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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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Movie Review: Divergent, When a Movie Should Change the Book

A few nights ago, myself and a few other ladies decided the time was right to head down to the movie theater and get an easy laugh from the newest Young Adult (YA) adaptation film Divergent. Unfortunately, we didn't laugh as much as we'd hoped because, well, honestly the movie wasn't as bad as we'd hoped. 

Yes we hoped it would be bad, because sadly, that's the latest trend in YA adaptation films. They aren't great, and some are downright terrible, so no one really expects them to be anything other than a laugh. But instead of a laugh we got a mildly entertaining, semi-too-long, not-too-original adaptation of the first book in a series that could be described in the same manner.

I'm a huge fan of movie adaptations that stick to the book. But in this rare case, they should have torn that book apart.

If you don't know the basic story you can get a good grasp by checking out my review of the first two books in the series.

Back? Ok.

The film itself, was fairly well produced. Although the thinner parts of the budget were clear in some of the costuming, props, and set pieces, overall it looked like what the book had us picture in our minds. The acting, specifically that of the two leads, Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James), was pretty good, and I thought that they represented the characters well.

However, we did all notice a lot of obviously placed ADR (dialogue recorded after filming) that was added as a band-aid to help explain what was going on in certain scenes. There are several lines where only the back of the speaker's head can be seen if they are on camera at all. But, aside from a few shotty plot patch jobs, the movie was pretty well done, and it also was pretty much the book.

Yes, ok, before mega-fans start throwing things (and rude comments) at me, there are definite differences between the book and the film. Some characters are not present, and some events do not happen, and some things happen differently. But ultimately, the story on screen is the bare-bones of the story on the page. And that, unfortunately, is truly the film's downfall.

Before writing this review, I was trying to think of all the things I liked and disliked about the film. I slowly came to realize that all of the things I liked as well as all of the things that really bothered me, were all the same things in the movie as they were in the book. 

Divergent, both the movie and the novel, have some great moments. Tris's choosing ceremony when she and her brother must choose to stay or leave their faction forever, is intense. I could feel the pressure and the worry from both mediums. Another interesting aspect is Tris and Four's relationship. It's awkward and new filled with tension and apprehension. This came across in the film as well. 

But what also came across is the lack of depth to the story. At the start, the story is interesting and engaging. It's a brand new world of dystopia and factions and weird clothes. But then as soon as Tris takes her test to tell her what faction she truly belongs in, things go down hill. Her test administrator straight up flips out for no apparent reason. She says, "You have to leave now!" "The test didn't work on you!" "They call it Divergent" and then she shoves her out the door leaving Tris and the audience very confused. From that point on, we never really truly learn what Divergent is or why it's such a big deal to keep it a secret. The rest of the movie focuses more on Tris's initiation into the Dauntless faction which is yet another place the film could have benefited from deviating from the source material.

The Dauntless faction as described in the books is a group of loud, rebellious, risk takers that love to cover their bodies in tattoos and piercings to show how cool and brave they are. Picturing that in you mind is one thing, seeing it on screen is another. Having the overbearing semi-psychopathic leader of Dauntless be a Macklemore look-a-like with neck tattoos and a dermal on his forehead is laughable. I couldn't take him or any of the Dauntless seriously. They all just run around yelling, "Woo Hoo!" and getting tattoos and shit, cuz they are so much cooler than those stiffs, man! *Eye roll* Those aren't warriors. Those are angry teens.
I wasn't kidding. His gauges are about as intimidating as his faux-hawk.
Ultimately, Divergent the film did as well as it could without completely abandoning Divergent the book. I could see the filmmakers' good intentions underneath the bad source material and it's sad that it couldn't reach its full potential probably due to studio executives frightened of rioting fans who wouldn't be able to see the benefits of making changes to make a better translation onto the screen. 

So, in the end, if you liked the books, you'll probably like the movie, if you didn't like the books, you won't like the movie, and if you didn't read the books and can sit back, not ask questions, and be content with staring at Theo James you'll exit the theater fairly satisfied.

Theo James aka Four. You're welcome.

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