Monday, October 6, 2014

14 Thoughts and Reactions to Divergent

This movie has been out for a few months, and though I was curious about it, I never could justify spending eight dollars and nearly three hours on it, especially since I'm not overly fond of the book.  When my university showed it, though, I figured I might as well go.  I was not surprised by my overall reaction toward it.
  1. When can we stop with the beginning infodump in dystopian movies?  I talked about the same thing in my review of The Giver.  There has to be a better way to do this.  This movie literally opens with Tris narrating the backstory while we're shown some ambiguous dystopian scenes.  Were they even trying?
  2. The Choosing ceremony has some sanitation issues.  They're all cutting their hands (to get blood for the Choosing ceremony) with the same knife.  That's an excellent way to spread disease.  If one of you has Ebola, now you'll all have Ebola.  Also, why do people in movies* always cut their palm when making a blood oath?  It would be so easy to damage something important in the hand; why not use the forearm instead?  
  3. The romance between Four and Tris develops so awkwardly.  It's not believable, and there's even less chemistry than in the book.  He's giving her the cold shoulder.  She's still talking to him because she thinks he's attractive.  Then there's an awkward yet intimate moment on a rickety ferris wheel.  Suddenly, he's helping her train.  And there is kissing.  I watched this movie with a bunch of fellow college students, and half of us actually laughed out loud at the first kiss.  It made that little sense. 
    I can't get over this GIF.  Her face...  This scene was even more gratuitous and unnecessary than the random shirtless scene in Thor: The Dark World.  
  4. This isn't necessarily the movie's fault, and it's explained in Allegiant, but...who would ever think this society would make sense?  Spoiler: it doesn't.  The faction system makes absolutely no sense.  I understand that certain revelations in Allegiant shed light on this, but why do all of the characters just accept this system?  I'm no sociologist, but even I can tell at one glance that it can't work.  You can't shove everyone into one of four personality types, especially when they aren't even personality types at all.  Sure, selflessness may be part of someone's personality, but intelligence?  No.  That has nothing to do with personality.  Honesty and peacefulness are more values than personality.  Can we just...not...with the faction system? 
  5. Erudite's trying to take over the government.  Darn.  We wouldn't want the people known for intelligence to be running the government, now, would we?  I understand the theory of letting Abnegation govern the factions--after all, they're supposedly selfless.  While it might be a good thing to have selfless people in power, how do we know they can run a government?  You can take care of the poor all you want, but if you lack leadership skills, you're still going to be an ineffective leader.  So why villianize Erudite for trying to gain control?  (Understand here that while I'm not faulting them for the end goal, I disapprove of the means.  I don't condone brainwashing people in order to turn them into your own personal army.)
  6. Dauntless.  What are you even doing?  Speaking of not making sense: Dauntless takes courage a little too far, to the point where it becomes stupidity.  There is no reason for them to have to jump onto/off of a moving train.  There is no reason for them to make their initiates jump off a building.  And there's definitely no reason to allow the type of violence that happens between initiates outside of training sessions.  Yes, I suppose you have to be fearless to jump off of a moving train, but it proves nothing except your own stupidity. 
    I'll pass, thanks.
  7. Four movies are definitely not necessary.  It's trendy to take your trilogy (or septology, or The Hobbit) and make more movies than books out if it, because PROFIT. The problem is that this is a self-perpetuating cycle.  Maybe an extra Harry Potter movie was necessary, but Mockingjay?  Allegiant?  Three Hobbit movies?  Maybe Mockingjay, but otherwise, not really.  But even though they're unnecessary, people like me will still go to the theater and see them* and pay for it.  And movie companies will make more money from two movies than they would from one, and they'll just keep doing it.  It's frustrating.
  8. The side characters here are even more confusing than in the books.  In the books, I had a hard time keeping track of side characters, which is something that usually isn't a problem for me.  The combination of too many side characters, lack of distinction, and awkward name choices that was problematic in the books is even worse in the movie, because some of the people actually look similar.  This was confusing and distracting, and I had the benefit of having read the book--I can only imagine that a newcomer to this story would be even more lost.
  9. The fear landscapes are awesome.  I loved this aspect.  The fear landscapes were utterly believable, intense, and cool.  Shailene Woodley and Theo James did a fantastic job with them as well, but the bulk of the praise should go to the special effects people.  The same goes for the aptitude testing simulations, despite the fact that these were cut short compared to those in the book. 
  10. It's fairly faithful to the book.  It's been awhile since I read Divergent, and like any book-to-movie adaptation, there are differences and cut scenes.  Still, the movie Divergent stays true to its source material in tone, themes, and almost every plot point, which is impressive.  I don't remember any scene that made me think, "When did that happen in the book?"  In this regard, Divergent is excellent.  Except...
  11. Why is there a near-rape scene?  In the books, one fear that Tris has to overcome in the simulation is the fear of intimacy.  Specifically, with Four.  In the book, I attributed this to Tris' Abnegation background, since Abnegation values modesty, and the fact that she had an experience with assault in the compound (didn't she?  I'm remembering this, but I can't find any mention online, so please let me know if I'm wrong.).  Tris overcomes this fear by asserting her personal power and making out with Four on her own terms.  In the movie, though, this fear of intimacy becomes a fear of rape.  Four just won't take no for answer, and Tris has to overcome this fear by fighting him off.  Can we please stop congratulating this movie on the fact that it shows a girl kneeing a guy where it hurts, and question why this is necessary in the first place? The fear of intimacy makes more sense, and shows more strength.  The fact that showing a girl fighting off a potential rapist is (apparently) more important than showing girl asserting herself (and the guy respecting her wishes) is troubling.
  12. AGUSTUS WATERS.  *bursts into sobs*  Maybe I should've seen Divergent before The Fault in Our Stars, because I will now have this type of emotional reaction to anything involving Ansel Elgort.  I'm not even sorry.
  13. Shailene Woodley saved this movie.  It's full of lackluster dialogue and plot elements that make no sense, but at least Shailene Woodley can act.  I loved her performance in The Fault in Our Stars, and she did an equally awesome job here, despite this movie's problems.  She conveys emotion in a raw and honest way, and she knows how to bring out the strength in a character.  If the dialogue had been a little tighter, she would've truly had a chance to show her skills. 
  14. Kate Winslet as Jeanine is...meh.  Jeanine is an uninteresting villain.  She's the antagonist, yes, but she doesn't inspire any particular hatred from the audience--or love, for that matter.  A good villain should be both scary and fascinating (hello Loki, the Scarecrow, the Master).  Jeanine's motivations are largely ignored, giving the audience little explanation for her actions.  Why is she evil, again?  Because she's the Designated Evil Lady.  Come on, people--you need a better reason than that.  (And is it just me, or does she look like an older Scarlett Johansson?)
Overall, I'm not impressed, though it did have a few bright moments.  I won't go to the theater for the rest of the movies, but curiosity will probably tempt me to see them sooner or later.

He threw a knife at her.  Such romance.  So love.  Wow.

Did you see Divergent?  What did you think of it?

*And Supernatural.  All the time.  Shouldn't they, at least, know better?
**Well, except Allegiant.  I doubt I'll see that in theaters.
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2 comments:

  1. Interesting. I read the book, but I didn't see the movie -- mostly because I wasn't particularly fond of the book, like you. I totally agree the romance was awkward; it turned me off of the books. (But then again, most romances turn me off of books. It's frustrating how often I come across romance in books, especially if they're downplayed in the summary and then becomes a major part of the plot.)

    Also, I didn't think of how little sense the premise made, but now that you pointed it out, it's obvious to me. When I read it (a while ago, I admit) I remember having this disconnect with the setting, but I couldn't figure out why I thought the premise hadn't been done right. The whole factions thing was cool, but it didn't work. And now I realize, of course -- because it's only a faction of a personality, and people would've rebelled (or one faction would've tried to dominate) a lot sooner than this storyline.

    Anyways, I wanted to let you know this is an awesome post. I hadn't planned on seeing the movie, and now I'm even less motivated to go. (You've articulated the reasons I didn't want to see it in a better way than I could put it.)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment! Yeah, surprise romances annoy me, too! It's all in the misleading descriptions, which often downplay important things and emphasize smaller aspects.

      That's an interesting point, that one faction would have tried to dominate sooner than they did. This makes sense--why were all the other factions content to let one of their own rule over them for so long?

      My goal with this review wasn't necessarily to dissuade people from seeing it, but then again, if it saves time for you, then more power to you! Especially if you didn't care for the book. My initial review of it, actually, was fairly positive, but I was still caught up in all the hype at that point. Since then, my opinion of it has only gotten worse. Distance has enabled me to see more of its flaws.

      (I posted this comment yesterday, but it seems to have disappeared, so I'll do it again.)

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