Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Divergent - Another Poorly Done YA Novel Adaptation

Here we go again, another YA novel movie adaptation which tries to capitalize on the popularity of the Hunger Games but fails miserably.  This would be fine if it hadn't happened a bunch of times already (I’m looking at you Mortal Instruments).  Divergent capitalizes on the public’s current obsession with dystopian science fiction but fails to create a story which is either emotionally charged or particularly exciting 
                The story focuses on Beatrice, a citizen of the destroyed city of Chicago 100 years after the “end of the world”.  She lives in a society separated into five factions which are designed to keep people in line based on their personality traits.  Beatrice belongs to Abnegation which is the selfless class and the ruling government body.  However, at the age of 16 every member of society is allowed to choose which faction they wish to be a part of.  Once the decision is made, there is no going back.  Beatrice much decide between the safe decision of staying with her family or the hard decision of leaving them behind forever and joining the military faction Dauntless which she has always envied.  If she joins them and fails, she risks becoming faction-less and having to live on the streets with no food or shelter.              
                Before choosing, Beatrice is evaluated only to find out that she is a Divergent meaning she fits into not one but three categories.  Her evaluator hurries her out the door and tells her never to speak of this.  Divergents threaten the system which has kept this society in line for over a century and are thus eliminated.  When the time comes, Beatrice decides to join Dauntless and leaves her family behind to start her new life.  The trials are difficult but she manages to pick herself up after every fall and keep working at it, determined to succeed.  Eventually, Beatrice finds herself at the center of a plot to overthrow Abnegation by the intelligence faction Erudite.  Beatrice must work together with her Dauntless instructor Four to try and save her old faction. 
                The story has more holes in it than I know what to do with and was predictable from start to finish.  There are so many questions, which makes it difficult to take the concept seriously.  Why don’t the faction-less rise up and overthrow the others?  Why does no one have any desire to leave the city of Chicago?  Are there other settlements around the country or the world?  It’s been over 100 years since the end of civilization and no one has once thought about trying to contact other pockets of survivors?  Are we meant to believe that Chicago was the only place to survive?  And these are just the big questions!  Beatrice’s decision to leave her faction and join Dauntless is supposed to be emotional because she will never get to see her family again and yet she takes a Saturday stroll to see her brother in Erudite one afternoon as if it’s no big deal.  I could go on and on.  In the end, the issue is that humans are far more complex and free thinking than this system implies.  It just wouldn't hold up for the 100 years it has.  
                Now let me take a minute to confess that I haven’t read the books.  Many of these questions may be answered in subsequent sequels.  But the questions weren’t the only problem with the film.  The sub par romance between Beatrice and Four was predictable and completely unnecessary.  The films climax is over in 15 minutes and even that is far too long as a mind controlled Dauntless army stands ready to shoot every member of Abnegation awaiting only the Erudite leader’s final command.  But in typical Bond villain fashion, an exorbitant amount of time is wasted allowing Beatrice and Four to save the day.  
                Overall, the film felt hurried and poorly thought out.  When this genre is done correctly, it can make for an exciting film for all ages as in the case of movies like Enders Game or Percy Jackson and the Lightning Theif.  But Divergent was a prime example of a movie that left WAY too much to the imagination which for someone over the age of 18, was hard to overlook.  Unless you can relate to Beatrice on a personal level (i.e you’re a teenage girl who doesn't feel like she fits in, but can overcome any obstacle if she puts her mind to it) than the film just isn't for you.

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