Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Short version: I haven't read the book, but I have to assume that the movie suffers in the adaptation. It is a hot mess from beginning to end. And yet, it still managed to be somewhat enjoyable. If you aren't a fan of the series, wait for Netflix for this one.

As mentioned, I haven't read the books. If you want any kind of point by point analysis, you'll have to go to my wife or sister. So take that grain of salt now.

This is the sequel to the good (if not excellent) Divergent movie. The basic premise is that there has been some ill-defined apocalypse. In order to survive, humanity has holed up in a single city. They have instituted a faction system, in which teenagers are sorted by inclination into one of five groups. Some poor souls don't belong to any group, and fall out the bottom of society. Others are, as the title suggests, divergent, belonging to multiple groups.

The first movie saw our divergent heroine Tris come of age, and then fight a terrible plot by the Evil Authority Figure Who Knows Better. (It is a teen novel, and is riddled with the expected themes. This is not a bad thing, it's just a genre thing.) The battle was not kind to her emotionally. The second movie opens with her and her motley band of refugees hiding out. The bad military people soon root them out, propelling the plot back into the city and into conflict with the Evil Authority Figure.

Unsurprisingly, the Evil Authority Figure has an Evil Plan. In this case, it involves a secret message left by the founders of the faction system that will Fix Everything. In a plot twist that doesn't even surprise the characters, Tris is the only person who has the ability to open the message.

By itself, it's a pretty serviceable if trite plot. And there are enough twists, subplots, and emotional scenes along the way to flesh it out into a good story. Or, at least, I assume there are in the book. Because we see glimpses of them here and there. But it suffers badly in the adaptation. There are lots of threads that appear and then are promptly abandoned. It reminds me strongly of Half-Blood Prince in that way. If you've read the book, you look at how an entire chapter was condensed into a three minute conversation that didn't even involve the same characters. If you haven't read the book, you sit and wonder why we just spent three minutes in a side conversation that is then never referenced again.

One obvious example is poor Caleb. He loses everything to run away with Tris. Then has a powerful scene in which he, an Erudite, is forced to resort to violence. Which either drives him catatonic for the rest of the movie, or has no effect on him at all, it's hard to tell. He tags along until he suddenly says "Um, the next several scenes work better with just The Heroine and Scary Boyfriend, so I'll just exit stage left. Catch up with you guys later!" Then he does, having switched sides. (If that plot twist surprises you, you really need to learn to pay attention.) But even with two scenes to work out how that affects his relationship with his sister, they kind of don't. And I have to admit that I don't even remember what happens to him at the end of the movie. He's clearly an important and complex character in the book, that gets edited down to a weird emotional placeholder in the movie. (The fact that the actor is also her love interest from Fault in Our Stars made for some weird chemistry at a couple points.)

Despite these issues, the movie isn't a chore to watch. Shailene Woodley (Tris) and Theo James (Four) both do a good job, and have good chemistry. They brought in some great talent, not just in Kate Winslet and Ashley Judd from the first movie, but adding Octavia Spencer and Daniel Dae Kim. It added some wonderful depth.  The sets are fantastically done, really evoking the mood of each place. The score is good. The fight choreography is, um, there. The CGI effects are smooth. So, basically, except for the script everything was reasonably well done.

My recommendation is definitely to wait on this one, unless you happen to be a fan of the series. I wouldn't avoid it, but I wouldn't seek it out either. Oh, and you should re-watch Divergent before seeing it. In addition to editing out huge chunks of the book, they also didn't take the time to re-acquaint you with the characters. That is one of those things that is great if you go from one movie directly into the next, but is a bit frustrating if, like me, you having seen the first since it was in theaters.

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