I was eager to see how the book would translate onto the big screen and I must say, despite a few gripes, I rather enjoyed it. The action/fight sequences were on point and the visuals were pretty good- despite its less than stellar budget. However I can’t deny that there were a few things, the more I think about it, that didn’t sit quite well with me. While it doesn’t hurt that Four (Theo James), Beatrice Prior aka Tris (Shailene Woodley) and the entire cast really give some great performances, and are mighty-easy on the eye, there were moments where you wondered if anyone who hadn’t read the books would understand what exactly was going on.
Worry not, whether you’ve read the book series or are going in blind, this half of the review is safe and spoiler free.
If you’ve read the book, you’ll find there were some scenes noticeably absent from the movie- methinks for the mere fact that it errs on the ‘too graphic’ side of things for a comfortable PG-13 rating. (Although I swear they snuck in the f-bomb. Could be my ears?) Also, there are some characterisation changes that may or may not have been due to casting, but first thing’s first:
Yer Divergent, Tris!
So we know the basic storyline from the trailer, a place set in a future, Dystopian, Chicago- with a suitably Dystopian-type fortification/fence/wall- where society is split into five distinct factions (Abnegation, Dauntless, Erudite, Amity and Candor) based on five distinct virtues/traits (selflessness, bravery, intelligence, peacefulness and honesty). At the ripe old age of 16, with a little help of an aptitude test that should tell you what faction you’re geared towards, you’re to choose which faction you want to be part of for the rest of your life. That’s right, no take backs! Once you’ve chosen- that’s it, from there on out it’s “Faction Before Blood”.
With rather stunning aerial shots of a post-apocalyptic Chi-town showing in the background Tris’ voice-over makes it clear from the get-go that while “the system is designed to foster peace” it’s more about control than anything else. And the movie really hammers it into you that this mass categorization of society is merely a means of control.
If you exhibit more than one distinct trait you’re ‘what they call’ Divergent, and that -my friend- is a no no. It is this very predicament the Abnegation-born Tris, who doesn’t fit into any particular category, finds herself. At the Choosing Ceremony she chooses Dauntless, those crazy sons of britches (yes, I do mean pants) and the fun begins. By fun I mean getting the crap kicked out of you and basically getting around by parkour/free-running all the time.
I’m going to go ahead and say that any comparisons to The Hunger Games are unwarranted for the mere fact that if anything Divergent in the grand scheme of things has more in common, plot-wise, with an entirely different series- The Maze Runner. Justification below in the Spoiler Corner- enter at your own risk. Also, if you’re understandably sick of angsty love-triangles Divergent will be a breath of fresh air.
While the movie felt a bit too long, it never felt like it was dragging- except for an extended scene at the end which really milked the high intensity climax for all it was worth. And yet, once things started moving there didn’t seem to be any room to catch one’s breath let alone understand what was going on. I did find myself wondering how the movie would come across to people who hadn’t read the series. There’s a chance the uninitiated could get lost once the pace picks up.
One thing’s for sure, you’ll like the characters- mostly because you’re not given much insight into them. Although we’ll see how that likeability is sustained in the next two movies as we, hopefully, get more. Thank goodness the cast meshed well, making what was some awkward dialogue in places, work. Kate Winslet suffered from Jeanine’s obvious ‘villainry’- I get that it makes for easy storytelling and with the way the novel itself is set up we don’t fully appreciate/understand these characters’ rationales until Allegiant. But you’d think the screenwriters would have found a way around it.
Which is why the movie’s a bit of a fanservice, because anyone who hasn’t read the books might come out thinking the characters were bland and the premise of the story mirrored other YA narratives like no one’s business. It doesn’t help that they utilised shaky cam at points, in a way that was very Hunger Games. For a movie heavy on exposition at the start there is almost no explanation towards the end when the pace picks up. Nevertheless when it comes out on the 10th of April, I’ll no doubt be glad to take my sister to see it again.
As a fan of the series I’m very glad Divergent is practically critic-proof right now, and that we should see Insurgent come 2015. However because of those little hiccups we must give it THREE out of FIVE Silent LOLs. Which is unfortunate because I really wanted to give it…
out of FIVE Silent LOLs.
Honourable Mentions :
– I really do like the casting and watching the movie confirmed it for me. I heard/read dissent about Shailene Woodley somewhere but *shrug* haters gon’ hate. Theo James’ voice tho’.
– Anyone else Silently LOL about Miles Teller, who played Shailene’s character’s love-interest in The Spectacular Now being her antagonist/rival here and at Ansel Elgort, playing her brother here when he’ll be her love-interest in The Fault in Our Stars? Just me? Okay.
– Amity is totally for the stoners. There, I said it lol.
– Kate Winslet gives good side-eye. That sounds rude, but I assure you we’re keepin’ it PG-13.
– Go take the official aptitude test and find out what faction you’d fit in. (My results show I score Erudite and Dauntless..lol and Candor?)
More Maze Runner than Hunger Games:
Jess and I were talking about the series as a whole and how people keep comparing Divergent to The Hunger Games however if you take a step back- and view the series as a whole you’ll find that Divergent has much more in common with The Maze Runner than it does with The Hunger Games outside a female protagonist, a corrupt governing body and a Dystopian future setting. The Maze Runner has also been made into a film, which will be released this September. Spoilers for Both Allegiant and The Death Cure below.
As a whole Tris’ and Thomas’ (Maze Runner) worlds have much more in common than Tris’ and Katniss’. More social behaviour experiments and science than the divide between the haves and the have nots.
Both protagonists in Divergent and The Maze Runner were ‘free’ from whatever it was that the others suffered from. Tris’ genes were ‘healed’ and Thomas didn’t suffer from the flare. Both their original governing officials were responsible for the apocalypse? With manmade weapons/experiments?
So it’s really annoying how people keep comparing it to The Hunger Games when all Divergent really has in common with THG is a strong female lead and a post-apocalyptic/dystopian world.
Don’t get me wrong, Miles Teller made for great comic relief at points- however that’s the problem. In the book Peter is legitimately seen as a threat to Tris’, and Jess fears that the way the movie’s characterised him is problematic. They’ve made Peter a somewhat lovable douche as opposed to the outright antagonist he is in the novel.
They also nixed the extremely brutal eye-stabbing scene, when Peter proves just how cowardly he is by stabbing Edward (who would have been the number one initiate) in the eye causing him to become factionless as he would not have been able to complete the initiation.
I do believe the black guy who invited Tris along to zip-lining after capture the flag might be him, but we’re not explicitly given his name. I NEED MY URIAH! Also, Marlene and Zeke and any Dauntless born member. Uriah especially, considering how important he becomes- you’d think they would want to at least introduce him- as it’s HIM that invites Tris to do zip-lining. Insurgent it is then.
I did that thing where you skim tweets and posts on tumblr to gage the general impression from fans and something that I wondered about while watching the movie seemed to be mentioned quite a bit. In the book one of Tris’ fears that shows up in her landscape is a fear of intimacy- in the movie it comes off as though Tris is afraid of Four raping her? The novel makes it very clear that Tris isn’t afraid of Four/Tobias as a person, however the idea of intimacy is such a foreign concept to her- having grown up in Abnegation- that it manifests itself as a fear of being intimate. Perhaps they needed to amp up the urgency of the her fear and the unfortunate by-product is the unpleasantness that moviegoers will subconsciously link to Four.
I do commend how Tris handles herself in that situation. Boom, pow! Onomatopoeia!
Visiting day was left out, which is interesting because I can see what they were doing with making Tris’ mum even more badass by stealing away to sneak a meeting with Dauntless guards about. However it therefore leaves out her mum telling Tris that Abnegation parents don’t get to visit their children in Erudite. Which Tris then tells Caleb when she sneaks into Erudite’s headquarters- sowing the seeds of doubt in him about his faction. And further establishing Erudite’s dodginess lol.
But most importantly, where was the Dauntless Cake?