Last year, I had no interest in seeing “Divergent.” I’d read the Twilight books and seen the movies, and found them compelling, but not high art or high in meaning— I compare them to potato chips. I read the Hunger Games trilogy and loved them, and I love the movie adaptations almost as much. I think there’s a lot more meaning to the Hunger Games series, and when I heard about Divergent, it seemed pretty clearly like a copycat/also-ran. I wasn’t at all interested.
But because I love going to a movie for its own sake, and because I read a review that convinced me that I should give it a chance, I ended up seeing “Divergent,” against my better judgment. And really loving it. It’s not THG in different clothes. It’s long on meaning, but good on plot/action, also. I read the first book in the series that same weekend, and the second book in the series later last summer. I’ve bogged down in the finale to the series, Allegiant, and am about 40 percent through it, but keep finding reasons not to finish it. Part of the problem there is that they broke the conceit of the dystopian world— they took the main character out of the situation and it’s more meta. It was always more meta than THG and the Twilight series, but now it’s meta-meta, and I’m not really sure I want to know what it’s all been leading up to. I’m a little afraid she’s going to beat me over the head with the moral, and I’m afraid she’s going to sell out the central relationship between the characters.
So I saw “Insurgent” on Friday, when it had been out less than 24 hours. And, unsurprisingly, I liked it. Somewhat surprisingly, I liked it significantly better than I liked the book, because I thought they better advanced the overall story arc, without disrupting the key relationships, by a plot enhancement that I won’t get into because it’s a spoiler. And knowing at least where the next book starts, I think the movie gets us there better.
Seeing “Divergent” also sparked my fandom for Shailene Woodley. I think it’s interesting that she’s worked with Miles Teller before (in “The Spectacular Now”) and with Ansel Elgort (in “The Fault in Our Stars,” which debuted after “Divergent”), as romantic leads, and is now working with them as supporting characters in this series. I’m a Miles Teller fan (see my review of “Whiplash”) from before seeing him in this series (he’s not easy to like in this series, but he’s very likeable in the reboot of “Footloose”), and I think it’s interesting to see the range of relational connection they explore as actors in their various projects. I even sat down and tried to watch her in “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” before it got too soapy for me to stand (I managed at least a couple of seasons). I think she has better chops than Kristen Stewart, even if that’s not saying much, if she’s not quite at Jennifer Lawrence’s level of agency, and am enjoying watching her grow as an actress.