Movie Review: Divergent

Divergent is a movie that I had been eagerly anticipating for quite some time – even if it has been quite a while since I read the book. On the way to the theater, my friends and I were discussing the scenes that we were excited to see and, in my case, the actors that we were excited to swoon over. As we were leaving the show, discussion turned to what we liked/disliked and what we wished they had included. After a day of organizing my thoughts on the matter, I’ve found that I didn’t love the movie, but I also didn’t dislike it… which makes this review somewhat difficult to write.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie yet, this review will likely be spoiler-filled, so please use your discretion if you decide to keep reading beyond this point!

Divergent takes place in a dystopian society – specifically in the remnants of war-torn Chicago. Society is organized into five factions: Abnegation, which extols the virtues of selflessness; Candor, which values honesty; Amity, which represents peace and kindness; Erudite, which values knowledge and learning; and Dauntless, which values bravery and courage. At the age of 16, inhabitants undergo an aptitude test that determines which faction they are best suited for and, shortly afterwards,are able to choose the faction that they would like to spend the rest of their lives in. However, for individuals like our protagonist, Tris Prior, representing the values of only one faction may be more difficult than expected…

One aspect where Divergent excelled was the visual effects. From the fields that Amity care for to the large, rusted Ferris wheel, everything was incredibly well-done. Some scenes perfectly matched what I had pictured while reading (like the Ferris wheel) while others were interpreted in completely different ways (like the pit in the Dauntless headquarters… or the Dauntless areas in general). Despite this, they all meshed together nicely to create the perfect dystopian Chicago setting.

Another factor that I absolutely adored was the soundtrack. While aesthetics are often the first thing that one thinks of in regards to a film, a well-chosen soundtrack is instrumental in evoking and amplifying the emotions that the actors are portraying. During several pivotal scenes, Ellie Goulding’s beautiful voice was the only sound, and the emotional reaction that it garnered differed dramatically: Dead in the Water set the mood for Tris and Four’s first kiss, while Beating Heart‘s haunting tones closed the film alongside Tris’ voice over. Her music was an external representation of Tris’ emotions and thoughts, and I thought they were perfectly chosen.

As for the characters, they were very hit and miss with me. I have never really been a fan of Shailene Woodley’s acting, especially after seeing The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and unfortunately Divergent did not change my opinion on that matter. Thankfully, I wasn’t the black sheep in my friends group in regards to this: my roommate’s only response to Shailene as Tris was “well… she has really pretty eyes.” A lot of critics have praised her acting as being “subtle,” which it must have been since she came across as very wooden – even during her most emotional scenes. As a result, a lot of scenes (such as Will’s death) lacked the emotional impact that they had in the book, and served to distance me from her has a character. Tris’ growth and development was one of my favourite portions of Divergent, as I really enjoyed reading about her journey of self-discovery and empowerment. This was definitely evident in the film, however I can’t help but feel that she grew too strong: for a girl who is advised that she should utilize her speed to her advantage in a fight since she lacks upper body strength, she certainly should not have been able to throw around guys who are easily twice her size – even if it does add dramatic effect during fight scenes.

Theo James was an excellent Four. At first, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the fact that he look so old compared to Tris, however his delivery definitely made up for that fact. His chemistry with Shailene was evident in their romantic scenes – which, thankfully, weren’t as numerous as in the book.

In the books, the other initiates were  important and I grew to care about or sympathize with them all – with the exception of Peter, of course. That attachment made it so much easier for me to feel for the characters: as they succeeded, I was so proud of them; as tragic events befell them, I was sad for them. In the movie adaptation of Divergent, however, the secondary characters – or everyone who wasn’t Tris – received very little screen time or development. If I hadn’t read the books, I definitely wouldn’t have realized that Christina and Will were in a relationship, that Peter even had a name, or that the Dauntless born initiates like Uriah were actually quite a lot of fun. This lack of emotional attachment made it hard to view these characters as people; instead, they were only important in relation to Tris, and were either her acquaintances or her competition. As a result, events that I vividly remembered from the book because of the emotional impact that they had – namely Al’s suicide and Will’s death – didn’t faze me at all.

As with every book-to-movie adaptation, certain liberties were taken with the plot, and scenes were either added or left out. The bibliophile in me was mostly satisfied with how accurate the movie was, however there were a few key scenes that I took issue with.

My biggest disappointment may have been the exclusion of Edward – and, by extension, the fact that the scene where he gets stabbed in the eye with a butter knife was not included. Other scenes definitely did show how awful Peter was, and just how far initiates were willing to go to make sure that they had a place in Dauntless, however I’m still bitter that that scene was cut.

Another scene that I was uncomfortable with was during Tris’ fear landscape. In the movie, it appeared as though she had a fear of being raped by Four, when the book made it clear that her fear was intimacy. There are many ways to be intimate, and sex isn’t necessarily the only way of doing so. It has prompted excellent discussion on the importance of consent, however, so I suppose I can forgive that oversight.

On a completely shallow note, Jai Courtney made an excellent Eric. Gone was the greasy black hair and scary amount of piercings that book-Eric possessed, and in its place was the ridiculously attractive individual on the left. And that, my friends, is a change that I was definitely okay with. Even if my friend kept calling him “punk rock Macklemore” throughout the entire movie.

There were several other small changes that I really enjoyed, including the substitution of paintball guns during Capture the Flag to the use of weapons that simulated the pain of a real gunshot wound (but don’t worry, that pain only lasted for a few minutes). It was just so Dauntless that it was perfect.

Overall, I enjoyed Divergent for the most part. The action and scenery were spot on, but the characterization was lacking and that somewhat dampened my experience. Despite that, I’ll likely be in line for Insurgent when it comes out – especially if my favourite bad guy makes an appearance.

Book Review: The Transfer by Veronica Roth

More Four! Fans of the Divergent series by #1 New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth will be thrilled by “The Transfer,” the first of four new short stories told from Four’s perspective. Each brief story explores the world of the Divergent series through the eyes of the mysterious but charismatic Tobias Eaton, revealing previously unknown facets of his personality, backstory, and relationships.

My Rating:  4 cupcakes

I wasn’t a fan of Free Four Tobias Tells the Story, since it was just a retelling of one scene and didn’t provide any additional, important information. As a result, I was very wary about reading The Transfer. While this also didn’t provide too much new information, it was the perfect reminder of why I like Four so much – and just how much he’s changed from the weak, scared Abegnation member that he once was. I really enjoyed this glimpse into Tobias’ life, and I cannot wait to see what the rest of the e-novellas show us next.

Book Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

Told from a riveting dual perspective, Allegiant, by #1 New York Times best-selling author Veronica Roth, brings the Divergent series to a powerful conclusion while revealing the secrets of the dystopian world that has captivated millions of readers in Divergent and Insurgent.

My Rating: 3.5 cupcakes

After seeing countless reviews that claimed that Allegiant had ruined the series for readers and having a pivotal scene spoiled for me courtesy of Facebook friends who don’t understand that not everyone was able to read it on the release date, I was a bit nervous about starting this book. After finishing, it seems as though I’m a black sheep on this one: Allegiant took me on an emotional roller coaster ride, but it was one that I certainly enjoyed.

The narration in Allegiant is told from two perspectives: Tris and Four’s. A lot of other reviews have complained about how “weak” Four appears in this book, but I see it as the complete opposite; after getting a glimpse into Four’s head, it’s clear that he must be strong to shoulder all of his burdens and demons by himself. I really enjoyed getting a glimpse at his motivations and deep-rooted insecurities as they served to make him more real. While I did enjoy the dual POV and understand its necessity, Tris and Four’s voices were often indistinguishable, to the point where I occasionally had to flip back and see whose perspective I was reading from. It didn’t take away from my reading experience by any means, but I do wish that there was tighter writing in some places to give Four a distinct voice.

I loved Roth’s exploration of all of the characters, and how well fleshed out they were. Grief, loss, and desperation have changed them all from the characters that we first met in Divergent and I felt for all of them – including Caleb, which was a bit of a surprise for me.

The plot was well-paced and interesting, though a few parts at the beginning seemed to consist mostly of info-dumping. This did cause the beginning to feel rather slow, but this information was necessary to put the final touches on the world-building. There’s so much going on in Allegiant, multiple threads of a storyline that are all building up to one big event: the climax. Roth holds nothing back as the characters are tested and caused to question their morals and beliefs. She doesn’t write the ending that the reader wants; instead, she writes the story that needs to be told. It’s a heartbreaking yet beautiful finish and, in my opinion, is the only way that this series could have authentically ended.

As a sidenote, if you’ve finished reading Allegiant, you should take a look at Veronica Roth’s blog post regarding why the series ended the way that it did. It’s a beautiful explanation.

Book Haul!

My entire week may have been made just by checking the mail today. Between bills and letters for my parents were three parcels for me, all containing books!

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The books in the pile on the left are ones that I had just ordered on Monday, so I certainly wasn’t expecting them to be here already! The ones on the right are books that I won through Goodreads First Reads Giveaways (which is super exciting; I never win anything).

Here’s the complete list:
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley by Jan Andrews
The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic by Emily Croy Barker

I can’t wait to start reading these! : )
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