Divergent: Book Versus Movie

23 Mar


The transition from book to movie is often a rocky one. Most do a decent enough job with the atmosphere while chopping out large chunks of the plot (Harry Potter), while others fall flat on their faces in an embarrassing fashion (Winter’s Tale, I can’t even think about that one…). A few movies do justice to their book counterparts, like the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and on rare occasions even surpass them. Somewhat controversially, I’d say that The Hunger Games achieved this, rounding out flaws in the book in an effortless fashion.

My hopes for Divergent were not very high. While I was secretly hoping for a hilarious YA-trainwreck like City of Bone, I expected a pretty middle of the road rendition. Sadly, it was bad–but not so bad that it was funny. Actually, I think if you haven’t read the books it’s probably pretty good. They did not change a whole lot, but the things they did change were so frustratingly minor. Why is Tris blonde? Why did they change the meeting with her mom to an illicit affair instead of an official one? Who knows!

Minor Quibbles:

  • The first shot in the movie is not in the books. Not a good sign…
  • I found the mascara and falsies on Tris & her mom crazy distracting. What were they wearing?! I bet it was Tarte’s Lights, Camera, Lashes. It looked fabulous, but the “no makeup makeup” was painfully obvious in a whole “no one wears makep” world.
  • Erasure of minorities: Christina is supposed to be Hispanic, yet in the movie she is black. The characters who are black in the books (Uriah, my favorite!) are barely in the movie. They cut the gay female character. Tori was as un-Asian looking as possible. The books do a great job with diversity. The movie? Not so much…
  • The finale is supposed to be at night. It wasn’t at night. Why? Who knows!
  • They cut out all of Peter’s character arc, which is going to bite them in the ass if they do a second movie.
  • Eric looked so much like Macklemore, I kept expecting him to break out in song. The hair was a bad choice.
  • Marcus looked like a hobo. WHY?
  • Abnegation is supposed to have boring clothes but everything Tris wore was amazing. Can I have that jacket, please?

Major Quibbles:

  • Why did EVERYONE know about Divergents? It was a huge change from the book, and it made no sense. For one, if rumors of them are really known all over the city, Tris would have understood the meaning of her whack test scores. Having it go from this big, government secret to something teenagers tell urban legends about shifted the tone significantly.
  • Will, Al, Peter and Ed looked IDENTICAL. I literally could not tell them apart. Same height, same face shape, same hair color & cut. It was a real problem, since two are “good” and two are “bad.” HUGE casting error. Also, focus on the 4 identical white boys but cutting so many minority characters? For shame.
  • The romance was nothing like the books. Tris & Four had no chemistry, it seemed so forced and awkward.
  • My biggest issue: when Tris is in her fearscape and deals with Four’s romantic advances, it is a nuanced issue. In the books, at least. It is a fear of opening up emotionally and physically to someone, a fear of growing up and changing. But in the movie, it’s… a fear of her boyfriend trying to rape her. REALLY?
  • Kate Winslet should have played Four’s mom. Such a wasted opportunity.
  • So many tiny details were changed. And for no reason: they did not make the plot go faster, or fix plotholes. It seemed totally random and was disjointing if you read the books. Things like the zipline suddenly being dangerous, or having them run up 100 flights of stairs instead of the elevator scene (which, by the way, was my favorite part of the book and they cut it, ahh).
  • Continuity errors: right after Tris injures her ear, it is fine in the next scene. Surely their budget was big enough for some fake blood.
  • What is up with YA books and the stupid insertion of pop songs? SO ANNOYING. They did it in Twilight and City of Bone, and it needs to stop. Now. Do your soundtrack like The Hunger Games. Please, I beg you. Otherwise I am sitting there during the big romance scene going “huh, where have I heard this before…?”

My biggest issue, though, was this guy:


Theo James is 29. Theo James looks 29. It added a creepy, robbing-the-cradle element to the Tris/Four romance. I would make allowances if he was fantastic and the perfect Four, but let’s face it… he can’t act. He was terrible. Giggle-worthy.

Lastly on the list of complaints, the pronunciation of Erudite was ALL OVER THE PLACE. Yes, there are two proper ways to pronounce it. But we got at least four in the movie. Hehe, Four. The thing is, someone should have said “okay, we are going with THIS pronunciation. Everyone, stick to it!” Instead of having everyone do whatever. So distracting. It was Rorschach all over again.

So, it wasn’t all bad, right? Things that I actually liked:

  • The atmosphere was great. Totally captured the feel of the books (except for The Pit, which was way too bright)
  • The costume design was PERFECT. The colors were fantastic, really drew lines between the factions.
  • I think Tris was acted much better than I expected. Still not excited for Shailene Woodley in The Fault in Our Stars, though.

Yeah, that’s pretty much it. So much potential but it fell horribly flat. A letdown, as I expected, though it falls between “bad” and “so funny bad it’s amazing.” It is getting good reviews, so I expect a sequel… which I will happily skip. Once was enough, thank you very much. For those of you working on The Forest of Hands & Teeth and The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, please take this as a lesson on what NOT to do in a young adult book-to-movie venture. I have such high hopes for both of you.

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