In Divergent, Kate Winslet’s icy glare is enough to send a shiver down the spine of even the most hardened moviegoer. Her character, Jeanine Matthews, is a power hungry politician from the dystopian story’s Erudite faction, where knowledge is supposed to be valued above all else. Brilliant and manipulative, Matthews will stop at nothing to gain control of the five Chicago factions.
Winslet’s Matthews might be a formidable foe for Shailene Woodley’s Tris, but how does she stack against other similar movie villains?
President Snow/President Coin, The Hunger Games
In The Hunger Games, Donald Sutherland’s President Coriolanus Snow is already firmly entrenched as the country’s ruthless leader. He intimidates people into submission, threatening their families if they don’t comply… and wastes little time acting on those threats. President Alma Coin hasn’t come into play in the films yet (Julianne Moore will play her in the upcoming Mockingjay: Parts I and 2), but she is the more obvious comparison to Matthews. Like the Divergent villain, Coin pretends to be assuming power for the greater good… only to be revealed to be viscous and self-serving. Matthews developed serums to control her people, Snow and Coin just need the force of their personalities. They’re the bad guys that Matthews aspires to be.
Aro, The Twilight Saga
The de facto leader of the ruling Volturi vampires Aro, played by Michael Sheen, likes to consolidate his power by recruiting the best and brightest vampires to join him. Along with seemingly everyone else in the Twilight universe, he’s not a fan of Kristen Stewart’s Bella or her daughter. Like Matthews, he’s big on controlling anyone that might have greater powers than him. Unlike Matthews, he has a vision of what might happen if he causes a winner-take-all battle and decides to back down (as evilly as possible, of course).
Lord Voldemort, Harry Potter
In Divergent, people are separated out into groups largely based on their personality types, not unlike the various houses of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts. Voldemort, brought to menacing life by Ralph Fiennes in the movies, manages to scare the bejeezus out of everyone even when he doesn’t have a body. Like Voldemort, Matthews has the ability to manipulates people’s prejudices and fears to get them to act on her behalf. What she doesn’t have is any magic to help her out in a pinch… but she does have a young protagonist in Beatrice “Tris” Prior, who annoys her every bit as much as Harry does He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.
Michael Corleone, The Godfather
Sure, The Godfather movies are about as far removed from the world of Divergent as you can get, but Al Pacino’s Michael shared a vision with Matthews on how to eliminate the competition. Matthews’ first act of her takeover of the five factions is an attempt to eliminate the political leadership, all of which (except her) are part of the selfless Abnegation. In The Godfather, when Michael takes over he eliminates the heads of the Mob’s other Five Families in a tightly choreographed series of assassinations. Since Divergent takes place in a future Chicago, maybe Matthews should have dug up an old copy of The Godfather to see how it’s supposed to be done.
Divergent hits theaters March 21. You can check showtimes and purchase advanced tickets here.