazing. Although I constantly mixed up Al and Will because the actors look SO alike, I think this movie was incredibly well cast. I really enjoyed the performances, and each character was unique. Other examples of performances that stuck out to me were Kate Hudson as Jeanine Matthews, Ashley Judd as Natalie Prior, Maggie Q as Tori, and Zoe Kravitz as Christina.
The setting/world-building was also really impressive. From the Chicago skyline to the sections for each faction to the aptitude test, the backdrop just looked perfect. It felt real, as if such a place existed. I felt immersed in the world, and it really enhanced the story for me.
Another aspect of this film that I really enjoyed was how engaged it made me. I was at the edge of my seat. I felt like I could understand Tris. I really felt for her struggle from the bottom to the top. I hated Peter (but he was kind of funny in a ridiculous way). I loved Four, and I really felt his pain and how torn he felt. I came to really dislike Erudite, though I understand that not all of them could possibly that bad. I really enjoyed how this movie made me think about our world, and I got pretty upset by how stupid people could be. I don't know if you'll understand what I mean, but the political undertones definitely grated at me in that I just really didn't understand Erudite, and I hated everything they were doing.
Okay, the next point is something that I didn't realize the first time I watched it, but after talking to some people about it, I definitely see the point. I think part of it also comes from my thoughts after reading the book, but it's basically about Four and Tris' relationship. When I first watched the movie, I came out of it LOVING Tris/Tobias (still do!). I thought their relationship was well-formed and presented. I liked the development of their relationship. I found it refreshing that they didn't just suddenly get together (insta-love). But after thinking about it, I'm not entirely sure. The thing is, I don't think it was TOO sudden, but I also don't know that there was the kind of development that I usually find in movies. Okay, maybe it's because I'm not used to characters getting together in the first book if it's a series. [SLIGHT SPOILERS] But when I first watched it, I loved the progression of Four being distant to him helping her out and sort of looking out for her while still trying to remain above her. He helps her out and encourages her in private, but he puts up the image of just being a harsh instructor. Then there was the ferris wheel scene and the part where he saves her from being beat up and possibly killed. There was then the tattoo scene, and then it was just like BAM. Okay, so there's a little more in between, but really, I'm not sure anymore. I think I'd have to watch it again.
*Note: So I started this review soon after watching the movie, but it is now July, and I'm trying to finish it, so I've forgotten a bunch of what I wanted to talk about. Oops!*
After the book:
(A lot of this crosses into my review of the book, which will be posted soon, but I'll try to keep this more about the movie.)
It's hard for me to write this because then this gets mixed in with how I felt about the book, as well as other aspects, such as the fact that when I read the book, I just pictured the cast (so I didn't worry about how true appearances were).
One thing I found interesting was how much more I loved Tris in the movie after reading the book. This is because there was so much from Tris' thoughts in the books that really annoyed me. On screen, Tris was awesome, and I love Shailene's portrayal of her. Maybe it's not necessarily true to the book, but I'm glad the movie made me love Tris more than the books. It reminds me of The Hunger Games but only in that I still don't really like Katniss in the movies, which still makes me feel very conflicted. But that's another story for another day.
On the other hand, book Tobias is better than movie Tobias, not that movie Tobias is bad at all. I love Theo's portrayal, but there's just something that the book gets across about Four that the movies don't do as well.
Another aspect that didn't translate very well on screen was Christina and Will's relationship. I hardly got any of that in the movie, which is really upsetting because I loved it in the book! Speaking of things I loved in the book that wasn't so great in the movie was that Uriah was missing from the movie! What a shame because I really like him in the book. (I'm just glad to hear they're bringing him in for Insurgent.)
To continue with the whole character review, I think the movie didn't really hit at Tris' fear of sexual assault and displays of affection the way the book did. I guess I can understand the sexual assault part, but I didn't feel like Tris or the rest of Abnegation really shy away from displays of affection. Peter is also less brutal in the movie than he was in the book, and Drew and Molly played bigger roles in the book.
(Well, it seems my biggest issues after reading the book is character related, so that's all I'm going to discuss for the rest of this section. Still love the action. Would've liked to see the fear sequence more like it was in the book. Otherwise, pretty spot on or at least got the same point across.)
Finally, I think that movie missed a lot of the character and situational depth in the book. My list of examples include Al, Tobias, Tris, Christina, Eric, and Tori. I don't want to spoil the book, so I won't elaborate, but there were fairly big revelations regarding the last two at the very least that I think would've slightly changed the way they're viewed or perhaps even important to the plot (I've only read Divergent so far, so I can't say much on this point). Lastly, I think Tris fit in too easily and was accepted a bit too easily in the movies. There was a glimpse of how difficult it was and of how badly she was treated, but I don't think it was as great as it was in the book. I think that the dynamic of being treated so horribly really shaped Tris as a character and person, so I'm a little disappointed, but it isn't huge, I suppose.
At the end of the day, I still really enjoyed the movie, both before and after reading the book. I would definitely recommend it! Don't be put off by some of the casting decisions because the cast really was superb. It definitely got me into the fandom, and it inspired me to push through the book that I had put down a while back. It helped enhance the book for me, and that's important, in my opinion.
Directed by: Neil Burger
Written by: Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor, based on Divergent by Veronica Roth
Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Ashley Judd, Zoe Kravitz, Jai Courtney, and more
Release Date: March 21st, 2014