Recently, BuzzFeed News ran an article about why the Divergent movie franchise was a flop. This is a refutation of that article.
BuzzFeed is basically arguing that Divergent didn’t work as a movie because the plot was too confusing:
One possible reason for its collapse is the weakness of the source material. The structure of Divergent ‘s fictional world was hard to understand, the plots were hard to follow, and the stakes were unclear. That made Divergent different from the YA books that have worked as movies. In Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games , for example, it’s obvious from the start that Katniss is the revolutionary figure who will end the Hunger Games, destroy the repressive state of Panem, and help bring about a more equitable world. In Twilight , Edward and Bella need to be 2gether4ever and, along the way, defeat the elitist Volturi vampire coven.Kate Aurthur, BuzzFeed News Reporter
Roth’s story never had that clarity. Its muddled plot is set in postapocalyptic Chicago, where everyone over 16 is divided into five personality-based factions in order to prevent society from falling into the destructive chaos that led to the end of the United States. As the three books go on, there are different villains in each, with no obvious goal for our heroes to achieve. The novels are confusing, humorless, and derivative. And though they provide some interesting visual opportunities (trains that run through Chicago without ever stopping, an exciting zip line scene in the first book), the final novel — Allegiant — revealed that Roth had no real vision to conclude the story.
My Personal Rebuttal
The plot is only confusing if you haven’t read the books.
The books – and therefore the movies – do not stand alone. They build on each other. So, if you haven’t read the books before watching the movies, there’s no way in hell anything is going to make sense. No, the plot isn’t as simple as something like The Twilight Saga. But that’s what makes it brilliant.
Veronica Roth, who happens to be one of my favorite authors, didn’t have any glaring, anticlimactic plot holes like Stephenie Meyer had in Breaking Dawn. Not to say The Twilight Saga is complete trash, but Divergent has a layer of complexity to it that Twilight doesn’t have. And Veronica Roth, as the author, can do whatever she wants. I may not always like what happens, but that doesn’t mean I hate the books or the author.
BuzzFeed also argues that “the [Divergent] novels are derivative”. Derivative of what, though? Divergent is unlike anything I’ve read before, and it’s an excellent example of world building. The only explanation I can think of is that they mean to say that the books build on each other. Isn’t that how book series are supposed to work, anyway?
And I can totally understand why that won’t work for a visual medium. Movies usually have a beginning, a middle, and an end, and everything fits together and is explained by the end. You can’t ask an audience to do “homework” before seeing a movie. Who wants to do more than they need to, right? Most people just want to escape for an hour or two. If they pick up the books because they enjoyed the movie so much that they want more, that’s fine. Odds are, though, most people won’t do that.
So, the moral of the story here is, not every book works as a movie. And you know what? That’s totally okay. It doesn’t mean the books are bad. So, all I have to say is, “Go home, BuzzFeed News, you’re drunk”.