Divergent: Terrible Adaptation, OK Movie

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Last night, my friend and I went to go see the 8:00 premiere of “Divergent”. We’ve both read the entire series and are huge fans of it, each marking “Divergent” as our favorite book of all time. We waited at the theater for an hour, excitedly talking about which scenes we were looking forward to most and seeing all of our fellow “Divergent” fans. Of course, we were both nervous and skeptical, but we kept high hopes.

movies-divergent-shailene-woodley-trisAfter finally getting through all the other dystopian previews, the movie finally began. My friend and I silently squealed and squeezed each others’ hands. The movie started like we expected it to – the hair cutting scene. Everything seemed pretty okay.

Then the movie kept going. Our excitement started to fade as we whispered everything that was inaccurate to the book. We got excited when one of our favorite scenes was coming up, such as the knife throwing scene. After Four nicks Tris on the ear, Tris is supposed to get in his face and yell at him. She calls him sadistic and makes her presence known. In the movie, Tris simply states quietly “You hit me.” The conversation continues with Four somehow having the leverage over Tris. She barely even raises her voice, and she certainly doesn’t show her anger. We then sunk back down in our seats when we realized the scene wasn’t right at all. Shailene does this for the entire movie – speaking in an extremely soft voice with almost no emotion (except in the moments when she is crying). This makes it hard to recognize Tris as a strong, independent character that we can support. Yes, she does have her strong moments (fighting scenes, whenever she has a gun, etc.) but overall the way that she acts is not the same as Tris in the books.

Before we knew it, the movie was over. We both looked at each other and said “Disappointing.”

That’s the main word to describe this movie. Disappointing. And not just from a book-to-movie adaptation standpoint – the movie in itself is not fantastic either.

There were so many differences from the book to the movie that it became very confusing to watch. Scenes were drastically changed, characters altered, and complete plot sequences rearranged to fit the model of a typical movie arc.

The biggest disappointment was when Tris and Four enter Four’s fear landscape. This is supposed to be Four finally opening up to Tris as they’ve progressively gotten closer. This is supposed to show him as weak and afraid. This is supposed to show how Four and Tris complete each other and make the other person better. Somehow it became a lesson for Tris to complete her own fear landscape “like a Dauntless would” and not be caught as a Divergent. My friend and I sat in the theater with dumbfounded looks on our faces, trying to figure out why they would change it this way. Four is supposed to be scared out of his wits, but instead he was almost calm throughout the entire landscape. The scene became completely separate from its original intention and served to make Tris seem dependent on Four for her survival. Tris is supposed to be independent, especially in terms of her fear landscape. Then, of course, they finally kiss at the end of the landscape. Tris says “I don’t want to move too fast.” This line was almost irrelevant. Yes, it’s purpose was to make it seem less random when one of her fears is being intimate with Four. All it really does is make her seem even smaller and more reserved than she did before.

And that’s only some of the main changes in the movie. There were so many more that it became hard to count after a while. The entire sequence of defeating Jeanine was altered and replaced with an overly dramatic knife throw to the hand. Yes, Tris gets better as she progresses with her knife-throwing, but she certainly isn’t a ninja. And, of course, Tris saying “No, I’m not Dauntless. I’m Divergent.” and then injecting Jeanine with the syringe. It was so overly dramatic and cheesy that it was almost painful to watch. Along with this, Edward was not in the movie at all. Various other characters were seen but were not important and did not have their names shown. Uriah, a fairly important character, was not stated by name. The most annoying part was how the order of things was often switched around. Overall, it was a very confusing adaptation and one that left me wishing I hadn’t had my hopes up at all.

As a movie in itself, it wasn’t terrible. The setting was visually appealing and properly showed what a dystopian/post-war Chicago should look like. It had characters that we could like and support, like Four, Tris and Christina. It had the occasional funny one-liners and also the sad moments to give the audience balance. It had tension built in and a plot that left us (well, those who hadn’t read the books) wondering what would happen next. However, lots of things were wrong with the movie as well. A lot of the acting was very dry, as previously stated with Shailene acting as Tris. It almost seemed as if they were trying too hard to become the characters. Peter is supposed to be obviously obnoxious, but here he simply came across as the stereotypical bully in a high school film. He didn’t seem to have any real emotion or character towards him. So naturally, we were annoyed at his presence, but he wasn’t a character that was going to stick in our minds. Jeanine was often repetitive (talk about human nature one more time or so help me) and did not come across as cold and calculating as she really is. Tori also had a lack of emotion, especially when delivering Tris’ aptitude test results. The only characters who seemed to be realistic were Four, Christina, and Eric. (I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Theo James as Four, considering I was against his casting.) Other than that, the acting was not superb. Along with this, a lot of the information seemed to be blatantly obvious. The prime example of this is when it is revealed that Four was actually the son who was abused by Marcus. The knowledge of an abusive son is brought up semi-constantly throughout the movie until the reveal. It’s very random when it’s brought up and doesn’t really fit in the context of the dialogue. That makes it seem jumpy and unnatural. This manages to have it be completely irrelevant yet painfully obvious at the same time. The narration in the beginning, while necessary to describe the world they live in, also was very dry and obvious. They practically told the audience that Tris would be choosing Dauntless at the Choosing Ceremony, which is supposed to be a surprise in the plot. “I always thought they were amazing.” Not really. You thought they looked cool when they jumped from trains. But, of course, you can’t portray that just by your facial acting. Even when Tris is watching them jump off the train, she looks like she’s barely feeling anything. It’s hard to believe that she finds them amazing.

I could continue on about everything that was wrong with this movie, but no one has that kind of time. As a book-to-movie adaptation, it was inaccurate and left the ones who read the book feeling like we had been cheated. As a movie in itself, it’s a semi-interesting dystopian that people who have not read the books could easily enjoy. It also wasn’t special, and therefore fell in the gray “average” category. In the end, the old saying remains true; don’t judge a book by its movie.