Monday, September 22, 2014

Movie Monday: Divergent

When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize that few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do, especially when it comes to the 100 Best Novels list. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.

I've put off writing this post. We watched this movie over a month ago, but I haven't been able to bring myself to write about it.

You all know about my rocky relationship with the Divergent series. I read the first one and loved it. Raved about it to all kinds of people. Read the second one, felt mildly disappointed, began to notice the cracks in the writing, but held out hope for the finish. Read the third one. Ugh. Regretted ever pushing people onto this series. Felt my recommendation credibility had been shot. Couldn't believe I loved the first one so much. 

And now, here we are back at the beginning. I was really hoping that the movie would rejuvenate some of that love I had for the story back when I had only read the first book. I was hoping the bad writing would be smoothed over by talented screenwriters.

I was wrong.

I know I'm going against the grain here, but I did not like this movie. At all.

Maybe it's still to close to the disappointment of Allegiant for me; I couldn't enjoy it knowing what happens in the end. 

Mostly, though, I felt the movie amplified everything that was wrong with the book. It not only tried to cram too much story into too small a time (a struggle Hunger Games has dealt with as well), but it made the whole thing overly complex, just like the books. There were few adequate transitions and little explanation for how or why things were happening. Had I not read the book, I think I would have been very confused at some points.

I'm happy to provide just a few key examples. They don't explain the Divergent resistance to the serums well at all. This makes the end of the movie all the more confusing. Also, Peter was horribly cast and written. In the book, Roth does do a good job of making him the bully and helping the reader to understand why Tris dislikes him so much. The movie rushed past so much of that and, even when you do see Peter, he is not nearly the menace he is on the page. I had imagined him big and bulky - think Crabbe and Goyle in Harry Potter. Instead, he wasn't physically intimidating at all and he certainly didn't have any help from the script. 

I do have to admit, the casting of Shailene Woodley as Tris was kind of a strike against this movie for me in the first place. I am not a Woodley fan, particularly after some of the press she's done in the last year. She's no Jennifer Lawrence, on or off screen.

Before I quit, let me say one positive thing about the movie. During Tris's fear landscape, there is a tiny rape scene where she fears Four is going to take advantage of her. There were many articles about this at the time of the film's release, but I want to add my voice to the mix. I am so thankful for this addition to the movie. I think showing not only Tris's fear of sexual attack, but also implying it is something to be feared and would change Four's very nature is a good thing. Our culture is strongly set in it's rape culture ways and we have got to change that. This may seem like such a small thing, but I think it was an important step for Hollywood. 

All in all, here are my thoughts. If you liked the books, see the movie; you'll like it as well. If you felt as I did about the books, skip the movie. It's not going to help redeem them any.

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