Sunday, March 23, 2014

Divergent Review

Back in the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012, there was this huge craze over this book called The Hunger Games and its upcoming film adaption in March of 2012. I don't read much. I enjoy reading when I find a book that sucks me it, but I'm very much a slow reader, so I won't just jump into any book series because it's too much of a time investment for me. For some a book is like watching a movie. To me its like watching a season of a TV series. I enjoy TV shows, but there are a lot of them that I want to watch that I just never do because of the time factor. So thus when The Hunger Games book craze happened, I didn't jump on that bandwagon initially. I waited for the movie. Then you know the rest is history. It sucked me in immediately and I loved that movie so much that I walked out knowing that I had to read the books. Now fast forward two years. Recently there has been this craze over the book Divergent and its upcoming film adaption in March of 2014. Same process for me. I decided that I would wait for the movie and if the movie did the same thing as The Hunger Games movie did, I would gladly pick up the books and read them. What's the result now that I've seen the movie? Unfortunately it's not the same. Divergent was a swing and a miss for me.

I hate to be the one that says this because it often bothers me when others do, but I'm going to say it. We've seen all of this before. We've had a gazillion young adult book to movie adaptions now, and I've enjoyed many of them. I've even enjoyed some like The Host that many thought were stupid. But if you're going to try to be the next big thing, you've got to set yourself apart somehow. Divergent doesn't. The whole story is a complete mashup of like everything we've seen before. Allow me to explain. The setting is post-apocalyptic. There's a government set up that claims it's there to keep the peace. Of course you know that means a rebellion is coming up, led by a protagonist girl. But I'm getting ahead of myself. We are set up into 13 districts... uhhh I mean 5 fractions. As the young kids come of age they are sorted into these fractions by a sorting hat... uhhh I mean a test that reads their mind. The fractions include Griffindor, Hufflepuff, Slytherin and Ravenclaw.... uhhh I mean Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Erudite and Dauntless. You're sorted by personality. Let's fast forward a bit. We have our main female protagonist that beast the system (Harry Potter convinced the sorting hat to put him in Griffindor when it wanted to put him in Slytherin... that's the reference here). Katniss Everdeen then volunteers as tribute... uhhh I mean Tris volunteers to jump first. Then we get a training sequence. Then we get a bit of a curveball where the newly sorted kids have to battle it out against each other to see who survives. Thrown in there, everyone in the Dauntless group that we follow gets tattoos (that reminded me of the Mortal Instruments movie that no one but me saw and enjoyed). Then of course we get Jacob taking off his shirt... uhhh I mean Four taking off his shirt (ok, admittedly that one is a bit of a stretch, but it still reminded me of Twilight a bit), instigating a somewhat awkward romance that just had to happen because all these movies need a teen love story.

I'm sorry, I couldn't help myself with all the comparisons. It was like a domino effect for me. Once I started seeing one similarity, they all started coming to me at once. The whole movie seemed like it took The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Mortal Instruments, and Twilight and threw them all into a blender to create this new movie that is now a decent hit. Sure, there are some unique parts to this, but not enough of them to make this movie stand out as something unique. But hey, there's been times where I've enjoyed something despite it being completely unoriginal. The Inheritance Cycle is the perfect example. Christopher Paolini in writing the books completely ripped of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings in so many ways. But I still enjoyed it. And who knows, maybe I'll enjoy the book Divergent if I pick it up. But the other big problem with the movie is it had a lot of pacing issues, especially in the first half of the movie. It took a long time for it to grab my interest and make me care, while it was very choppy. It also felt really long. You get to a point in the movie where you feel like the ending is coming soon, but they still seem to be setting it up and that ending just doesn't come until what seems like two hours later. I know it was only 2 1/2 hours long, but it felt like 3 or 3 1/2 hours.

Now that I've completely driven this movie into the ground with my review and upset all the Divergent fans, it's time to be a little positive. What did I like about this movie? First and foremost was Ellie Goulding. I knew that she had a bunch of songs in the movie, but I forgot that when I went to see it and then suddenly BAM! Hanging On I believe was the first song to play, at that was followed by, in no specific order, Dead in the Water, My Blood, and the new song Beating Heart that was written for the movie. More good things about Divergent. It was visually very impressive. And the acting was good. Being perfectly honest, I wasn't a huge fan of Shailene Woodley, but she was ok. I did enjoy her counterpart Theo James, though. Performances by Jai Courtney, Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz and Miles Teller were also good. And saving the best for last, the best performance in the movie was the one and only Kate Winslet. Finally, while I wasn't a big fan of the beginning or middle of this movie as you can clearly tell, the final act of the movie actually impressed me quite a bit. I'm not going to give anything away, but the final act was the one part of the movie that felt unique and original, at least to some degree. It was also quite intense and emotionally driven. It saved the movie from being a complete disaster.

In the end, I can't give Divergent a very good grade, but I'm also not going to fail it completely. I know I have a lot of friends that love the book, and I hope that they will come out and tell me that after seeing this movie that the book is much better. Because no, the movie didn't suck me in like The Hunger Games did. I don't feel a huge desire to pick of the books and see what happens next. In terms of young adult book to movie adaptions, Divergent comes no where near the top tier of movies with the likes of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. It's also not as bad as something like Twilight. I'd put it just under the second tier of movies that would include The Mortal Instruments, I Am Number Four, and The Host. Those movies weren't blow-my-mind great, but they were enjoyable. My grade for Divergent is a 6.5/10.


  1. Got bored after about the first hour, and realized, there was a whole 'nother hour to go! Good review Adam.

  2. I haven't seen the movie, but the books aren't worth the read. The character development is poor and inconsistent.