Maybe it was because we were hopeful that the movie would breathe some life into a flat first person narrative, or seeing the action on the big screen would somehow make this weird ill-conceived dystopian government finally make sense, but the Divergent film didn’t provide respite from the faults we found in the book.
(Pssst… Generic spoiler alert!)
Let’s talk about some overall reactions – was there any improvement over the book?
Caitlin: Theo James’ lips.
Erin: Theo James is YUMMY. Duh. Shailene Woodley is easy on the eyes too. But let me give credit where credit is due before I state my complaints – the acting was good, and cinematically the movie looked good. And in addition to being real purty, I thought Movie Tris made the character more approachable, as I was hoping. I preferred to watch Shailene Woodley in character than read Tris’s flat internal monologuing for an entire book. All of the actors did well with what they were given, which wasn’t so great.
Caitlin: Agreed. I felt like the writing was bad – I don’t know if it’s because I read the books and I knew what was going to happen or why something was going on, but I felt like the movie stopped too often to explain things. From Mekhi Phifer randomly popping in to explain things, to adding scenes in so it’s easier to catch on to the Erudite/Dauntless conspiracy, it just really felt like they dumbed down an already simple plot.
Tris did have some real pretty hair though.
What did you find egregious?
Caitlin: Let’s talk about how they changed fear of intimacy – something that’s kind of normal for a teenage girl (especially in a faction that shuns intimacy) – to fear of rape. Her fear landscape implied that she was afraid the boy she loved was going to take sexual advantage of her. Why was that necessary? Was it part of dumbing down the plot because it’s so much easier to explain that she was afraid of sexual violence than intimacy itself?
Erin: I didn’t like how that cheesy scene was delivered in the book, but at least the fear of intimacy made sense in context of Tris’s age and experience. In the movie her fear of such violence from Four might make sense if you consider all the general violence Tris encounters after joining Dauntless, but overall the scene felt gratuitous and strange. Whatever they were trying to portray did not work well.
Caitlin: Okay, this is nitpicking here – I found Dauntless much more annoying on screen. They aren’t brave – they’re annoying. WHY IS EVERYONE ALWAYS YELLING? It’s not energetic, it just seems childishly arrogant. Cringe-worthy.
Erin: There was also a lot of…gleeful running? Dauntless members run everywhere while looking inexplicably giddy about it. They’re supposed to be the soldiers of the government who impose order and keep everyone safe with their selfless bravery, but I didn’t get that impression unless a character was telling another character that that’s how it works in this here town.
Caitlin: Did you like how there was a strategically energetic/epic drumbeat added whenever the Dauntless were running? I think that might have made it worse.
Also- if we’re equating tattoos with bravery, black clothing and an alternative lifestyle, why the hell are they stick ons? Why not use a regular tattoo gun, or if it needs to be futuristic, use one of them laser-things like in Starship Troopers? It was like they got those vending machine lick-n-stick tattoos. Takes away from the actual bravery of getting a tattoo – permanently etching something to your skin with pain and NEEDLES. (Needles are scary.)
Hey Erin, what did you think of Tris’s “I’m Divergent” line? I groaned (and lightly flailed) over how cliche it was. Wasn’t she more proud of being Dauntless in the book? They kind of cast it aside in the movie for a “Take THAT, bitch” line. They really took a lot of liberty with the final scenes too. (Namely, Janine being present).
Erin: That part was DUMB. Throughout the book I was slightly annoyed because I could never quite figure out what was so significant about being Divergent. I mean, I get it, but it was vague and nonsensical. So maybe that line should have worked better for me, but it was so cheesy.
Caitlin: They REALLY drilled that “Divergent can’t be controlled. We all need to be robots” theme home in the movie – more so than the book. In the book I at least got more out of Tris’s struggle to find her literal and mental place. The movie made it seem like there was more struggle with a clear evil – Janine – than internal struggle.
Erin: I didn’t hate the movie and I didn’t think it was worse than the book. Except for the aforementioned obvious changes, I thought scene-by-scene this was a pretty faithful adaptation. Mostly I thought the movie didn’t work for the same reasons I didn’t love the book – the entire dystopian setup is ridiculous, Tris’s character is a bit blah (even when being portrayed by an excellent actress like Shailene Woodley), and I feel no excitement for the next installment.
Caitlin: I think it will be really interesting to see how they progress Four and Tris’s relationship given that they made her fear seem more about violence instead of emotional fear.
And, uh, there’s that whole series ending they’ve got to build their way up to.