Saturday, April 26, 2014

Movie Review: Divergent

I read Veronica Roth's Divergent about two years ago when I didn't have much to do except read and when I was still jonesing for another Hunger Games-like story. I didn't find that exactly, but I did find a few hours of solid entertainment. I finally saw the movie adaptation this weekend and was pretty impressed. The film features some beautiful shots, especially at the beginning. I'm not sure if the first half was noticeable because it represented a shift from peace to chaos or if I just stopped noticing the cinematography. The ending has to set up the next two films/books and, consequently, leaves everything open, but I'd be happy with the ending if there were no remaining story to carry it forward. Tris has lost her parents, but she's gained a sense of self, kick-butt fighting skills, and a touchstone in Four. Even with the city in chaos, she's lived to fight another day, and there's no doubt that's what she'll do.

The film's biggest strength is Tris. Even familiar with the book and knowing what was going to happen at every step of the journey, I found myself worried for her. Will she choose Abnegation? Is she going to make the train jump on her first day in Dauntless? Is she finally going to win a fight? A little of that had to do with the score, which is pulsing and percussion-heavy, but a lot had to do with Shailene Woodley, who imbues Tris with a sense that she's just trying to stay on her feet in a world that's more than a little messed up.

And, I think, heroines like Tris are important in YA literature. She works hard to get better at the things she's not good at. She's searching for a place in the world but ultimately accepts she can't be hemmed in by the status quo. And she's brave even through her fear.Plus, her pants are the bomb.

However, it wasn't a total home run for me. There was so much violence (although none of it graphic) that it almost became meaningless by the end of the film. The climax involves lots of gunfire and hand-to-hand combat, but because all of the heavy consequences come in quick succession and much too close to the end, there's no time to dwell on them and render them important. Hopefully, they'll be dealt with in the rest of the series.

And then there's the whole mind-control thing. It was set-up well enough with the serums used for the faction tests and the fear landscapes, but I still didn't like it. I'd much rather see Erudite use manipulation and indoctrination over mind control, but that would drastically alter the storyline, which doesn't make a whole lot of sense, actually. But I'm willing to suspend my disbelief and gloss over that because it's such an entertaining ride.

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