I watched Divergent weeks ago oblivious of the world YA author Veronica Roth opened. I heard some friends mention the book before yet it is only a couple of days ago that I thought I wanted to read it. And the myth quite applied to this – the book was better than the movie adaptation.
In fairness to the production, I thought they quite did a fairly good job adapting the book considering its fast and very particular elements of a dystopian post-apocalyptic world.
I thought that in the world of Divergent, I would have lived with Candor. So as a fan and person who operates with a rational mind, I would like to speak my views on how Divergent was and could have been adapted as a film.
On the big picture, I hoped Divergent was more of a well-built, character-driven, coming-of-age movie, than a sci-fi-action movie that it is.
First, since the series was thought to be made in four parts, I think it is best to establish the characters and the environment – physical, political and economic – really well in the first movie, with less of the action it so wanted. The core of the first book Divergent in the Divergent series deals with Beatrice’s changes and realizations. In short, she is the best thing about the book – her personality, relationships and reactions – and not particularly all the raucousness in the plot.
The movie started with a montage of the FIVE factions in dystopian Chicago. I’m a three year old and I did not understand until I read Wikipedia. This montage was a critical part of the movie and I though it could have improved with emphasis – like Citizen Kane opening montage emphasis.
The movie spent most of its time showing Dauntless paramilitary training yet a lot of those scenes quite missed the point. Veronica Roth placed the training segments to show the changes that happen in Tris, her friendship and hatred towards fellow initiates, her realizations towards the factions, and her looming romantic relationship with Four. There were too many visuals that lacked sense and compassion.
Second, there are gaps with characterization. There are characters from the book not (or less) featured in the film. The main characters Beatrice and Four are underdeveloped.
I believe Shailene Woodley could have delivered a Beatrice with more nuisances than this. I remember her doing her thing in The Descendants and The Spectacular Now. She sure could pull some sort of what Jennifer Lawrence does in the Hunger Games series.
Four’s affection towards Tris could have looked more obvious. I remember getting amazed at their first kiss – not because it looked a piece of art, but because I thought, “Where the hell did that come from?”
On the other hand, the movie particularly nailed establishing the characters of Tory, Jeanine, and Peter. Miles Teller as Peter was spot-on perfect for the role. Tory was an effective vengeful Dauntless. And of course, the wonderful Kate Winslet just became the sinister Jeanine Matthews.
What I particularly enjoyed with Divergent were the clothes with the exception of those from Amity and Dauntless. I super dig Abnegation’s clothes! I know they are supposed to be some monks or something but they look super cool! They dress like sci-fi Middle Eastern people which I super like! I also like Candor and Erudite outfits – I dig office clothes! Now Dauntless don’t look too military-athletic-punk to me. Which it should. I have problems looking like McDonalds so you know my feelings towards Amity.
To put my views towards Divergence more clearly through movie references, I suggest the following in order of preference: (3) Wanted (2008) – Four and Tris quite have the dynamics of James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie’s characters; (2) The Amazing Spiderman (2012) – The coming-of-age archs at the beginning were prioritized, with sci-fi fantasy themes introduced slowly towards the middle; and (1) Hunger Games (2012) – The dystopian world, characters, customs and dynamics were presented more clearly in this movie.
I am excited on how they will present Insurgent. I did not like the Insurgent book as much as Divergent. I found it too plot-driven. That’s besides the point though.
If they do continue with an action-packed approach, then it would not be a problem anymore as the dystopian world was already introduced. They could make the plot flow as they want. I am interested on how they will present Insurgent as they sure have left lots of gaps in Divergent. They missed the characters of Edward and Uriah among others.