Divergent (2014) – Neil Burger

Divergent-2014-Movie-Poster1

Sometimes my disappointment should be something I can throw at the screen.

Not that you shouldn’t always worry about book adaptations, because invariably, the books are almost always better. But by the time we got halfway through screening this film, I wondered whether anyone in the production of this film had read the first book, not to mention the entire trilogy by Veronica Roth.

And before I really get into this… let me just get this out-of-the-way. If you are going to make a film with a sci-fi flavor, and this one is that, as it’s supposed to be set in our future at some point, don’t use crappy 21st century music to sell your emotion. If you do that, you’ve already dated the film with music that is not, let’s be honest, going to stand the test of time. If you are going to use ‘pop’ songs, make sure they are source music, not there because someone in marketing thought it might be a good idea to shoehorn a band’s b-side.

Anyway… the story, what little of it is left after the screenwriters slaughtered Roth’s bestseller, follows the story of (Bea)Tris (Shailene Woodley) has reached her Choosing Day. She lives in a walled-in society in a city that was once Chicago (shout out to the Visual Effects Artists here because the city looks great). The society is split into five factions, Erudite, Dauntless, Candor, Amity and Abnegation. On their Choosing Day, each youth who comes of age, takes a test and then decides in which faction they wish to live out their lives.

Tris chooses Dauntless, leaving her mother (a terribly under-used Ashley Judd, who had so many changes to her character, I don’t know if they’ll even bother with some events in Book 3), her father (Tony Goldwyn) and brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort), who leaves their faction of Abnegation as well to join Erudite.

tris

Once in Dauntless, the society’s soldiers, fighters, and in this case, daredevils, she meets Four (Theo James – who reminds me of James Franco), and she trains hard to make the cut, and be accepted by the faction she chose.

However, there are darker forces at work, this time led by Jeanine (Kate Winslet), who is intent on seizing power, and has just the resources to do it.

Unfortunately, so much has been changed from the book on its journey to the screen, so many character moments lost, I didn’t feel anything for any part of this story. It’s like they took what they felt were the important beats of the story, and tried to make it work in a shortened story. Sadly then, you lose anything and everything you may have enjoyed about the book. The conflict with Peter (Miles Teller), the relationship that blossoms between Christina (Zoe Kravitz) and Will (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), almost all gone, not to mention that any emotional punch any of their fates may have had has been totally neutered.

There are some dark moments in this book, and instead of embracing them, and making a faithful adaptation, this, in my opinion is a Dauntless initiate who tried to jump from the train, and missed the building.

I think the book series would have been better served adapted as a mini-series, let us get to know the characters, incorporate all of those moments that made them, instead of glossing them over in an attempt to make and market a PG13 movie.

Avoid this one, if it’s not too late, and stick with the books.

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