Friday, August 1, 2014

Divergent - Book to Movie Review

Could the world become so corrupt and devastated by war that all of society would break down and the only way to survive and rebuild would be to label everyone and divide them into factions to keep them in line and keep the peace? Apparently the author of Divergent, Veronica Roth, thinks so because that's exactly what happens in her best-selling young adult dystopian novel. 

Right after turning sixteen Beatrix Pryer is tested. This test is a simulation that will determine her true nature and the faction she should live in for the rest of her life. She's been raised to be an Abnegation, the faction that believes in selfless acts and putting others before themselves. But Beatrix isn't selfless like her parents or her brother; she isn't like the others of her faction. She longs to be fearless to be free and adventurous. She longs to be a member of Dauntless, the faction that believes in courage, strength, and conquering ones fears. She longs to be a warrior, a soldier. When she takes the test, however, her results are inconclusive. She is divergent, one who does not fit into just one faction, and thus is considered dangerous to their society. She is told to keep the truth about herself secret, and now has to decide all on her own which faction she should choose for the rest of her life. Should she be true to her own desires and follow her ambition to Dauntless or should she do what's expected of her and stay where it's save in Abnegation? Either way she has to leave something behind, her own dreams or her family. One choice can transform her forever!

Book Review: First off, I am not a Dystopian fan. The explanations of how modern society crumbles are either non-existent, vague, or riddled with flaws. Also, the reasoning behind why and how these new societies take shape rising from the ashes of the former governments are convoluted at best. I really don't see the point of a society in where you are only able to act on one aspect of your personality. Are they reasoning that having too much personality, too much freedom, is what destroyed the previous civilization and that's why this faction system is suppose to work? The concept is interesting but I have a hard time believing that most people would agree to this kind of a prejudice society. Essentially they're all labeled and put into little boxes where they have to stay for the rest of their lives. How would this make for a peaceful society? This would drive me insane! 

With that aside I was grateful to find that Beatrix has a personality. She is a complex person with more than one side to her, and struggles with this faction idea as much as I would. I found it interesting how she wasn't able to be labeled by the test and has to choose based on her own desires what she wanted to do the rest of her life. This is more true to real life and the decision we all make when we choose a profession or a major when we go off to college. The initiation into Dauntless from jumping onto the train to jumping off a building into a black hole that leads to who knows where drew me in and caught my imagination. I had no trouble putting myself into Beatrix's shoes and going through her struggles as if I was her. I mostly identified with her being a small girl who everyone assumed was weak and incompetent. I'm short myself and have always been independent. Yet because of my size people have always treated me as if I was incapable of doing anything physical. In ways Beatrix home faction reminds me a lot of my religion and the ideals we live by including: selflessness, service, and modesty. When she chooses to transform herself into Trix she has to face her fears and change her whole way of life, including becoming more comfortable with her body and herself. I like that although she gets a tattoo like everyone else in Dauntless they have meaning and purpose, not just something that looks cool. Ultimately, I rooted for her through it all and loved that her being Divergent gave her an advantage in some of her trails as she fought to become accepted into Dauntless. I loved that she doesn't let the actions and the perceptions of others stop her from conquering her shortcomings to become triumphant. 

Love interest wise I enjoyed the way this story unfolded. It happened naturally and gradually throughout the plot not side tracking from her personal journey or the action of the story. The love interest was a strong and interesting character. I found his attraction to Trix believable and his behavior practical, yet still romantic in nature. He was neither too flat or over written, which I think helped him feel more real. The tension between Trix and her rival initiates and her budding friendships were all well-written and believable. The ending was a bit rushed for me but still well done with a satisfying conclusion. 
Overall I really enjoyed this book despite its unrealistic concept and society. I found it easy to read, and hard to put down. Intense from beginning to end with an ending that was both satisfying yet left you wondering what’s next, making you feel like you needed to pick up book two right away. I would give it five stars and recommend it to people like me who don't like Dystopian or young adult. It's the kind of book most anyone could get into. 

Movie Review: Only a few days after finishing the book I went and saw the movie adaptation of the book. First off the movie is well done overall and enjoyable. However, I have a few complaints. 

First, in typical Hollywood fashion they went and cast, Shailene Woodley a tall actress to play Beatrix, a short character. It's not a big deal that they didn't cast a blonde, although I do believe that people often perceive blondes as naive, innocent, weak, or simple-minded, so being blonde was a big part of the character in the book. What really bothers me is that they took a strong-willed, short woman role and gave it to someone tall when there are plenty of talented short blonde actresses out there who could've done a far better job. Not That Woodley was terrible or anything, I just found that her inability to embody the actual character of the book distracted from the film itself. Beatrix's height was a huge part of why her victory was so poignant in the book. She goes from being the weakest, smallest, and most likely to fail to the top initiate in her training. It's a huge accomplishment because everyone treats her like she's too weak to keep up. Because she has to overcome her physical limitations her struggle is more realistic, her triumph more rewarding. They took that away from the character when they made her tall, even taller than her best friend Christina, who was stronger and bigger than her in the book. Also, the fact that Beatrix in the book was of a similar build to mine made her more relate-able for me, and was a huge part of why I loved her character. 

Second, they stayed pretty close to the book at first then went off on a completely different direction by the ending. In some ways this worked, in others it didn't. They also rushed through some vital scenes which made the story seem choppy. 

Third, they down played the villain characters, Eric and Peter, making them seem far less menacing then they had been in the book, losing their impact in the movie. They barely mentioned her friend, Albert, until later in the story so that when a key event happened it was less impactful because he wasn't as important to Beatrix. I also didn't like how they changed the relationship between Beatrix and her brother. When she goes to him for help in the book he was more considerate and understanding then he was in the movie. Also, he was key in helping solve the big mystery behind how the government would be overthrown in the book. In the movie he was not helpful at all, just a weak side character. 

Finally, the ending went off a little from where the book took it but ultimately gave us the same results with a Hollywood flare. In some ways I did like the movie ending better than the book. 

Overall the movie gets a four out of five star rating. Had they cast an actress better suited to the original character who had to overcome more and prove herself then I would've given it five stars. Otherwise the casting in the film was pretty spot on, with Theo James as the perfect Four, Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn as her parents, and Kate Winslet as the female villianess. The production value was excellent and it was all in all a descent adaptation. However, as is often the case, the book is definitely better than the film.

Now go forth, read the book watch the movie and have a great weekend! Till next time.

R.J. Craddock