It's strange to think that just over a year ago, I was skimming through Divergent, wondering if it would become the next big dystopian trilogy of our time and if my boyfriend or I would somehow end up in the movie version, set and filmed in Chicago. Jesus would later be cast as an extra, setting up a summer full of early morning calls and late night wraps. Last night, we saw the final product along with a theater full of the other extras.
I'm sure our theater companions will affect my review. Much like a funny movie is made funnier when you watch with a group of friends, watching a movie while the people around you cheer for things like the opening credits, the first wide shot of your city (overgrown with marshy plant life), the first time a group of people appears on screen, or cheeky one-liners just makes it seem all the more monumental. Spotting your boyfriend in several scenes (even if you only recognize him because of his mustache) probably helps up the enjoyment factor as well.
The thing is, I think I would have liked this movie no matter where or with whom I watched it. That's saying a lot for a series I haven't been generous towards, but I genuinely enjoyed Divergent. I laughed, I cried, I held my breath, and I got angry. The soundtrack amped up the drama while the visuals showed me what Chicago could look like in a distant future. I'll be honest, I was doubtful that Shailene Woodley could pull off a dauntless Tris, but she proved to be even better than the original book's weak and whiny portrayal of a "tough" girl--the Tris I grew to hate while reading the series, I clapped and cheered out loud for in the theater. I'm gonna go ahead and jump on her bandwagon now.
Besides Woodley, Divergent features plenty of solid actors. Her co-star and romantic interest, Theo James (as Four), was manly without being overbearing. Their chemistry was apparent from their very first meeting. What felt like unnatural attraction and awkward PDA in the book translated to a simmering tension and meaningful hand grazes in the movie. This story has so much emotion at its core, and thanks to the actors, I finally experienced that on the big screen.
My biggest issue with the book was how whiny the main characters were, and how I could never tell anyone apart because they all sounded the same when they talked: boring, flat, full of crappy jokes. The screenwriters and actors of Divergent did what Veronica Roth couldn't/didn't do. They brought her story to life with honest (and entertaining) dialogue, distinct personalities, and a badass attitude well-suited to their post-war faction-survival lives. I didn't care so much that the story was at times implausible, the characters carried this film for me.