"Divergent" is a movie that some have, fairly enough, called a "poor man's 'Hunger Games'" I wanted to get this out of the way first because thematically, the source material is similar, but the movies differ in so many ways.
As a quickie review for those who don't want spoilers, I have to say that the book presents the content much better than the movie, and that it really isn't all that fun of a ride. I would say that if there's really nothing better at the theatres, just rent a movie or watch something on netflix.
So, let's get into what I thought about the movie in depth, spoilers included.
ACTORS: Right, so this is the easiest category to address. When it comes to casting an actor, generally, doing a good job means casting someone who has something to offer the character. Whether it's the ability to make the experience more real, or give us a reason to care about the character, or give the character a kind of motivation in the story, any movie without a strong cast fails halfway at its job. One of the big problems with this movie's casting choice wasn't the the actors were bad; it's just that they had nothing to offer. They didn't give us any reason to care about them, and didn't make the experience more real.
PLOT AND ADAPTATION: As far as adaptations go, I've seen much better and much worse. We can look at this in one of two ways now. Was the adaptation true to the source? Yes. In terms of narrative and plot, it was faithful to it in a very broad way. There were some changes that it made sense to make in the interest of time and storytelling for the specific medium, but overall, it wasn't bad. The other question is, does the adaptation remain loyal to the intent of the source material? This is where the movie fails, and it's not just an arbitrary failing either. The movie seems to be motivated by the character relationships, and I totally understand that they wanted to make this more accessible, and so focus on the less heavy topic of the character relationships. However, the books were almost more entirely a portrait of the world from the perspective of someone who is entering it in a completely different capacity than she has ever seen before. And the world's political and social landscape is changing. That, in my opinion, should have been defined and explored more closely.
But I'll grant them wanting to make it more accessible. The follow up question is, did they even do a good job at that? To which I say, no. They did not. Specifically in the relationships between the initiates, and more specifically in the relationship between Tobias and Tris, the movie failed to really build up any of it. We don't really see Tobias and Tris falling in love. We see them giving each other quick glances and kind of crushing on each other, but there were some pivotal moments that were missed out on. This wasn't the only failing; there was that whole question of Will and Christina's relationship just suddenly happening, and the relationship between Eric and Tobias not being clear. All in all, I wasn't that excited about the direction they took in adapting the plot.
SCENERY AND MUSIC: The scenery was different from what I imagined it would be, and while this wasn't necessarily a bad thing, it was certainly underwhelming. I would definitely have liked to see more. The musical score for the most part was decent, but there where times where I felt the mood wasn't exactly matching what was going on in the scene, so there were places where I was gritting my teeth.
Overall, would I say it was a terrible film? No. I'd say that it wasa film that had the promise of being excellent, but ended up disappointing the audience. Had they focussed on different themes and elements, I might have highly recommended it. To be fair, the idea of adapting this book series is a good one, at least from a marketing standpoint. But it just wasn't done as well as it could have been.