Friday, August 15, 2014

It should have been called Convergent

I read the book Divergent a few months ago.  I enjoyed it.  It wasn’t Hunger Games – far too much of the familiar, not enough of the original, but the storytelling was good and I was interested in reaching the end.  Certainly a good YA book, or for anyone interested in reading stories set in dystopian futures.

I have been waiting to catch the movie since.  Last week I had my chance.  Tom Petty suggested to us that “Waiting is the Hardest Part” but I’m going to respectfully disagree.  I haven’t been that disappointed in a movie since Jurassic Park 2.  Or maybe Tron 2.  Nope, Tron 2 was better.

It wasn’t terrible so much as a waste of time.  Unless you like Theo James in which case you think the movie was the best ever, Dad.  I am not sure if Theo can act, he didn’t get much of a chance.  The plot followed the book pretty closely but, in its execution, showed me exactly why the book felt a little flat to me.  The plot is not very good.

Which is to say that the plot is a fine plot, but we’ve seen it a million times.  There’s really no twist and the “up the stakes” moments are way to contrived and leave us with no place to go emotionally.  What really worked for the book was the interaction of the characters during training and how Tris finds her way after leaving her family and belief system behind.  The plot was just there to get everyone out of the kitchen and doing something while they chatted.

In the movie, all of the extra bits were taken away and we were left with a pretty bare plot and a “grand scheme” that wasn’t explained very well.  Book adaptations are hard.  Everyone says so.  You rarely hear anyone say, “The movie was better than the book” unless they are talking about Forest Gump.  Given that state of affairs, the screenscribe must be prepared to take certain license to create a visually oriented story based on the book, rather than a direct transcript edited for length.

Perhaps the most significant bit missing from the movie was the continuous fear about being dropped from training.  This section of the book was taught, emotionally charged and suspenseful because Tris was not only battling the Dauntless born, but her new friends (also her competition) and herself.  One of the defining scenes in the book was completely redone in the film – and moved far later in the narrative – removing any sense whatsoever of the “sibling rivalry.”

The supporting characters were also not drawn, or cast, very well.  If I had not read the book I’d have had no idea who any of them were.  As it was, my kids were lost during the story because to them, the same guy was doing all sorts of completely different things – and then he was supposed to be dead but wasn’t so what was up with that?

Ms. Roth should be congratulated on her novel.  It is an admirable work at a level I am still striving to reach.  The teens I’ve talked to all love the film and, since they are the target audience, it appears to have been a success.  But for me, the overall experience was like going to Disney and having it rain every single day.  All day.  And my clothes are in the world of lost luggage.

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