You probably noticed that Divergent gets the special treatment around here at The Young Folks. As fans of the book, we were really excited for the movie, and for our review of the film, Melissa decided that we should do something a little different than usual. Since four (LOL.) of the TYF writers had a chance to see the movie earlier this month, we chose to share our thoughts on film through a conversation with each other.
The playing field is even. Two of us have read the books and are fans, while the other two were new to the world of Divergent. Read on below to see what Gabrielle, Melissa, Cachie and Tyler had to say about DIVERGENT.
Divergent Film Review by Gabrielle Bondi, Melissa Berne, Cachie Gonzalez, and Tyler Stevens
**MAJOR MOVIE SPOILER WARNING**
Gabrielle: Commence the FOUR way review of Divergent…
Cachie: Well, I really enjoyed it. It was fast paced and easy to follow. The cast was amazing & the acting was great. Better than a lot of other [YA] book films. Theo has a great smolder. lol
You guys are so cute with your references
Can’t help it.
Gabrielle: I agree with Theo’s smolder… But overall, I thought the movie was good, not great. I feel like it didn’t have that “oomph” I wanted it to have (as a book fan).
Melissa: I thought it was good, too. It didn’t spark in all the right places for me, but it was enjoyable.
Tyler: I can’t say I was a huge fan, unfortunately. I thought the two leads were particularly charming and had strong enough chemistry to keep the core romance from going stale, but other than that I found the film to be an overlong mess that stuffed too much into a poorly-written script. I can see it being a much better book, but it didn’t work for me here.
Cachie: Well, I didn’t read the book, so this is from a non-readers perspective.
Tyler: I’m coming from a non-reader perspective too.
Gabrielle: Pretty much what Tyler said. The script was the movie’s biggest issue. And the book is fast paced, so it’s NOT that hard to adapt it into film. From the beginning, I never liked the movie’s screenwriter anyway.
Cachie: I actually don’t think I want to read the book after seeing the movie though, because I don’t think a lot of the scenes are readable.
Melissa: What do you guys think it was about essentially?
Tyler: A group of teens divided into twelve districts who two are chosen from to fight to the death in a —
Sorry wrong franchise.
Cachie: Yeah it is hunger games-y.
Melissa: The way it’s written in the book, you’d think this would totally be a movie because it’s so action-packed…
Gabrielle: Clearly, the movie didn’t set itself apart, which should’ve been the screenwriter’s first priority.
Melissa: I agree.
After you watch it, you might have enjoyed it, but nothing really POPS out at you. Nothing leaves you kinda hooked.
Tyler: I agree completely, I thought the best parts of the movie were when the writing took a backseat to the spectacle, which really set itself apart. For example, I thought the capture the flag scene and all the “mental test” dream sequences were well done.
Cachie: Yeah, it didn’t set it up for book 2 really.
Melissa: My favorite sequence is Capture the Flag.
Tyler: By far, from climbing the ferris wheel to the zipline, that’s the film’s strongpoint.
Gabrielle: With a world separated by factions, you think they’d emphasize the psychology behind such a different societal structure. The fact that people separated not by economic class, but by personality is very interesting and raises many questions. The script had a lot to work with, all the while having fun with the action sequences.
Ok, so I want to touch on something that maybe as a book fan is a little unfair but whatever…
Her divergence is complex. In the books (all three) it’s treated as something that’s a dangerous threat to her life, which it is. However, it’s also why she has such an internal conflict about where she really belongs. And I don’t think that was really brought to light in this one.
She’s mostly afraid about getting killed, not about belonging somewhere.
And some things were kinda lost. She goes from terrified of Four knowing she’s divergent to all of a sudden trusting him. “You know why.” REALLY?
Tyler: Yeah, I felt from the beginning, Tris was not carved out as a character at all. We didn’t get to know her, we were just simply told that she didn’t know where to belong.
Then they kinda dropped that.
Gabrielle: If you think about it, the book makes it out to be a sort of twisted coming of age story, which the movie completely disregards. The movie would’ve benefited from it.
Melissa: She says it the beginning, I don’t belong in Abenegation. But when she gets to Dauntless, she feels that she may not belong there either. It would have been cool if they showed that a little more
Cachie: I agree. I didn’t get a sense of who Tris really was. But isn’t that saying something? She was raised her whole life to think of others and not herself.
Gabrielle: However, I think Shailene made the best of it. I enjoyed her performance; she does a good job of carrying the film.
Melissa: Shailene did great. It’s the editing and writing that’s a problem.
True, Cachie; I’m just saying we should have seen the conflict within herself more.
Cachie: Yes, I see that. The writing above all else was too simple. Especially concerning such a complex, and psychological storyline. Well, it could have been.
Gabrielle: Besides how hot Theo is, what did you think of him as Four? Was the transition from “mentor” to “love interest” abrupt or natural to you?
Cachie: Abrupt. To me at least.
Melissa: Thank you, Cachie!! As a non-book reader, then I know I’m right. LOL. The love came out of nowhere.
Tyler: I wouldn’t say abrupt, since it’s really telegraphed from the beginning, but it didn’t feel natural either.
Gabrielle: I felt that first kiss was so cheesy…. It makes me embarrassed to be a YA fan.
Melissa: In the book, it’s awesome because it’s gradual. But in the movie, there’s NO transition.
Tyler: Then again I actually thought his character was the most interesting thing about that movie.
Melissa: What did you think of him, Tyler?
Tyler: I thought he was charming enough. He had a certain screen presence, kind of drawing on the I Am Number Four-smolder that’s overdone, but it still set himself apart as something dark and brooding in a film that I felt was particularly bland.
Gabrielle: Really? I didn’t find Four as captivating as character in the movie. I guess I was expecting someone more enigmatic.
Tyler: Yes, I just referenced I Am Number Four, which is all I was thinking about when they mentioned his name.
Cachie: Yep. I mean you sense that something will happen between then because the way they pan to him touching her waist in training and her face when he does, but I thought it was abrupt.
Melissa: I just felt that he wasn’t really mysterious..
My point, is that it’s all one-sided on her part. So, it seems strange that he just goes and kisses her.
Let me point out that we never see the instructor Four actually instruct…
Tyler: He instructs her with some of the fighting early on, with the punching bag.
See what we thought of the fear landscape scenes and more by clicking NEXT.
**MAJOR MOVIE SPOILER WARNING**
Gabrielle: What did you think of his fear landscape scene? Was it surprising to you that one of his fears was his father?
Tyler: It didn’t surprise me much at all, but I hated how it was handled when they were reunited later in the film.
Gabrielle: I thought that big discovery that he was Tobias Eaton wasn’t as profound as it was in the book. And I actually did like the landscape scenes, just wish that one in particular didn have the emotional punch it needed.
Melissa: That’s my favorite scene in the book, and it was such a shock. In the movie, it’s treated as “meh.”
Gabrielle: I expected Marcus and Four to have more shock and hostility on their faces when reunited.
Cachie: I was shocked but I didn’t like how their reunion was handled. Like it was all good but he was his biggest fear. I felt like maybe they should’ve had some more emotion
Melissa: How about Four didn’t really seem afraid when he was in his “fear” landscape. LOL
I guess they wanted to make it more about Tris, though.
Gabrielle: He played up the humor in the enclosed spaces part, which I liked. It added a little levity to his expression. lol
Melissa: What did you think of Shai and Kate’s dynamic?
Tyler: Who’s Kate?
Oh right! Kate Winslet was in it.
Gabrielle: Kate Winslet had the same lines in every scene. What a waste.
Gabrielle: Jai Courtney was more of a villain than she was. Even though I read the book, I completely glazed over whenever Kate spoke. Something about “human nature” being the enemy or whatever. I like when villain actually has a valid point to make, even if I don’t agree with it. Kate was clearly wrong, and she seemed too Stepford for me take anything she said seriously.
Melissa: Jai was GREAT!
Best villain in there.
Better than even Peter, who is more scary and psychotic in the book.
Gabrielle: Also, it pains me to say this all about Kate Winslet because she’s one of my favorite actresses of all time, but between this and Labor Day, Oiii… I hope the sequel (if they do one), gives her better lines.
Melissa: I’ve seen interviews with the director on how he was going to try to set Tris apart from Katniss. Because we see Tris “transform” from being meek to being a warrior. I gotta say, it didn’t feel that epic.
How do you think it played out?
Tyler: I mean, I felt there was no natural transitioning.
Every single change was abrupt.
Tyler: I’m trying hard to think of one, but it’s not coming. haha.
Sorry about that.
Melissa: I’ll try…
Tyler: But it was just an observation, there wasn’t much of a natural flow to the film in my opinion.
Gabrielle: Tris’ strongest suit is her bravery. Nothing stops her from doing the right thing. I think people link “warrior” with physical strength, which isn’t fair, especially when comparing Tris to Katniss. The film doesn’t consistently show that off about Tris.
So she’s didn’t really transition at all in the movie, IMO. Yeah, she may know how to throw a punch now, but who she is didn’t really change.
She just gained more knowledge and realized how fucked up the world she is living in is. lol
Melissa: I agree. She was brave and selfless from the beginning (from wanting to stand up to Peter to saving the little girl from the dog).
Gabrielle: Now that she knows, she’s going to do something about it. And if only the movie made that clearer, I’d be a happier Divergent fan now. lol
Melissa: LOL. Were you guys pulled in about what’s beyond the fence?
Tyler: Not at all.
Cachie: Negative. It wasn’t emphasized enough.
Gabrielle: No one cares about the story’s BIGGEST mystery. Just LOL.
Melissa: Me neither. Since they didn’t care, I didn’t care. Maybe that would have benefited the movie if they added that subplot, so that you’re excited for the next one.
Tyler: I still have no idea what’s beyond the fence, and the fact I haven’t even bothered to Google it says something.
Cachie: lol. Ditto.
Melissa: Agreed, Tyler.
Gabrielle: What did you think of the direction? We all agree that the script is the movie’s weakest aspect. So do you think Neil Burger helped it a bit or made it worse?
Melissa: I think he helped with the script but screwed it up in the editing room.
Tyler: It’s hard to say, nothing for me really stood out about the direction.
Tyler: I’d say he neither helped nor hurt the film.
Which is different from his last work, Limitless, which I think he really lifted off the page with style.
Gabrielle: Exactly! I was hoping for something like Limitless.
Melissa: Nothing stood out for how he shot it, right?
Tyler: Not at all.
Gabrielle: For a futuristic world, something a little more stylish would’ve been awesome. The color tone seemed too muted for my tastes.
The zipling and capture the flag scenes stood out visually for me. I’m from Chicago, so I did find myself taken with some of the sets. The costumes were terrible though.
Melissa: He wanted to make it light and then dark since Tris wants to be a part of that world, but I feel like it feels the same in the whole thing.
Gabrielle: Yeah, I definitely did not detect both light and darkness in the movie. Unless we’re talking day and night. lol
Melissa: LOL! What didn’t you like about the costumes, Gaby?
Gabrielle: I thought they were distracting bad. I was wondering what those pockets in Tris’ Abnegation dress were for, rather than the fact she was about to jump off a roof into a pit.
Melissa: LOL. It didn’t distract me, actually. That whole scene with jumping to the train then off the roof was great. You get a sense on how fucking crazy the dauntless are
Gabrielle: I got that when they are climbing up to the train platforms to jump on and off them. lol. They played up the Dauntless insanity well, even if it was a bit corny at times.
What did you think of Ellie Goulding being the musical voice of the movie?
Melissa: Sometimes it would kind of taking me out of the world
Gabrielle: Same, only because of how familiar I am with Ellie’s music. Although, generally I prefer just a musical score with films like this one.
Melissa: Me too, which is why I was worried when I heard there would be singing in this.
It took me out of the world, but it didn’t overshadow the whole film.
Cachie: I’m a huge Ellie fan, so I liked having her there but I see how it takes you out of that “world.” I for one did not like the zip lining scene as much as you guys did apparently. As cool as it was, it didn’t stand out to me as much.
Melissa: Well, I loved the capture the flag scene from when she’s running to the train all the way to when she has the flag with Christina. That was a nice touch. For zipline, all I could think about was Allegiant.
Gabrielle: For reasons we will not say…
Gabrielle: So final thoughts! Yay? Nay? Who would you recommend this movie too? Or would you even recommend it to anyone? Why?
Melissa: I give it a 7 as a rating. I’d recommend it because it is entertaining even with its holes. I’d say any age group, really, could watch it.
Cachie: I would recommend it to non-book fans. It is enjoyable. I was entertained and did not feel like I was sitting in the theatre for 2.5 hours. Fans should be proud that the film was decent and enjoyable, unlike the first Twilight film in comparison to its book.
Cachie: 8. I really enjoyed it, especially coming in to it without reading the book and no real expectations.
Gabrielle: I say Ya-nay. I mean, I know we spent the majority of this conversation making negative points about Divergent. Frankly, the negative outshone the positive. I guess coming from a fan of the book, I knew the potential this story had for film and to see it not reach that potential is disappointing. I thought they had solid lead actors and director, but this goes to show you how a weak script can really bring a movie down. What worked in its favor, like Cachie said, it appeals to broader range of fans, outside of book’s fan base.
That’s to say I did enjoy many scenes and the movie overall; and I hope that if it does do well at the box office, they make a better movie out of the sequel. I give it a 6.5.
Melissa: That’s why I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. They were “world building” Maybe the director of Insurgent can Francis Lawrence it…
Gabrielle: I would have given it a seven, but the fact that it doesn’t do a good enough job of separating it from The Hunger Games annoys me.
Tyler: My rating is 4/10
And my final thoughts are that it has two charming leads, but it’s so poorly written and conceived that it doesn’t stand out from the pack of YA adaptations.
Gabrielle: Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts!
DIVERGENT opens in theaters March 21, 2014.
Should you read Insurgent? For a bonus part of our conversation, click NEXT!
So should you read the Divergent trilogy? We discussed that for a bit after seeing the movie.
**MAJOR MOVIE SPOILER WARNING**
Cachie: Would you guys say I’m ok if I skip reading the first book and just go straight to reading the second?
Cachie: It’s that I really don’t want to read it after I already saw the movie. lol
Gabrielle: Plot-wise? Yeah, I doubt you’d be confused if you jumped right into Insurgent.
Cachie: I know what happens lol
Melissa: Why? [The book is] better. More fleshed out characters.
Cachie: I mean plot wise
Melissa: Plot-wise you should be fine
Gabrielle: Just understand that Tris is in a much darker place than she is in the movie. She has PTSD.
Melissa: Yeah, she’s fucked up.
Cachie: Ohhhh, I didn’t get that in the movie at all. You mean after everything that happens in Divergent right?
Melissa: HA!!! You see?!
Cachie: Like with her parents & shit?
Gabrielle: Yeah, after everything. I mean she saw both her parents get killed and she killed one of her friends.
Melissa: And killing WILL.
Gabrielle: Plus, she’s displaced and out of her world for the first time ever and she has no idea who to trust.
Cachie: Yeah I mean I’m not surprised, but she doesn’t seem to be on the train.
Melissa: Well ,it comes through in the second one, and she discovers all the factions are basically fucked up. lol
Gabrielle: I guess you can argue she’s in shock, but the core of Insurgent’s plot is based upon Tris’ mental well-being.
Melissa: And figuring out what being self-less really means..
Gabrielle: Yeah, like on a psychological level, it’s a billion times more interesting. The line between being selfless and selfish is precarious, and she balances that notion throughout Insurgent. It is worth reading.
Divergent hits theaters March 21st! Watch the trailer below.