Divergent was a wonderful book; the Divergent movie was disappointing. I love dystopian books with strong female protagonists, and Divergent fit the bill. Then the movie machine cranked up, and like all insatiable readers, I cringed. Sure, the Hunger Games movies have been box office and critical successes. But then there are movies like The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1, which was essentially a long advertisement for bridal gowns and island getaways. Which one would Divergent resemble?
The Divergent movie falls in between, but closer to ceramic vampires than self-immolation. Here’s a breakdown of why the movie fell apart for me.
1. Who’s who? Why on earth did the casting director choose four young men who look nearly identical to play Peter, Will, Al and Caleb in the Divergent movie? This wasn’t a Jonas Brothers video, people. With the short amount of time each of them spent onscreen, even fans of the book had a hard time keeping them straight.
2. War, what is it good for? Too much time was spent on certain scenes and not enough time was spent on more important story developments in the Divergent movie. The choosing ceremony seemed to take up half the movie, while the complicated political plot was unclear. Erudite’s war on Abnegation seemed to come from nowhere. A few breadcrumbs had been left to support the story point, but there wasn’t enough of a crescendo. Consequently, the war came out of nowhere, with very little explanation about it.
3. Dauntless: Showing Fearlessness. Choosing Dauntless should have been a much scarier choice for Tris, and training should have been much more dangerous. Life-and-death situations happened more frequently in the book. Bodies piled up quickly. I braced for impact the first time Tris jumped from the train, but my fear was baseless, because no one died in the Divergent movie, like one girl did in the book.
4. Have Faction Will Travel. Why were people from different factions allowed to move around so easily between headquarters? Just having Jeanine Matthews at Dauntless headquarters should have caused a small riot. Her visit should have been a tip-off that something sinister was brewing because citizens aren’t supposed to move willy-nilly between factions. This was one more constraint, one more danger removed from the movie.
5. Sweet, Not Salty. I’m not saying Tris wasn’t sweet in the book; she had her moments. But she was also tough, with a clarity to see what needed to be done to survive. She was missing some steel in her backbone in the movie, some coldness that made you understand why Abnegation was called the Stiffs. Instead, she became a little too soft to appease the tween female character gods.
6. The Fault is in Our Script. Simple things about the world of Divergent were not explained enough for newbies who did not read the books. My husband, who hasn’t read the book, wondered why there was a wall around the city. He also wondered why there was a train that even went to the wall, if no one was supposed to go there. He didn’t understand why the trains ran at all, in fact. Maybe those are things we fans take for granted, but possibly a little more explanation, visual or otherwise, was needed to familiarize folks with this world.
7. When Bad Things Happen to Good People. In the book, when Tris’s parents die, it’s VERY clear that they sacrificed themselves for her. During the fight in the street with her mom, she distracts them so Tris can run. At the control center, her father pointedly tells her to stick to her mission as he clearly walks off to take the fire to help her get away. In the movie, their deaths were almost throwaways, random. They seemed like they didn’t know what they were doing or they were just killed in the course of action.
8. Die Hard to Live Another Day. The final scene between Tris and Jeanine in the Divergent movie was ridiculous. One of Jeanine’s modus operandi is to remain in the background, in the shadows, controlling everyone like a puppet master. She never would have put herself in danger, let alone tried to fight Tris. And Tris giving back Jeanine’s one-liner? Way too Michael Bay for my taste. Plus, as my husband pointed out, we never saw Tris win a fight in training, but suddenly she was able to kick everyone’s ass in the war room.
9. Exception to the Rule. I was impressed with Theo James. When I first saw the news that he was cast as Four, I was doubtful. Any time a movie is adapted from a book, fans of the book cry foul during the casting process because someone doesn’t look like the character in their minds. I pictured Four differently (Chris Hemsworth, actually), but Theo James did a wonderful job with his taciturn yet caring demeanor.
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