by Becca Schumacher, sophomore writing coach
Don’t get me wrong, the books were fantastic, but I’m pretty sure the movies’ director only read the summary on the back cover and figured he got the general idea.
For those who aren’t familiar with the Divergent books, they comprise a young-adult trilogy written by Veronica Roth detailing a dystopian society in which everyone is divided into groups—called factions—based on personality. Being a fan of the book, I arrived to the theater in 2014 to see the movie adaptation, bouncing on the edge of my seat with anticipation… and left feeling deflated. My frustration was mostly due to the horrible choices made when adapting the books to script.
For one thing, the movie does not fully develop an understanding of the main character, Tris. Tris’s most defining conflict that drives the majority of her decisions is her struggle with selflessness and bravery, and what these traits truly mean for her. The fact that the film ignored them and their effect on her, instead portraying Tris as a cardboard vigilante teenager, made the adaptation an instant disappointment.
The film made the same mistake with Tobias, another central character. In the books, Tobias grows up overshadowed by his physically abusive father. One of the major conflicts in Allegiant, the final book, is his struggle to avoid becoming exactly like the father he despises. This is relevant to many teenagers today who want to develop their unique selves, but feel trapped by their perceived inability to avoid associations with their parent’s achievements, or break the cycle of their parents’ mistakes. Why the filmmakers felt the need to blow off this idea that so many young adults connect to—just to focus their attention on a cheesy plot and shallow characters—is a mystery to me.
Ultimately, the most frustrating part of the Divergent movies is the fact that the filmmakers completely changed the plot of the final two movies—and the manipulation of events was far from an improvement. Instead, the change made the plot feel more superficial, while important and original plot lines were left out. Characters that fans adored and cheered for in the books were also left out or majorly downplayed, and all in order to create a stereotypical action movie; the film was peppered with the kind of dramatic explosions and rapid gunfire that make for exciting trailers, but don’t add anything of substance to the actual story. The filmmakers had an opportunity to capture a terrific story with so much depth and relevance, but they unfortunately missed it.