Divergent is a very faithful adaptation. Director Neil Burger says he fought to keep his movie as close to Veronica Roth's source material as possible, and it shows. But, of course, not everything made it in. After paying close attention to the movie, this is a list of most of the differences we picked up. In general the changes made helped the story move along at a brisk pace, and not many of them are major. There's one major exclusion (the knife in the eye), one big addition (a final fight with Jeanine), and the simulations are tweaked in some meaningful ways, but the movie is an impressive adaptation.
If you find we missed anything meaningful in this list, feel free to add it in the comments below.
1. Tori's Hair
In the Book: Tori is the Dauntless woman who administers Tris' Aptitude Test. She has gray streaks in her hair.
In the Movie: Instead she has green streaks in her hair.
2. Tris Chooses Between a Knife and a Steak
In the Book: Tris takes an Aptitude Test to determine which faction would be the best fit for her. It begins when she has to choose between a knife and a piece of cheese. She refuses to choose either and soon encounters a ferocious-looking dog, at which point she realizes either would have been of some use.
In the Movie: Tris has to choose between the knife and a steak, which makes way more sense.
3. The Aptitude Test Ends Early
In the Book: After the first part of the Aptitude Test the dog disappears, and Tris finds herself on a bus with an irate guy who asks pointedly if she knows a murderer whose picture is in a newspaper.
In the Movie: The test ends after the section with the dog.
4. Jeanine Has a Larger Role, and Doesn't Wear Vanity Glasses
In the Book: Jeanine is the Erudite leader responsible for spreading anti-Abnegation propaganda. Tris doesn't come face-to-face with her until halfway through the book, though. She's also described as wearing glasses she doesn't need since she wants to look as smart as possible.
In the Movie: Tris' first encounter with Jeanine comes during Choosing Day. Jeanine's role is expanded in a few other ways, some bigger than others. We'll get to that later. In the role, Kate Winslet doesn't wear the vanity glasses, though.
5. The Train Ride to Dauntless Headquarters Isn't Such a Bummer
In the Book: After the choosing ceremony, the new Dauntless initiates find themselves thrown into the deep end. A red-headed Erudite boy is made factionless almost immediately when he can't run fast enough to catch their moving train. An Amity boy soon follows when he refuses to jump from the moving train onto the roof of Dauntless headquarters. His fears prove justified when Tris jumps out safely and sees a Dauntless girl looking over the edge of the rooftop at another girl, who just fell to the ground and died.
In the Movie: Everyone makes it onto the train, and everyone makes it onto the rooftop.
6. The Dauntless Have New Rules
In the Book: The Dauntless cut initiates with wild abandon. One way they weed out the weaker initiates is by cutting them from the roster if their rankings are too low, making them factionless. Since making someone factionless dooms them to a life of poverty and ostracization, this seems surprisingly harsh to the initiates who've transferred from other factions.
In the Movie: The Dauntless still cut initiates based on ranking, but this time it's explained as a "new rule," which actually makes more sense. After all, Dauntless leadership is ramping up to make a big move, which has repercussions throughout the faction. Also, you would think that if this had been going on for years, the teens would have figured it out by now.
7. The Fights Have Less Structure
In the Book: Dauntless initiates are quickly taught some basic hand-to-hand combat skills before being thrown into fights with each other. It's sudden, but at least the initiates know it's coming a day ahead of time, and there's a very clear structure to the fights. The day's matches are listed on a board. Everyone has to fight every day. And rankings are immediately affected by the fight outcomes.
In the Movie: After a few basic fight pointers, the fights just begin. Structure, as it relates to the initiation process, is seemingly thrown out the window.
8. New Tattoo Technology
In the Book: Tris gets a tattoo of three flying birds on her collarbone. They represent her brother, mother, and father, and they're pointed at her heart. Later in the book she mentions seeing spare needles around the tattoo shop, so we can assume the artists use current tattoo technology.
In the Movie: Tori gives Tris her bird tattoo by laying a sort of pad over her skin that applies the pre-programmed design. We're not sure why this change was made. Maybe someone thought it was a bad idea to tattoo a 16-year-old character onscreen.
9. Christina vs. the Chasm
In the Book: The chasm within Dauntless headquarters drops down to a large body of water. When Christina attempts to concede a fight, Eric leads her to the chasm, and makes her climb over the railing. He tells her she's done with Dauntless unless she can hold onto the railing for a full five minutes. If she fails she's dead. She ends up holding on with her arms thrown over the railing, but just barely makes it.
In the Movie: There is no railing for Christina to hold onto since Eric makes her hold on by just her fingers on the other side. But this time she only has to hold on for less than a minute before Eric says, "Time."
10. Peter Doesn't Have Lackeys
In the Book: Peter is sort of the Draco Malfoy of the story. He's not the big bad, but he's capable of messing things up just fine on his own. He's often flanked by his two lackeys, Drew and Molly.
In the Movie: Drew isn't even in the movie, and Molly's character is much different. When Tris takes Al's place during the knife-throwing incident, not even flinching as Four throws knives past her head, afterward Molly grabs Tris to tell her, "That was cool." The book Molly would have never given her props.
11. Tris Almost Gets Kicked Out
In the Book: Tris has to fight Peter, who's bigger, stronger, and faster than she is. It doesn't go well. After being thoroughly beaten she wakes up in the hospital where Christina tells her they're scheduled for a field trip at 8:15am the next morning. Halfway through the night, Tris heads back to her dorm, and the next morning she's bruised and battered, but she's on the field trip.
In the Movie: Tris loses to Peter, but this time when she wakes up she's been sleeping for more than a day, and her friends, Will and Christina, tell her they're about to go out for a combat exercise. They tell her not to get up because Eric has already announced that she's out of Dauntless. In a last ditch effort to avoid being made factionless, Tris gets out of bed and catches the train as it's pulling away. After barely making it onboard, Eric looks at her, shrugs, and says, "okay."
12. Paintballs Are For Pansies
In the Book: In a key scene, Eric and Four break the Dauntless initiates up into two teams to play Capture the Flag using paintball guns.
In the Movie: The scene is moved up right after Tris' hospitalization, and the guns are loaded with "stim-darts" that simulate gunshot wounds. Instead of being hit with a paintball and announcing yourself out, you can keep firing as long as you're able.
13. The Ferris Wheel Isn't Quite As Harrowing
In the Book: Tris climbs to the top of Chicago's big Ferris wheel to get a better look at her surroundings during Capture the Flag. Four follows her, and soon reveals that he's afraid of heights. On their way down, Tris slips and is left hanging on by her fingers. Four climbs down to the bottom of the Ferris wheel and activates it, which lowers Tris to the ground.
In the Movie: Tris slips on a loose rung and Four catches her, but they don't have any trouble getting down.
14. Tris Gets to Shoot Peter
In the Book: Peter isn't even mentioned during Tris and her team's final assault on the enemy flag.
In the Movie: He's one of the last people guarding the enemy flag, which gives Tris a chance to shoot him and call him an A-hole.
15. Tris and Christina Get the Flag Together
In the Book: Tris and Christina arrive at the flag at almost the same time, but only one of them can get it. Arguing that Tris is already the hero of the day for coming up with a successful plan and leading the assault, Christina jumps up and grabs it, and the glory, for herself. This creates some tension between Tris and Christina.
In the Movie: Tris and Christina pull down the flag together and share the glory.
16. No Visiting Day
In the Book: Tris' mother arrives at the Dauntless compound during Visiting Day without Tris' father. It's at this point Tris suspects her mother grew up Dauntless because of what she knows about the faction's initiation process. Tris' mom also reveals she's unable to visit Caleb (Tris' brother) because the Erudites won't allow Abnegation members into their compound anymore. She tells Tris that if she can, she should visit Caleb and tell him to research the serum being used for the Aptitude tests.
In the Movie: There is no Visiting Day. Tris' mother instead gets her attention while she's loading a shipment of grain from Amity. She secretly meets with Tris, warning her that something big is happening.
17. No Knife in the Eye
In the Book: At the end of stage one of the Dauntless initiation, Edward is ranked first and Peter is ranked second. That night, Edward wakes up screaming with a knife in his eye. Everyone pretty much knows Peter did it. Edward lives through the experience, with Tris getting him medical attention.
In the Movie: Director Neil Burger says they filmed the scene, but it was cut from the movie. Maybe it'll make it onto the DVD extras?
18. No Message for Caleb
In the Book: Tris sneaks out of the Dauntless compound to visit her brother, Caleb, over at the Erudite campus. Her visit makes him a little uncomfortable, but she is at least able to deliver her mother's message to him before she's hauled off to see Jeanine.
In the Movie: Tris doesn't have a message for him. She just wants to see him. He's kind of hostile toward her before she gets hauled off to see Jeanine.
19. Four Protects Tris More Proactively
In the Book: With Tris doing better than anyone else during stage two of the Dauntless initiation, Peter convinces people she's cheating somehow. Angry at her ability to handle the fear-inducing simulations of stage two, Peter attacks and blindfolds her with the help of Drew and Al, and the three of them drag her to the chasm. Fortunately Four shows up just as they're gearing up to throw her over the metal railing. Al runs away while Four beats up Drew, and Peter ends up running away before Four can get to him.
In the Movie: Four kicks all their asses. Take that, Peter!
20. Al Doesn't Get a Funeral
In the Book: Guilt-stricken, Al asks for Tris' forgiveness after nearly killing her. When she refuses, he kills himself by jumping into the chasm. After they haul Al's body back up, Eric gives a speech about how killing yourself is actually super brave, which makes about as much sense to Tris as it does to the reader. What follows is some major drunken revelry in Al's name.
In the Movie: They just haul his body up out of the chasm, and that's it.
21. A New Strategy for Facing the Fear Landscape
In the Book: Tris can conquer her fears so quickly in the simulations that Four worries she'll arouse suspicion that she's Divergent. Most Dauntless can't conquer their fears so quickly within the simulations because they lack the ability to manipulate the physical bounds of the simulation as Tris does. It's never really explained how, in the book, Tris makes herself take longer in the simulations to avoid arousing suspicion.
In the Movie: Four shows Tris how to approach the simulations like she's Dauntless and not Divergent. This involves searching for an actual solution instead of manipulating the simulation. So instead of just jumping off a beam from high in the air because it's "not real," she crawls to safety. And when she's attacked by crows, she wards them off with a flaming tree branch instead of simply saying, "this isn't real." This way, when the Dauntless leaders watch Tris' simulation they'll see her taking on her fears the way Dauntless do, and not suspect her of being Divergent.
22. Tris' Fear Landscape Is Different
In the Book: Stage three of Dauntless initiation involves facing all your fears in a "fear landscape" simulation. The simulation is monitored by the Dauntless leaders, who will determine whether you pass or fail. The final fear Tris faces finds her facing her family with a gun pointed at her head. She's holding a gun and a voice tells her to shoot. In the simulation, Tris drops her gun, pushes her forehead against the gun pointed at her, and says, "Shoot me instead." She hears a click and a bang and the simulation is over.
In the Movie: The movie version of Tris' fear landscape differs in all kinds of ways from the book version. But the big difference is how she handles that final challenge. Instead of dropping her gun and insisting on being shot herself, Tris dutifully shoots her family in the simulation. This is important because Jeanine, who has already openly questioned Tris' willingness to follow orders, is watching the simulation. Tris has to shoot them to prove to Jeanine and the other Dauntless leaders she can follow tough orders.
23. Tris Faces a Much Quicker Execution
In the Book: When the Dauntless all wake up as mindless drones under Erudite control, Tris and Four find themselves unaffected by the serum being used to control them. Both pretend to be as mindless as the rest of the Dauntless as they're transported to Abnegation's neighborhood, where the Dauntless begin rounding up entire families and executing them.
Tris and Four play along until a bemused Eric holds a gun to Four's head, about to kill him. That's when Tris shoots Eric in the foot, and the scene devolves into chaos. She and Four run for it, but are quickly rounded up and taken to Jeanine. The Erudite leader then sends Tobias off to be the test subject for a new kind of serum she's developed to handle the Divergent. She says Tris' "execution will occur at the conclusion of this meeting."
Tris is then taken away to be drowned in a tank of water not unlike the one in her simulations. Just as she's about to drown, under observation, Tris' mother arrives and shoots the glass tank, freeing Tris.
In the Movie: The movie does away with this convoluted, Bond-villain type execution. Instead, Tris is simply taken outside to be shot. Her mother saves her at the last second by shooting her captors.
24. Mom's Death Makes More Sense
In the Book: Tris' mom sacrifices herself to save Tris by shooting her gun in the air and running out into the open to distract the mindless Dauntless soldiers. Since they aren't even paying attention to Tris and her mom at the time, it doesn't make much sense.
In the Movie: Tris' mom goes down fighting. She and Tris find themselves in a fire fight with the Dauntless, and Mom doesn't make it.
25. Dad Is More Willing to Attack the Dauntless Guards
In the Book: Tris' Dad chides her for shooting Peter to get the information she needs. He also finds it difficult to take a gun for himself and actually attack guards in the Dauntless compound.
In the Movie: He jumps right in.
26. Four Isn't Alone
In the Book: Tris has to stop the computer simulation that's controlling the Dauntless members' minds, telling them to kill Abnegation members. When she gets to the control room in the Dauntless compound, she finds only one person guarding the computers — Four, aka Tobias. In his mind-controlled state he's running the program that's controlling the other Dauntless. Eventually she overcomes the simulation that's controlling Four's mind, and he shuts down the simulation that's controlling the rest of Dauntless. He pulls the hard drive out of the computer containing the simulation and they make their escape.
In the Movie: Tris finds Four in the Dauntless control room, but he isn't controlling the simulation, and he isn't alone. Jeanine is there, and so are several guards and a bunch of random Erudites helping with the mind-control simulation. This time Jeanine seems to be controlling Four with an iPad, which is kind of awesome. Just like in the book, Tris eventually overcomes the serum that's controlling Four, but then the two of them have to fight their way out of the hornets' nest.
27. Stopping Jeanine
In the Book: Jeanine isn't at the Dauntless compound when Tris finds Four. She's still in the field, running things from Abnegation's headquarters. So once Tris snaps Four out of his mind-controlled state, there's no final fight. They just leave.
In the Movie: With Jeanine in the Dauntless control room, Tris and Four have to physically stop her. When she makes a move to speed up the execution of Abnegation members, Tris throws a knife into her hand from across the room, pinning it to a computer screen. It is most definitely the movie's crowning moment of awesome. After fighting off guards and some random Erudite smarties, Tris and Four inject Jeanine with some of the mind control serum and get her to shut down the simulation herself. She comes to as she realizes all her plans have fallen apart, only to be punched out by Tris. It's a little more satisfying than the book's version of the climactic moment.