Divergent Poster Theo James

Rating: 3.25 of 5 ★★★¼☆ 

My star rating would make Divergent seem like a nice, average, run of the mill kind of movie. But if you keep reading you’ll see it’s actually a slightly impressive adaption. Because apparently YA books are hard to adapt.

But what Hollywood is finally figuring out (how many adaptations later?) is that the thing you need to do is let the movie deviate from the book; let it breathe and stretch and be a movie instead of a visual enactment of the book. Kel and I have been saying this for ages – you have to just make a good movie first. Catching Fire and Divergent actually manage to do it. They aren’t made to cater exclusively to the whims of the fanbase – they can stand as good movies completely apart from their source material.

Which should actually be the goal, right?

I mean, I really wanted to hate Divergent. I hate the hype over it when the writing in the novel is so elementary. I’m not a fan of Shailene Woodley’s (in fact, I don’t like her mucha t all). I didn’t like Insurgent or Allegiant which makes me hate the hype even more. And now, after seeing the movie, I really hate Insurgent and Allegiant both but I’ll get into that later.

The problem is, I was right. Not about hating Divergent (though I was totally right that Shailene Woodley doesn’t do this movie any favors). What I really mean, though, is when I first read the book two years ago my biggest impression was that it could be a better movie than book. And it was. It was actually a decent movie.

It was well directed, with nearly seamless transitions between scenes so it felt like an actual movie instead of a clobbering together of scenes from the book. There was a logic to the plot and a progression of the character arcs that (mostly) made sense.

I mean, I’m sorry, Four and Tris didn’t make any sense. She’s like twelve compared to him. Maybe not actually in age but they just didn’t fit. And had no chemistry. There was one moment when she’s walking next to him that she actually looks fierce and I was impressed with how she’d grown up. And in that moment they worked. But for the most part, even when she’s fighting and she’s strong… she’s too much of a little girl compared to him.

And he’s amazing. So well cast and absolutely why I now hate both Insurgent and Allegiant. Because what this movie actually does really well is embody these characters. Even if I don’t like Shailene Woodley that much, there were actually times when she didn’t bother me. And she handled the transition in Tris – from soft and weak to strong and a fighter – really well. I didn’t love the book and it was still the best part of the movie to see these characters brought to life with such depth and strength.

spoilers for the next pieces of the franchise ยป
Which made it really hard to watch knowing what they become. Because Insurgent and Allegiant both completely betray these characters. Caleb totally goes off the rails with zero explanation. Ever. Four completely crumbles. I so, so, soooo cannot imagine Theo James playing some of those scenes in Allegiant. It makes no sense at all. Tris is the only one who seems to survive the trilogy with her character intact. And, yes, the irony of that statement is not lost on me.
They did a really decent job of adapting the book into a screenplay given what they had to work with – with nods to the other books and little lines that alluded to more details from the book. I have no idea how they’re going to do the next two with any integrity to both the story and the characters. But if they manage it I’ll be really impressed.

I liked the music in the beginning and the way it moved with the rhythm of the train. The production design of dystopian Chicago was a lot brighter than I imagined while reading the book and it was great. The fight scenes were pretty good. Four had one near the beginning where he was totally sleek and badass and I wanted him to fight like that more. But I liked how people really got hit in the fights. There was no just jumping up like nothing happened – when people went down you could see that it hurt and they got cut and hit hard.

It’s difficult to watch a movie having read the book. Because there’s very little tension when you know how it’s all going to play out. But it was fun to watch and I think it was well adapted and well done and someday I’d like to watch it again as just a movie and not an adaptation of a book I’ve read. If that makes sense.


March 26, 2014 | Review , , , | this post contains affiliate links