Showing posts with label divergent. Show all posts
Showing posts with label divergent. Show all posts

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Allegiant (2016)


The next leg of the Divergent journey plants us further way from the prequels as anyone could imagine. Breaking barriers is what our renegades attempt. Though their next adventure is overall exciting, it's disappointingly not helmed by the fiery Tris as much as we'd expect.

Tris has suffered and sacrificed in the face of her city's adversity. Yet in her own biggest hour of need, she surprisingly isn't passionately engaged to the outside world or its lasting ramifications.

Imperfect human nature resorts to chaos. Chicago's remaining leaders Evelyn (Naomi Watts) and Johanna (Octavia Spencer) wage war to protect the remaining populations' best interests left behind by Jeanine's violent ruling. Tris and her co. venture outside their city's barricades and discover the truth behind the faction system: the Bureau of Genetic Welfare uses pure test subjects like Tris to correct human weaknesses and fortify a perfect genetic disposition. All is not what it seems in this "safe haven".

Unlike the first two series where Tris was challenged to find out what it means to be Divergent, and how it's not a curse but a blessing, here she simply lacks drive. More incited wars don't outrage her. A new nemesis' dubious priorities fail to illicit alarm. She seems more inviting to settle down outside of Chicago without real motivation to do so. Shailene Woodley doesn't do a bad job, but she is capable of giving a deeper performance. Considering the premise hinders on her to look beyond what society expects, the film's fault is Tris not conquering anything memorable.

While Tris isn't the starring player in this third installment, her counterparts are. Four is the one responsible for all the action and emotional turmoil this time around. In recognizing his home Chicago is falling apart and the Bureau is not what it seems, he goes on his own quest without Tris (but for her) and it's still interesting. Theo James has natural charisma, and he turns a typical muscle head/love interest into a vulnerable and badass male lead.

In addition to Four's solo mission, family, friends, and rivals gain more layers too. Though Tris isn't a force of nature like she was in the past, her friends have room to seek redemption, deepen friendships, or lead a revolution even if it's not the best choice.

Allegiant isn't all bad. Even in favoring the films much more than the books, major plot threads were mashed together with successful pacing. The script may not satisfy book loyalists. But I was surprised by how much original they kept in, even though they weren't adapted linearly to the book. The film seamlessly splits between two main characters and locations, which keeps the story refreshing. Like its predecessors, the production design remains inventive. Utilizing special effects to tie the futuristic Chicago to its deserted outer surroundings, the film is still eye-catching.

As much as I liked Allegiant, it does suffer the same fate of many young adult first-parters. One book provides enough material for one adaptation. But the studios are obsessed with making a cash grab and split a book into two parts. Like The Hunger Games' Mockingjay, they want to lure audiences to wait for the "good or better stuff".  It would be best if studios utilized all of what a book offers and throw it full force into one worthy epic conclusion.

Ultimately, we have one more movie to go. Ascendant is completely unknown yet exciting territory. Hopefully the series rises victoriously over the finishing line, not limping across it.

Rating: ★1/2☆

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Fandom Struggle is Real with Divergent

The Divergent Series Books Movies
Since the epic finale of Harry Potter and Twilight, several young adult franchises tried to compete against the next-best phenomenon The Hunger Games. The list of franchises failing to get beyond a first installment is insane: Beautiful Creatures, The Golden Compass, The Mortal Instruments, Vampire Academy, Ender's Game, The Host, The Giver - to name a few.

A lack of interest by movie goers matched with negative reviews by critics is what has killed these potential series. Except for Divergent - the young adult series authored by Veronica Roth. Successfully making its way into a third installment despite less than favorable reviews is a major feat. Though it's not a universal favorite between reviewers and fans, and reached the same phenomenon level as Hunger Games or Potter, it's survived somehow.

I, for one, love the Divergent series. With the three-quel on its way to theaters, I realized how much my fandom for the series is quite ambivalent; a mixed bag of feelings towards the books and their adaptations.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth

This first book of Roth's series felt like Harry Potter's Sorting Hat on crack. In a high school aptitude test made up of various scenarios, your life is decided by where you are sorted in various virtue-centered factions. 

If you're brave or smart you belong in Dauntless or Erudite, respectively. Or you may belong in Abegnation or Candor, if you're selfless or honest. And, there's Amity which is pretty much forgotten about because it's about peacefulness.

But if you don't belong in any faction - which holds more value than your own family - you will belong in Divergent. As a citizen in futuristic Chicago, one girl Beatrice Prior falls into the factionless category and discovers deadly government plans. Members of this group means the government can't control them. They live on the outskirts of color-coordinated sections of Chicago where they are homeless, jobless, and without any respectable place in society.

As an original resident to Abnegation, Beatrice grew up selfless with her parents on the faction's council. Citizens in this faction wear grey, keep their heads down, and serve everyone around them no matter how they feel. After the aptitude test, each student of each faction can choose to stay within their own family, or one of the other factions they scored highest with. Since Beatrice didn't score with any other group, she can feel free to choose.

Beatrice chooses Dauntless, the group of the brave. She changes her name to Tris to begin her new identity. Herself and other initiates travel around the city hopping on moving trains, are forced to physically beat each other to a pulp, train with knife throwing, perform through hallucinatory tests where they experience their greatest fears, get tattoos...and so on.

Told in first person from Beatrice's point of view, the entire story feels blurred together. Despite the grave personality differences, I couldn't tell one faction from another. Fellow Dauntless initiates Christina (from Candor) sounds like Al (from Candor) who sounds like Will (from Erudite) who sounds like Beatrice. They try to be "brutally honest" with each other, yet are just throwing melodramatic insults and comebacks back and forth. Their tones rarely vary nor do their sense of humor or emotional responses.

And, there's also Beatrice's love interest - Four. In this new surprising world of pulling knives on each other and getting drunk (a lot), Four is the brooding mysterious leader of the initiate's training. Tris feels a connection to him yet can't pinpoint if he really likes her or not. She becomes his undoing of not playing everything close to the chest anymore, and he wills her to be strong enough to take care of others and lead a revolution. Same old, same old.

Why Divergent is so dangerous binds the book for nearly 500 pages (486 to be exact). A mysterious unrest within Erudite is slowly unraveled. Its leader is raising an army of sorts. Honestly, I was interested in reading this book because of the summary. Once I started, I found out that my deep love for Kate Winslet and her part in the film adaptation is what kept me going.

Her character Jeanne has perfected a microchipped serum which has been injected into the people of Dauntless. Besides turning them into mindless drones who commit a violent killing spree against Abegnation in Chicago's streets, I couldn't find much of a villain.

The climax is bloody and violent, but the antagonist came off as more of a control freak on a rampage instead of a government leader with a master plan. Because of the brutal violence, everyone pretty much becomes factionless. Characters die like sacrificial lambs, and the fear about being Divergent comes true.

Roth is admirable for creating a series that has hit it big. While reading Divergent, I began to question which faction I would fall into naturally and which one would I choose to be apart of. On the same level of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, her book has a unique level of interactivity between the words on the page and the reader.

Overall, looking at the writing, I found it to have poor world building, cliche prose, and a mix of popular aspects that worked for other series. I felt like the book was trying to push this idea of a personality divided society with very little to go on about why we should care about Abegnation, Amity, Erudite, etc. besides their individual traits - which made it hard to relate to the characters.

Perhaps if this book was the second of the series, where the first developed a relationship between the people and their factions I would've been more intrigued. Otherwise, it all feels a bit forced and not a very strong debut novel considering it's a big literary young adult phenomenon. I think I'll be waiting for the movies to find out what happens.

Rating: ★★☆
Have you read Divergent? What did you think?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Insurgent by Veronia Roth


By the looks of my previous review for Divergent by Veronica Roth (the predecessor to this book), it would seem that I would not touch the rest of the series with a ten foot pole. Fortunately, or perhaps unfortunately, because a girl crush for Shailene Woodley commenced followed by a decent adaptation, I somehow felt compelled to put myself through continuous torture. So, here is my review of Insurgent.

Picking up where the last book finished, our heroine Tris and her beau Four have ended the first round of drug-induced simulations where Dauntless (brave faction) were brainwashed to commit mass genocide against Abnegation (selfless faction). On the run from Jeanine Matthews, head of the Erudite faction (intelligence), the lovebirds and company escape to Amity (peace faction). Their next move is to discover why Matthews is hellbent on capturing the Divergent - society members like Tris and Four with special traits that make them immune to her mind-controlling substances. (Go with me on this!)

In a future dystopian world, Chicago is the main setting for Roth's story. Fenced in to incorporate five dramatically-different factions, the personality traits seem straight out of Harry Potter Sorting Hat with the characters' adventure taking notes from The Hunger Games. Part of me was grateful that my wish was fulfilled for the sequel to develop it's worldbuilding. Understanding how the science of the technological advancements, and a few of the actually unexpected plot twists, was by far the most improved aspects of the book. By far this was the best improvement to the story (as well as the necessary character development included below).

However, the other part of me wished the writing technicalities lived up to the worldbuilding.  Most of all the prose seemed to repeat itself. I can't count how many times Tris was at "the edge" of crumbling to pieces to symbolize an emotional breakdown or a stone sat in her stomach to emotionalize guilt. Dangerous situations in which the characters found themselves on the "brink of new information that could solve everything" usually lapsed into a catch-up meet and greet in every faction. New characters were often introduced within a few pages that would go on to reappear later to help out Tris in some way. The story would pause, let Tris break down, reignite her fears and determination - then presto, the goal of discovering why Matthews was trying to implement the serums would be back on track.

A major issue I had with Divergent was the dialogue which was cringe-worthy and the inability to tell characters apart - because of the lack of diverse communication. All of the characters' personalities ranging from younger teenagers to adults continued to collide into snarky sarcastic behavior. For a series about intrinsically different personalities, everyone sounded the same. A rolledex of the same insults and comebacks seemed to appear every other page. "Whatever" signified the end of a cutesy quarrel. Two characters that came from the same faction would mock each others' similar traits - repetitively. Tris and Four would gravitate towards honest believable exchanges before the dialogue would return to mush. Relating back to the prose, which did provide more than several chapters of substantial consistent storytelling and exposition, the written tone felt like Roth was capable of accessing deeper material but didn't or wouldn't flush out.

What made the story perhaps the most beneficial was Tris Prior continuing to be a truly refreshing dystopian leading character. I can often see Prior verus Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games) are the subject of debates for best leading heroine of the modern YA age. For me, Tris wins hands down. Inhabiting three of the five personality traits that make up the futuristic Chicago; selfless, brave, and smart, Tris is multifaceted in that she makes her own decisions by her own emotions and doesn't do so with the hopes of gaining her loverboy's approval. For the strict confinements that are offered in the setting, it's pretty awesome that she is capable of being more than a one-dimensional character - which everyone else seems to be. There's a constant struggle of standing up for herself and being brave for others in the most dramatic of crises.

Furthermore, I found Four to be a well-developed boyfriend/leading male character. What I find most frustrating in YA fiction is that couples run together on the same dependence trope; giving each other ultimatums, making it seem like the other person's love is all they have to live for. Sometimes they are forced to be so in love they lose their own identity. With Four and Tris, there is a magnetic friendship that blooms into an adolescent romance. Tris is not constantly wondering if what she does or says will lose the attraction he has for her. Four and Tris' emotions and decisions are separate, and where they collide in understanding each other's motives and their violent, chaotic circumstances. But rarely does Four hold Tris emotionally hostage, which makes their relationship an even better partnership.

Divergent was by far one of the most challenging reads to undertake in a long while. Its story and characters seemed so foreign to me, the mega-phenomenon this series has grown to be failed to live up to the hype. With Insurgent, and now thoroughly engrossed with the movies and characters, the world-building factor and main character's evolution was satisfying, even if the writing failed on so many levels. Perhaps even moreso, the material made me question if this story was worthy of three books to reach its conclusion. Is the material strong enough for me to sit through a reading of the third and final book Allegiant? Unlike my first review I truly may just wait for the movie.
Rating: ★ ★

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Book vs Movie: Divergent

book vs movie divergent by veronica roth

Set in a dystopian Chicago, the city has been broken up into factions sparked by an old war. The separation of society based on different virtues - Abnegation (selfless), Dauntless (brave), Candor (honesty), Erudite (intelligence), Amity (kindness) - is meant to be the new world's pathway to peace. At the ripe age of sixteen teenagers must choose an official faction and leave their old life behind. Beatrice Prior, the main protagonist of the series, is a member of Abegnation navigating her way through the Dauntless world. However, there is more to her selection ceremony results that force her to realize she doesn't belong in this new compartmentalized society. She is Divergent - a member of the factionless that can't be mindlessly controlled by the government.

Based on the worldwide phenomenon by Veronica Roth, let me be the first to say that I didn't have high expectations for the film adaptation. My book review can be read here, however, let me summarize that I thought the film wouldn't be worthy of anything except to see Shailene Woodley and Kate Winslet. However, my expectations were proven wrong. Director Neil Burger (of the forcefully cerebral Limitless) accomplishes a fun entertaining young adult flick.