Divergent Red Carpet Premiere, Atlanta, GA

When I began looking into tickets to the Atlanta screening of Divergent, I never expected media access, and yet that is where I found myself on Monday night – in the packed media pit along the black carpet at Regal Atlantic Station in Midtown. Armed with the Divergent gift bag provided by Summit Entertainment to all the media (a canvas Divergent bag, t-shirt and poster), Herman and I jostled for position with the other news outlets and bloggers. The information provided told us that Shailene Woodley and Theo James would be there, but all in attendance were treated to some surprises: also walking the carpet were Alton Brown (yes, the chef!), and several cast members from The Walking Dead. After stopping for photos and interviews, Shailene and Theo stepped up on the stage for some questions and quickly had the audience in the palms of their hands.

As the celebrities made their way out of the building, all those with tickets to the screening were ushered into theaters for the main event. From the first establishing shot of a weathered, broken-down Chicago to the final scene before the closing credits, Divergent exceeded my expectations.

Yes, some scenes from the book were not included in the film. Yes, some scenes were altered. And yes, there were some added scenes. But the changes came together in a way that allowed the essence of the story to unfold on the screen with the same emotions that I’m sure gripped most of us as we read the book that first time. Over the course of over two hours, those around me cheered, squealed, laughed, and cringed.

But what surprised me most about Divergent was the acting. I’m a big fan of both Shailene Woodley and Theo James, but I initially had trouble seeing them as Tris and Four. After seeing the film, let me assure you – they have those characters down! Both actors have the ability to get emotion across to the audience using only their body language, which is important when portraying these two characters. They seem to embody the characters they're playing to a degree that many young actors just don't have the ability to do. I’ve never disliked Miles Teller before, but he was properly despicable as Peter. Jai Courtney played Eric with a frightening accuracy, Ansel Elgort reminded me of my own big brothers as Caleb, and Ashley Judd shined as Natalie Prior, despite little screentime.

Equally surprising to me was how underwhelmed I was by the performances of Zoe Kravitz (Christina), Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Will), and Maggie Q (Tori). It will take another viewing or two to decide whether it was the acting, or just an organic result from the script itself, that left me wanting more from them. I only hope that whatever it was the seemed to be missing will not have a major effect on the rest of the franchise, as the impact of those three characters linger through the final two books in the series.
Despite the small disappointments, Divergent was a hit. Add the well-developed story to some beautiful cinematography and a great soundtrack and score, and I believe that Divergent will stand as one of the better book-to-film adaptations in recent years.