Young Adult novels are getting more and more popular and I’m not afraid to admit that I’m going with the flow and enjoying the ride. From The Hunger Games series to the Maze Runner series, books with dystopian story lines are becoming a trend and that trend is reflected on the big screens. Whilst I don’t mind the fact that the novels like to play around with similar situations and heroins, the standard for these types of movies for me needs to improve franchise to franchise. Therefore following the highly successful Catching Fire might have been Divergent’s biggest downfall.
Aside from the fact that I was fully aware what was going to happen, having read the book made the movie far more uninteresting than I had anticipated. This has never been an issue, not with The Hunger Games movies, definitely not with the Harry Potter franchise or even Game of Thrones series, but with Divergent I felt like reading the book was a big mistake. With its slow paced story building and the few memorable movie moments which were presented in a manner of underwhelming excitement, I wasn’t really experiencing any kind of thrill. I can’t remember reading the book and being as disconnected the whole way through like I was with the movie, can’t even recall a time I felt so utterly distant from the leading character, but somehow, Shailene Woodley’s Tris was boring beyond repair.
Now, this is not a criticism towards Woodley’s acting skills, she has them, I know, it was evident in Divergent with all those almost crying puppy eyes she was giving in every other scene, but it’s the fact how everything around her didn’t seem to support her. Zoe Kravitz is no Lenny and her supporting role as Christina was definitely a weak link and I could say the same for Kate Winslet! That was something that came as a shock for me, Winslet’s inability to portray a villain that is because I always considered her to be an actress who can tackle everything but I guess playing a bad guy just simply isn’t in her blood. All the boy roles were somewhat underwhelming as well and I didn’t seem to connect with any of the supporting characters.
One thing I need to mention here is that I didn’t feel many connections in the book either, it just wasn’t connecting me with various characters and there really wasn’t anything emotionally crippling when it came to other story lines surrounding Tris. I was hoping that the movie would somehow fix that issue, create deeper relationships and portray a bond which we as viewers could miss after it was gone. Sadly, there was no emotion behind anybody except Tris and Four (Theo James) and even that was a bit shaky from the start. Part of me wants to blame the casting because whilst the book Four had blue eyes and felt like a man who was strong yet vulnerable, James is a guy who looks strong and feels strong – and that contradicts his character. Surprisingly, the most memorable storyline from the Divergent series for me was Four’s past and the way he became who he was, the movie didn’t really establish that and it’s a shame really. Though it was shown, it wasn’t ignored completely, it didn’t let the idea linger enough for it to make become important. Frankly, it seemed to be an issue with the entire movie, everything was constantly happening but Divergent didn’t really take the time to let the viewers settle their emotions.
Despite the nature of the plot, having a lot to tell in a short period of time, the movie felt like it was dragging the whole time. For me, I guess it comes down to having read the books, being familiar with the story and anticipating every scene before it actually happened. Yet, Catching Fire was also based on a book I had read but somehow, the movie was constantly keeping my attention and well, it was simply a good book adaption from start to finish. The same clearly doesn’t apply to Divergent which didn’t even take advantage of the deepest fears sequences and simply kept everything bland. Having a dystopian novel as a starting point also allows to build a whole new world and though seeing Chicago in ruins was rather interesting, I wished for more. I wished for more thrills, more chemistry, more connections, more back-stories, more emotions… more everything to be honest. Simply put, Divergent just didn’t deliver enough to be good and it’s a shame really.0
Excellent review! What a pity, I have really been hoping for more from this movie than most people are giving it credit for. I am going tonight. I agree that the book had a lot of unemotional bits to it seeing as Roth never really built relationships that had lasting power or something to identify with, though I liked the story itself as well as Tris. Pity they underplayed Tobias’s story, that is disappointing as it really was thrilling!
There was lack of emotional impact for the story of Four.. it was almost perfect in the books, his back story, and in the movie it didn’t feel as great. Hopefully you’ll enjoy it more than I did though!
🙁 I will find out tonight!
I haven’t seen this but I wasn’t aware that Winslett was to be a villain in this film. Even you saying that sounds a little off to me. I think Woodley has a bright future. Glad to hear she held her own in this.
Woodley should stick to indie roles and she’ll be fine.. I think trying to be the next Lawrence just isn’t something for her.
You mentioned about how you felt that reading the book was a mistake. I agree with you – I read the book and did not enjoy the movie. I think I would have liked it if I haven’t read the book – like some of the people I know. Shailene Woodley is a good actress but I did not buy her character, I thought that she wasn’t convincing enough – and her interactions with Theo James (I wasn’t convinced by him either – he lacked conviction) were a bit awkward, like their chemistry and their budding relationship seemed forced. I did hope that the fears parts were more intense, or they showed other parts in relation to some scenes. I was disappointed with it, but out of the YA franchises so far, this has a potential to actually be huge – if they do decide to move on with the succeeding books.
In terms of bringing the story on screen, THG is doing it a bit better though the first movie might not be as great for some, I loved it a lot more than Divergent..
Nice review Ray. It mainly suffers because of its direction which takes the novel and lazily translates it, making for an experience that, while entertaining, is forgettable and uninspired.
Indeed, the way it was all dragged somehow.. remarkable.. so much possibilities in terms of making it thrilling and so on.. but it didn’t do anything.
So… I should pause in reading — I’m halfway through — and watch the film first?
I’d say it’s a shame to hear that it was bland, but everyone else, with the exception for Roth herself, has said the same, so I’m not that surprised. But because of the similarities and timing, I think Divergent will always be compared to Hunger Games, so the standard is almost impossibly high. I wonder if it would’ve been received better if it had been before Hunger Games, or a few years after…
I’m comparing them as well because it’s human nature, those two are in the same box.. and THG is ruling that box at the moment.
I am going to see this tomorrow and I’m on the third book. I have to agree on the books though… they just don’t have that intense emotional impact.
Hopefully the movie will have more impact… for you, I didn’t seem to care at all sadly.
I’d love to see Shailene Woodley’s star rise off the back of this. She was terrific in Alexander Payne’s The Descendant’s and clearly has the potential for big things.
The Descendants was really good for her. I like to see her do more of those kinds of movies.. The Spectacular Now was also great.
Your review is spot-on. Just watched the movie, so I’m still processing. Let’s just say that my first thought wasn’t a positive one… the movie kind a sucked to be honest.
Not going to argue that.
Meh, I’ll watch for Woodley and Winslet, but I’ll wait until it comes out on dvd.
Winslet was awful in my opinion.