You’ve Got to be Joking

“Hey, mom. Did you know that the Joker has an IQ of like 150?”

“Hey. You do realize that the Joker isn’t real, right?”

“Yeah, I know. But his IQ is like 150.”

“His IQ is whatever the writers at DC want it to be, son.”

“No, no! I’m telling you. It’s crazy high. People have studied it.”

“And I’m telling you he isn’t real.”

“It’s like realistic, true-to-life fiction though.”

“Mm-hmm.”

“Hey, did you know…”

“I’m not listening to you.”

I know I should always show an interest in what my kids want to talk about, but sometimes I just can’t. I’m not going to talk about the nitty-gritty of their latest video game obsession and I’m not going to have a detailed conversation about comic book characters as if they are real. That’s what Dad is for.

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Diverging from Divergent

Ok, this post is rife with Divergent spoilers, both book and movie. I’m warning you. You can safely read until you hit the DIVERGENT SPOILERS line. Anyone still reading after that, I shall assume that either you have read the book and seen the movie or do not care about spoilers.

We finally got to see Divergent this weekend. Jane missed an opportunity to go see it with her main group of friends and I was starting to wonder how we’d make it work. If she had seen it with her friends, then my husband and I could have seen it on a date night while she babysat. All three of us still waiting to see it was a logistical problem.

Lucky for us, some good friends commented after church Sunday that they (meaning the mother and daughter) were going to go see Divergent. The father said he wanted to get home to watch Nascar. A solution blossomed in my head and I smiled sweetly at him.

“Would you be interested in having some extra boys at your house?”

He shrugged and said that’d be fine.

He wife warned, “You realize that includes Home Slice don’t you?” Home Slice is his inexplicable nickname for Hal, our youngest and the one without a counterpart in their household. He shrugged again and confirmed it was ok.

And before I knew it, I was sitting in the theater watching Divergent. Now I had already checked out the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and knew it wasn’t getting a great response. But when you are a fan of a book, you go to the movie regardless.

And I am a fan of the book. Not as much as my daughter is, but I enjoyed the read. There were several plot points, however, that didn’t feel solid to me. It didn’t make sense for the characters to do what they did. Some of the confusion was cleared up as time went on and I learned more (some of that confusion, btw, was reflected in some of the reviews). A few points stayed with me even after completing the series.

To my great surprise and delight, the movie, weak and overlong as it may have been, “fixed” all my problem spots in the story. I honestly can’t think of another time when I’ve watched a movie and felt they fixed some very specific problems I had with the book.

******************* DIVERGENT SPOILERS ***************************

1) Tris’s final test for Dauntless.

Tris is Divergent. This means she doesn’t fit into the mold of a specific faction and is considered by some to be dangerous. It also means she can manipulate simulations, including the simulations used by the Dauntless faction to have people respond to their worst fears through hallucinations. To move past a fear, the person must either “defeat” it or calm their breathing and heart-rate.

Tris, however, is able to know that what she is experiencing is not real. She can also change what is happening. The first time she realized this, she was trapped in a glass box filling up with water. When she was unable to kick the glass out, she reminded herself that it wasn’t real and simply touched the glass, causing it to shatter.

Doing so caused Four, her instructor and soon-to-be boyfriend, to realize what she was. He and another character told her that doing that in a simulation would broadcast to others that she was Divergent, which would get her killed. She was strictly warned not to manipulate the simulations in her final test.

So what did she do in the book? Manipulate the simulations. Make a gun appear at her feet. Make a door appear at the end of the closet. Make it start raining. And… touch the glass to make it shatter. The. Exact. Action. That. Prompted. The. Warnings. The other manipulations might be argued as “ok”, but certainly not that one.

You could also argue that she was just stupid (a weak argument since one of her strengths was “Erudite”) or that she forgot under the stress. That argument does not explain why the Dauntless leaders watching did not immediately nab her when she woke up.

The movie fixed it. She responded to all of the crises in ways that a Dauntless person would. Most noticeably, she didn’t break the glass. Problem solved. She’s not stupid. And we have a reason why she wasn’t in custody or dead when the invasion took place the next day.

2) Tris’s Execution.

Once the Erudite take mental control over their now robot-like Dauntless army, Tris and Four pretend to be controlled like everyone else. Circumstances eventually out them and they are taken to the Erudite leader. The book and movie diverge in this scene, but the end result of each is that Four is taken away and Tris is ordered executed.

In the book, we have this great parallel to her fear landscape where she is placed in a glass box that is filling with water. Oh, no! Now it’s not a simulation! Whatever shall she do?!

Just like the old Adam West Batman TV series, though, the villains leave her unattended or at least unattended enough and her Abnegation mom, secretly a bad-ass, comes and rescues her.

The scene has punch until you step back and think about it. They are in the Abnegation area, which the Erudite just invaded with their Dauntless army. It’s all happening on the same day. When did the Erudite have time to setup the water tank? Would they really have taken the time during an invasion to setup the means to kill her with style? Especially not knowing for sure ahead of time whether she was Divergent or not?

The movie solved the problem in a much more realistic manner. Her execution is ordered. Her captors drag her outside between some buildings, force her to her knees, and prepare to shoot her execution style. That’s when bad-ass mom comes tearing out of the woods with a gun and takes out all the soldiers. Same punch, same effect. No doubt about the likelihood of the bad guys actually behaving that way.

3) Stopping the Mass Simulation to Save the Day.

When Four is taken away, it’s because he can also resist simulations and the Erudite want to test a more powerful control serum on him. He demonstrates it works at first by nearly strangling Tris. But he’s still able to break free. They take him away to work on a tougher one.

He is eventually successfully controlled and sent to the Dauntless control room where he can mastermind the invasion. Unbelievably, despite his previous observed ability to resist simulation and everyone’s assumption that he is Divergent (and thus not to be trusted), he is left to manage this important task alone. There are guards in the facility but he is alone in the control room.

This makes for a poignant scene when Tris is able to fight her way in. He goes to kill her; she resists. They are all alone. She tries to get through to him and finally succeeds when she decides to turn the gun she has trained on him to her own temple to kill herself in a pure demonstration of selflessness (an Abnegation trait). This wakes him up and together they are able to stop the simulation and thus the slaughter.

Would they really leave him there alone? With the lives of thousands at stake, would she really try to kill herself to break him free? Maybe the second point – she was kind of odd. But the first one?

In the movie, the control room is full of Erudite people, which makes sense. Why in the world would they leave a mind-controlled Dauntless in charge of it all? And alone? In the movie, he’s there: hooked up to a simulation, strapped down to a chair, doing… something. Tris sneaks in and tries to free him. He then tries to kill her. The struggle continues roughly as the book had it but with Erudite witnesses.

When she succeeds in breaking his mind loose, they then turn and fight the Erudite. They have a pretty easy time of it since they’ve trained for fighting and the bookworms haven’t. Tris then tries to get the Erudite leader, the person you would expect to be controlling the simulation, to stop it. She refuses. They stab her with the mind-control serum and then tell her to stop it and she does.

My daughter probably hated the scene because it was such a sharp deviation from the book. I, however, found it much more believable.

In the end, the book was good. The movie was ok. But if the book had been written with these scenes conducted more like the movie, wow. The book would have been great.