Watch Divergent (2014), Story, Stars, Reviews & All You Want to Know About a Great Movie
In a world divided by factions based on virtues, Tris learns she’s Divergent and won’t fit in. When she discovers a plot to destroy Divergents, Tris and the mysterious Four must find out what makes Divergents dangerous before it’s too late.
- Neil Burger
- Evan Daugherty (screenplay by)
- Vanessa Taylor (screenplay by)
- Veronica Roth (based on the novel by)
Divergent is a 2014 American dystopian science fiction action film directed by Neil Burger, based on the 2011 novel of the same name by Veronica Roth. The film is the first installment in The Divergent Series and was produced by Lucy Fisher, Pouya Shahbazian, and Douglas Wick, with a screenplay by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor. It stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Ansel Elgort, and Maggie Q.
The story takes place in a dystopian and post-apocalyptic Chicago where people are divided into distinct factions based on human virtues. Beatrice Prior is warned that she is Divergent and thus will never fit into any one of the factions. She soon learns that a sinister plot is brewing in the seemingly perfect society.
Development of Divergent began in March 2011 when Summit Entertainment picked up the film rights to the novel with Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher’s production company Red Wagon Entertainment. Principal photography began April 16, 2013, and concluded on July 16, 2013, with reshoots taking place from January 24–26, 2014. Production mostly took place in Chicago.
Divergent was released on March 21, 2014, in the United States. The film received mixed reviews: although its action sequences and performances, notably Woodley’s, were praised, critics deemed its execution and handling of its themes to be generic and unoriginal, and compared it unfavorably to other young adult fiction adaptations. The film grossed $288 million worldwide against its budget of $85 million. It was released on DVD and Blu-ray on August 5, 2014.
A sequel, Insurgent, was released on March 20, 2015, in the United States and other countries. A third film, Allegiant, was released on March 18, 2016.
Divergent (2014) Trailer
Divergent (2014) Reviews
It’s the conundrum so many of these types of books face as they become pop-culture juggernauts and film franchises: which elements to keep to please the fervent fans and which to toss in the name of maintaining a lean, speedy narrative? The “Harry Potter” and “Hunger Games” movies—which “Divergent” resembles in myriad ways—were mostly successful in finding that balance.
Folks who’ve read the book will probably be satisfied with the results, while those unfamiliar with the source material may dismiss it as derivative and inferior. (Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before: “Divergent” takes place in a rigidly structured, dystopian future where one extraordinary girl will serve either as its destroyer or its savior.) But the performances—namely from stars Shailene Woodley and Theo James and Kate Winslet in a juicy supporting role—always make the movie watchable and often quite engaging.
In the fenced-off remnants of a post-war Chicago 100 years from now, society has been broken down into five factions—groups of people arranged by a primary, defining trait. The Amity are happy, hippie farmers who dress in shades of sorbet. The Candor run the judicial system and value truth about all else. The Erudite are the serious-minded scholars who wear conservative, dark blue.
The Abnegation are known for their selflessness and modesty. And the pierced-and-tatted Dauntless are the brave soldiers who protect the city from … who knows what? Whatever the perceived threat is, it requires them to run, scream and practice parkour wherever they go.
Woodley’s Beatrice Prior is a member of the Abnegation alongside her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort), and their parents (Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn). They dress in drab colors, eat simply and are only allowed to steal a quick glance in the mirror once every three months when it’s time for a haircut. Basically, they’re no fun, and Beatrice has a wild streak in her that she’s been forced to suppress.
When she undergoes the aptitude test required of all teens, which determines which faction is the best reflection of one’s true nature, her results are inconclusive. She’s got pieces of a few different places in her, which makes her what’s known as Divergent, which makes her dangerous. Thinking for yourself is a naughty thing in this world, apparently; plus, the angsty inner conflict that rages within Beatrice is something to which the target audience for the book (and the movie) surely can relate.
Renaming herself Tris, our heroine must learn how to fight, shoot, jump from moving trains, throw knives and control her mind in a series of harrowing simulations, all while competing against a couple dozen other initiates in a demanding ranking system. Eric (a coolly intimidating Jai Courtney) is the merciless Dauntless leader who’s taking the faction—which was founded on the notion of noble courage—in a more militant and vicious direction.
But the hunky trainer who goes by the name Four (James) is the one who will have a greater impact on the woman Tris will become. Quietly and generically brooding at first, James reveals more depth and shading to his conflicted character as the story’s stakes increase. He and Woodley have an easy chemistry with each other, but the romance that took its time and smoldered on the page feels a bit rushed on the screen.
Similarly, the supporting figures who had identifiable personalities in the book mostly blend into the background here, including Tris’ best friend, Christina (Zoe Kravitz). But it is extremely amusing to see Miles Teller, who played Woodley’s first love last year in the wonderful “The Spectacular Now,” serve as her enemy here as the conniving fellow initiate Peter.
The smart-alecky Teller is also the only actor here who gets to have much fun. With the exception of a few major set pieces—the zip-line ride from the top of the John Hancock Center, for example—”Divergent” is a rather dark and heavy endeavor.
Woodley, though, by virtue of the sheer likability of her presence, keeps you hanging on, keeps you rooting for her. She may not have the blazing, rock-star power of Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss in “The Hunger Games,” but there’s a subtlety and a naturalism to her performance that make her very accessible and appealing. And when she needs to crank it up and kick some butt—as she does in a climactic scene with Winslet as the evil Erudite leader who’s hell-bent on eradicating Divergents and maintaining control—she doesn’t oversell it.
Plus, there could be worse role models for the eager adolescent audience than a young woman who’s thoughtful, giving and strong—all at once. The inevitable sequel will show us what else she’s got in her.
Divergent is the “next big thing,” or at least so hopes Summit Entertainment. The latest in a growing stream of high-profile YA (Young Adult) sci-fi/fantasy series to make it to the big screen, Divergent is poised to take its place alongside The Hunger Games as “event” movies for the newest powerhouse demographic: girls and young women between the ages of 12 and 25.
Although not quite as well-focused as The Hunger Games, Divergent employs many of the same elements: a futuristic post-war setting, a strong heroine, a romance, and a struggle against the oppression inherent in the status quo. Summit Entertainment is so confident of the movie’s success that the studio has already commissioned motion picture versions of the two other novels in Veronica Roth’s series.
The screen story sticks close to the novel’s text – a trend that has become mandatory for YA adaptations with filmmakers leery of omitting fan favorite scenes. The setting is the near future in a Chicago that has been largely depopulated as a result of some kind of global catastrophe.
The war has left the skyline largely intact but the tallest building show massive damage. A huge wall has been erected around the city, ostensibly to keep out whatever may live over the horizon but perhaps also to keep the population in. Humans have been divided into five factions based on innate abilities: Erudite, Dauntless, Abnegation, Amity, and Candor.
Then there are the “divergents,” those who show an affinity for more than one faction and are hunted because they don’t “fit.” Theoretically, the factions are intended to work together but unrest is brewing. Erudite believes its members should be in charge and are planning a coup to oust Abnegation from the top position.
Divergent’s protagonist is Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley), the daughter of two prominent Abnegation leaders: Natalie (Ashley Judd) and Andrew (Tony Goldwyn). We meet her at the time of her testing, when her aptitude for the factions will be assessed. She is revealed to be Divergent with an affinity for Erudite, Dauntless, and Abnegation.
She chooses Dauntless and is immediately whisked away to undergo the grueling training necessary to join her new faction. Along the way, she makes friends like Four (Theo James) and Christina (Zoe Kravitz) and enemies like Peter (Miles Teller) and Eric (Jai Courtney). She falls in love with Four while coming under the scrutiny of Erudite leader Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet). And, while trying to hide the truth about her aptitude, she becomes embroiled in the growing Erudite-led revolution.
Divergent is less action-oriented than The Hunger Games but no less compelling. The setting strains credulity at times, although it may be that that the limitations of the movie result in plot holes that are plugged in the novel. (For example, how could a massive undertaking like the wall have been constructed by the relatively small group of humans who appear to live in Chicago?) Divergent also suffers from a weak final half-hour where the need to jump-start the story that will span future installments results in a tone shift and sense of undue haste.
It’s a little like Ender’s Game, where the training sequences are more engaging than what happens afterward.
The cast is comprised primarily of “under the radar” performers, all of whom give convincing portrayals. The bigger name, high-profile actors like Kate Winslet and Ashley Judd, are left to fill supporting roles. Shailene Woodley, primarily known as the lead from the long-running TV series, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, gives viewers a relatable Tris who’s easy to root for. Divergent will amplify Woodley’s name recognition, as will her appearance in the upcoming The Fault in Our Stars.
Her romantic co-star from The Spectacular Now, Miles Teller (slated to be Mr. Fantastic in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot), plays one of her rivals and their antagonistic chemistry is as strong here as their sexual frisson was in last year’s film. Tris’ love interest, the introverted Four, is played by Theo James, who is excellent at playing the strong, silent type (or, as it used to be known, “tall, dark, and handsome”). Jai Courtney, about to embark into Terminator land, is deliciously nasty.
The things that work in Divergent outweigh its missteps, and it’s hard to say the degree to which the flaws are artifacts of the book-to-screen translation. It’s a lot more difficult to provide the desirable exposition in a screenplay than in a novel and one of the most obvious oversights relates to background and other information about the society.
An opening voiceover gives us the basics but a better understanding of the political structure might make the events during the third act seem less sudden and better integrated into the story as a whole. The Hunger Games did a better job of this. It’s a matter of flow.
The futuristic world is impressively realized with CGI turning Chicago’s skyline into a twisted parody of what it looks like today.
All the familiar buildings are there but many are broken and damaged. In a way, these images are almost too powerful because they encourage us to want to learn more about the conflict that caused the damage, and Divergent has almost nothing to say about that. From a storytelling perspective, the importance of the war is that it decimated the human population, isolated Chicago, and caused a restructuring of society. Anything else is irrelevant, at least in the movie.
As an entry point into a new world, Divergent provides a worthwhile portal. This is the kind of reality and society that, upon closer examination, could become compulsively watchable. It’s not there yet, although the lengthy middle segment, when Tris trains to become Dauntless while hiding her Divergent nature, is absorbing cinema.
Divergent tells a complete story but it’s evident it is intended as part of a greater whole so, to an extent, the film’s complete success can’t be evaluated until the entire trilogy is available. However, at this point, it’s worthy of a recommendation for anyone with a penchant for the genre.
- A movie review by James Berardinelli
Divergent (2014) Credits
Shailene Woodley as Beatrice Prior / Tris
Theo James as Tobias “Four” Eaton
Kate Winslet as Jeanine Matthews
Miles Teller as Peter
Jai Courtney as Eric
Zoë Kravitz as Christina
Ansel Elgort as Caleb Prior
Ray Stevenson as Marcus Eaton
Maggie Q as Tori
- Neil Burger
- Evan Daugherty
- Vanessa Taylor
Divergent (2014) Plot
In a future dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave), and Erudite (the intellectual). The remaining population, the Factionless, have no status or privilege. Upon turning 16, children undergo a serum-induced psychological aptitude test which indicates their best-suited faction, but can choose any faction as their permanent group at the subsequent Choosing Ceremony.
Beatrice Prior was born into Abnegation, which runs the government. Her father Andrew serves on the ruling council along with Abnegation’s leader Marcus Eaton.
After her test results show equal attributes of multiple factions (Abnegation, Erudite, and Dauntless), marking her as Divergent, her proctor Tori Wu, a Dauntless woman, records her results as Abnegation, warns her to conceal her true results, and says that because Divergents can think independently and sense any serums injected into them, the government feels they threaten the existing social order.
The next day, at the Choosing Ceremony, Beatrice’s brother Caleb chooses Erudite, while, after some hesitation, she chooses Dauntless. Afterwards, she meets Christina, Al, and Will, three other faction transfers to Dauntless. Christina and Al are from Candor, and Will is from Erudite.
Eric Coulter, a brutal Dauntless leader, reminds the initiates that anyone not meeting the faction’s high expectations of commitment and fearlessness will become Factionless. Beatrice volunteers to jump from a tall building into a dark hole and lands into a net. When Four, a transfer initiates’ instructor, asks her name, she shortens it to “Tris”, shedding her earlier identity.
Tris initially struggles in Dauntless training and ranks far below the cutoff after the first evaluation, but with Four’s help, she slowly improves. Eric matches her against her nemesis, Candor transfer Peter Hayes, in a fight, who soundly defeats her. Unwilling to miss the most important test, Capture The Flag, she leaves the infirmary, joins the other initiates, secures her team’s victory, and makes the final cut. In the next phase of training, the initiates face their worst fears in psychological simulations.
Tris’s divergence allows her to creatively solve the tests, but Four warns her to hide her abilities and to solve them as a normal Dauntless would, as Divergents can also manipulate tests and serums. Tris visits Caleb, who tells her that Erudite plans to overthrow Abnegation. When she returns, Al, Peter, and their fellow Candor transfer Drew attack her before Four rescues her. The next day, Al begs Tris to forgive him but she refuses and calls him a coward. He later kills himself by jumping into “The Chasm,” rather than live with the shame.
To prepare her for the final test, Four takes Tris into his own fear simulations, where she learns he is Tobias Eaton, and his father Marcus used to beat him as a child. Tris then passes her test and officially joins Dauntless. The other Dauntless are injected with a serum from Erudite, supposedly for tracking but actually for mind control. The next morning, the Dauntless prepare to execute Abnegation under Erudite’s orders.
As the new serum fails on Divergents, Tris must blend in to avoid suspicion. She finds Four, who identifies as Divergent. When the Dauntless move to raid Abnegation, the pair separate from the group and attempt to locate her parents, but Eric, realizing Four is not under control, captures both of them, taking Four into custody and ordering Tris’s execution. Her mother Natalie appears and saves her but is shot and killed as they attempt escape.
Tris finds her father hiding with Caleb, Marcus, and several Abnegation members. The group sneaks into Dauntless headquarters, where Tris encounters Peter and forces him to lead them to Erudite’s control center. Her father sacrifices himself in a shootout, and Tris goes in alone to find Four, now under stronger mind control designed for Divergents.
Knowing his fears, she manages to wake him from the mind control, and both enter the central control room, where Erudite’s leader Jeanine Matthews nearly has Dauntless execute the entire Abnegation faction. Tris uses a sample of the mind control serum on her to force her to cancel the program. The group escapes the compound and boards a train out of the complex.
Divergent (2014) Box office
Divergent grosses $150.9 million in North America, and $137.9 million in other countries, for a worldwide total of $288.9 million. Calculating in all expenses, Deadline Hollywood estimated that the film made a profit of $71.87 million, when factoring together all revenues and expenses.
On its opening weekend, the film attained the No. 1 spot in domestic and worldwide box office rankings by Rentrak. The film grossed $4.9 million in late night screenings, on Thursday March 20, 2014. On its opening day, the film grossed $22.8 million in the United States (including the Thursday night gross). Divergent accumulated $54,607,747 from 3,936 theaters at an average of $13,873 per theater, on its opening weekend in the United States and Canada and grossed $1.7 million internationally from four territories, with a worldwide total of $56,307,747.
Divergent (2014) Critical Response
Divergent received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 41% based on 236 reviews, with an average rating of 5.40/10. The site’s critical consensus reads, “With an adherence to YA formula that undercuts its individualistic message, Divergent opens its planned trilogy in disappointingly predictable fashion.”
Metacritic gives the film a score of 48 out of 100, based on 38 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews”.Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore were more receptive to the film, giving it a CinemaScore grade of “A”. The survey group was 69% female, and half was over 25.
The main criticisms of the film were its generic execution and predictable plot. Bruce Diones of The New Yorker called it, “barely diverting”, and Jordan Adler of We Got This Covered said it was a “plodding and generic dystopian drama”. Several critics have compared the film unfavorably with other young adult fiction adaptations such as Harry Potter and, predominantly, The Hunger Games.
Andrew Barker of Variety said, “Unlike the Harry Potter series’ tangible, fully dimensional Hogwarts or The Hunger Games‘ colorfully variegated districts, Divergent‘s vision of new Chicago doesn’t have much to distinguish it from a standard-issue post-apocalyptic pic.” Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote that, “At least The Hunger Games spawned two terrific movies and a breakthrough star in Jennifer Lawrence. Onscreen, Divergent ignites only indifference.”
Peter Debruge of Variety considered it a much better adaptation writing that, “[although] it shares a fair amount of DNA in common with The Hunger Games, it ranks as far superior”. According to Todd Gilchrist of The Playlist, “Woodley makes for more than uncertain enough of a hero to add detail and meaning to the implosion of this world”, adding that “there’s little artifice to her performance, and the mundane honesty of her reactions create a believability that the world would otherwise lack.”
About James’s performance, Gilchrist adds that he “manages the considerable accomplishment of seeming like a real grown-up man” and that he “makes the character’s transformation from hardass to collaborator seem natural, if inevitable”. Drew McWeeny at HitFix said, “it helps that [they] got Woodley and James in the leads. [Woodley’s] like a walking empathy battery, wide-open emotionally, easy to read and enormously appealing”, also adding that James is “incredibly natural onscreen”.
Andrew Osmond of SFX magazine was more receptive to the film, calling it “an often entertaining, and sometimes very interesting, piece of teen SF”. Orlando Weekly‘s Sam Allard gave the film a 3/5 rating, praising Shailene Woodley’s performance by saying she “rescues and then raises up a film that could have been an utter disaster”.
Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com agreed with this sentiment, writing, “the performances—namely from stars Shailene Woodley and Theo James and Kate Winslet in a juicy supporting role—always make the movie watchable and often quite engaging”.
Michael O’Sullivan of The Washington Post felt that the film surpassed its source material, feeling that “it’s rare that a movie is as good as the book on which it’s based. It’s even more unusual when it’s better.” Leigh Paatsch of the Herald Sun dubbed the film a “solid first-up effort for the Divergent franchise”, and Margaret Pomeranz of At the Movies gave praise to director Neil Burger, stating that he “handles the action with aplomb”.
The Playlist’s Todd Gilchrist gave it a mixed review saying that it has “great ideas … and some terrific character work, but it’s given such uneven attention, alternately languished upon and glossed over”. IGN’s Matt Patches gave it 5.8 out of 10, citing its similarities to other young adult films and contrived Dauntless plot line. He praised lead actors Theo James and Shailene Woodley’s performances, judging that they “add personality and physicality to the limp script they’re acting out”.
Scott Mendelson of Forbes magazine echoed these sentiments, arguing that despite Woodley’s excellent performance, “the generic story reduced a large portion of the mythology to irrelevancy”. Mendelson believed that the film would please the novel’s fanbase.
Divergent (2014) Accolades
|MTV Movie Awards||Favorite Character||Beatrice “Tris” Prior||Won|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie: Action||Divergent||Won|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Actor: Action||Theo James||Won|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie Actress: Action||Shailene Woodley||Won|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie: Villain||Kate Winslet||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||Choice Movie: Breakout Star||Theo James||Nominated|
|Visual Effects Society Awards||Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Photoreal/Live Action Feature Motion Picture||Jim Berney, Greg Baxter, Matt Dessero||Nominated|
|Young Hollywood Awards||Fan Favorite Actor – Male||Theo James||Nominated|
|Young Hollywood Awards||Fan Favorite Actor – Female||Shailene Woodley||Nominated|
|Young Hollywood Awards||Best On-Screen Couple||Shailene Woodley and Theo James||Nominated|
|Young Hollywood Awards||Best Cast Chemistry – Film||Divergent||Nominated|
|Young Hollywood Awards||Favorite Flick||Divergent||Nominated|
|Broadcast Film Critics Association Award||Best Actress in an Action Movie||Shailene Woodley||Nominated|
|People’s Choice Awards||Favorite Action Movie||Divergent||Won|
|People’s Choice Awards||Favorite Action Movie Actress||Shailene Woodley||Nominated|
|People’s Choice Awards||Favorite Movie Duo||Shailene Woodley and Theo James||Won|
Divergent (2014) Movie Info
Rating:PG-13 (Some Sensuality|Intense Violence and Action|Thematic Elements)
Genre:Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure
Producer:Douglas Wick, Lucy Fisher, Pouya Shahbazian
Writer:Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor
Release Date (Theaters):Wide
Release Date (Streaming):
Box Office (Gross USA):$150.8M
Distributor:Lionsgate Films, Summit Entertainment
Sound Mix:Datasat, Dolby Digital
View the collection:Divergent
Watch Divergent (2014)
Divergent (2014) Pictures