Books, Movies

Thoughts on Divergent and Book-to-Film Adaptations

SHAILENE WOODLEY and THEO JAMES star in DIVERGENTLast weekend Divergent came out in theaters. Naturally I had to go see it. I had read all three books in the series over the holiday break, and had been counting down to seeing the movie. If I were completely honest I would probably admit that I was mostly excited about the movie because it was starring Theo James, but if you know me you probably already guessed that.

I really enjoyed the movie. Sure there were some changes made, some things had to get cut and other scenes were either out of order or combined. But overall, I thought the film did a great job of streamlining the plot and making it accessible to an audience whether they had read the books or not. So many times these YA adaptations have a lot of things in them that make so much more sense if you’ve read the books and understand more of the background story. I didn’t find anything like that in this film, at least not on the first viewing. I think one of the only drawbacks to the film was the characters of Will and Christina really didn’t get fleshed out nearly as much in the film. Also, even though they explained it fairly well, Al’s betrayal – as well as the depth of his betrayal – still seemed to come out of nowhere because we lost a lot of his struggle leading up to that scene, as well as his crush on Tris. However, I think they did explain it well and showed the impact well.

One thing that was completely cut out was the viciousness of Peter and his determination to come out on top. There was no scene of him stabbing Edward’s eye. Although, the 8-year-olds in the film with me had apparently read the book because that’s all they talked about as we left the theater. Not only was I surprised kids so young had read the books, it was a little disturbing hearing them talk so excitedly about somebody being stabbed in the eye (and they were even a little disappointed in wasn’t in the movie).

So overall, I think Divergent was a really good adaptation of the books, and if you’re a fan of YA fiction or dystopian lit then you’ll probably appreciate this one. It keeps getting compared to the Hunger Games, which I find somewhat unfair as the plots and the characters are very different (in my opinion). I also think this one did a much better job translating book to film than the first Hunger Games film (Catching Fire did a much better job).

If you’ve read all of the series then you know how Allegiant, the third book ends. I won’t spoil that ending for you here, but I had read an article the other day that talked about whether or not the films would attempt to change that ending since it had been so controversial with fans. I myself am not a big fan of the third book. I felt it lacked focus and completely changed in tone from the first two. I also felt a little betrayed by the author in the end (though major props to her for having the guts to write that ending). That being said, I’m not sure that I would appreciate a film completely rewriting the ending either. If you’ve read the books and you know what I’m talking about, then you can understand. What do you think? If an author writes an ending that the majority of fans disagree with, is it okay to rewrite the ending? Isn’t that what they did for My Sister’s Keeper (another ending I hated).

While I’m on the subject of adapting films and making changes, I also want to put in a plug for my most recent column, in which I discuss film adaptations. We all judge them so harshly, but I’ve come to the conclusion it’s important to enjoy it completely separate from the book and judge each on it’s own merits. Even though most of my above discussion revolves around comparing film to book, I really tried not to do that throughout the film. I probably would have enjoyed it even if it hadn’t been anything like the book (and no, not just because of Theo James).

So check out my column (and the entire site) and let us know what you think about film adaptations. There’s also a great review of Catching Fire that discusses how faithful it was to the book.

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