Sunday, March 23, 2014

Divergent: Let them eat cake!


Divergent's release date has been on my calendar for months. It was a blockbuster at the box office this weekend.  I'll watch it again. I'll probably watch Insurgent on opening weekend, too.

 Unfortunately, much of the movie was as insipid as this poster.

1.  Sunrise to indicate dawning of a new day over a destroyed city
2.  Protagonist walking an "uphill climb" to get to that "new day"
3.  Hot love interest staring at her bum (yes, I realize that their backs are to each other, but it completely looks like he's staring at her bootie.)

Yeah, yeah, I get what it's all about.


I sighed a lot during this movie.  I've read the book as many times as I've read Hunger Games and Pride and Prejudice. It has elements I really enjoy. I had high expectations.


Unfortunately, some of the reasons I like the book were completely neutered.

Plot Points

Where was the chocolate cake? What's a good book without a food that makes you think of it?  In taking away the chocolate cake the Dauntless are known for, some of the richness of the story was destroyed. Instead, they focused on the whole hamburger thing.  Without a bun.  Really? Chocolate cake is so much more telling of Dauntless than a meat patty.

Where was the fear?  Yes, lots of scenes remained that intimidated people who were scared of heights. But what about the violent scenes that showed so much about the dangerous world they lived in and a person's character under pressure? What about Peter?  No cloak and dagger/eye-gouging stuff?  Was Edward still hanging out with them--both eyes intact?  How are they going to get around him in future movies? They touched on Al's fear of being excluded and how he responded to his fear. I understand why they cut his crush on Tris and her rejection of him, but I still missed that plot point.  What about when Tris let Christina take the flag as a win because she felt she was on shaky ground with their friendship? The film only hinted about the relationship with Will and Christina, so the tension between Christina and Tris is minimal for the next installment. What about the fear scene with Marcus Eaton and Four?  I don't want to see a man beat his child, but I did want to see Tris try to help him through that fear and the others.  There was a bonding in the book when they traveled through Four's fear landscape that I missed in the movie. And on that note...

Where was the chemistry?  Even though Tris was supposed to be this scrawny, child-like, not-so-pretty girl, the book made us see her as Four did. Strong, brave, sexy.  So many of the cute lines and moments from the book were deleted for the movie. Four is totally hot in the movie. Don't get me wrong.  Still, his vulnerability and need for Tris was missing.  Furthermore, why in the hell did they make her fear of being close to Four turn into a rape scene?  A perfectly sweet scene was transformed into a menacing and twisted one.  In the book, there was a hint of sexual groping in her assault when Al and the others tried to toss her into the pit, but that aspect was removed from the film. If some of the violence was left out to protect young audiences, I think adding a rape scene with a sweetheart might do more damage to influence young viewers than showing a mother getting riddled with bullets to protect her child.

Where were the lies?  Although the movie managed to heavily stress some of the themes through imagery--birds/flying/freedom and reflections/seeing true self--it mostly skipped over the duplicitous nature of human beings. Sure, Jeanine talks about human nature and we get she's a big ol' liar, but all of the bits in the book about the protagonist's own proclivity toward dishonesty (she did test as Erudite, too, after all) were removed.   She said in the book, "I couldn't be Candor. I lie too easily." Her duplicity is a running plot line through the trilogy, and its absence weakens her character.


When I saw the casting I was a little nervous.  The movie proved my anxiety was for good reason.

Shailene Woodley...bless her heart.  She did her best, but she is no Tris.  It's not her fault. It's casting. (Note: April 6, 2014: I learned she's cast as Hazel in The Fault in Our Stars and think she is PERFECT for this role. I"m very excited to see her in that movie.) Check out this list of some people's choices.   Yes, I'm being completely superficial, but isn't seeing the story the point of taking a book and making a movie? At times, Woodley's big eyes--that were supposed to be blue like most of the other Abnegation--pulled me in and I wanted to root for her. But she just looks too old (meaning 19? versus 16) and too solid. She's supposed to be scrawny, pale, blond, not especially pretty, but interesting.  She claims to look like a child.   Even Four tells her she doesn't have any muscle. It's not like he was saying she was fat. She gets her ass kicked easily because there's not much of her.

I have to remind myself that this is a movie and not a book. They take liberties to tell a similar story but not the same one.

They achieved success with a lot of casting choices.

Four was right on target. (After all, Theo James caused Mary all sorts of trouble as the Turkish gentleman in Downton Abbey, and he possesses the sexiness to pull off the male love interest.)

Tony Goldwyn and Ashley Judd as Andrew and Natalie Prior were good. I couldn't have asked for better.  I believed them. So many relationships were removed in the film. (I get it. They have to cut for time.) I wish the visitation day would have been kept. It's so cool how she connects with her mother as she watches her in the halls of Dauntless. Of course, if that scene were included, though, they'd have to bring back the chocolate cake. After all, before Natalie left she told Tris, " Have a piece of cake for me, all right? The chocolate. It's delicious."

Christina got away with being smaller than Tris because she captured so much of her spirit.

Kate Winslet rocked Jeanine Matthews.  I look forward to seeing her again in the next film.

Side note: Did anyone else think they were trying awfully hard to make Jeanine look a little too much like Hillary Clinton? I know I know I know... Hollywood never gets political.

All of that being said, I will probably watch it again.  Even if it's just to see this part:

I'll just bake my own chocolate cake.

What about you?  What are your thoughts on the movie? The book? 


  1. The only reason I would see this would be for Theo James. I love him. If you want to see more, you might check out BEDLAM. (Or have we already talked about this? You know how wacky I am.) Bedlam is totally uneven, but there are some really strong moments. He's the best part about it.

    1. I'll check out Bedlam.

      He was great in Divergent. I know I'm being a bit of a brat about the film, and I'll probably get used to the changes and appreciate the show more...eventually. (Even Gone With the Wind left out a child and a husband!) Still,I'm in a bit of a state of shock.

  2. As you already know, I'm not a big fan of YA fantasy/dystopian literature. I read the first of the Twilight series and and the first Hunger Games book. I was pretty much lukewarm on both of them, although I liked Hunger Games a tad better. I at least liked Hunger Games enough to watch the first movie, but that pretty much did it for me. That being said, something about the concept behind Divergent intrigues me--reminds me a lot of Brave New World. I was planning to skip the book and go straight to the movie, but now you've convinced me to do the opposite. Thanks for the review. (And I didn't read it in detail, so you haven't spoiled it for me.)

    1. Since you don't have high expectations, I think you should watch movie first and then read book--if you intend to do both. The book is so much better and will flesh out places and you'll enjoy it. If you read before watching, you may get annoyed with all the missing pieces that enriched the story.

      By the way, I think you will like the story because you are interested in personality types. I think that's why I'm so drawn to it.