Summit is banking on this month’s young adult book-turned movie Divergent being a hit at the box office, which accounts for the fairly strong marketing push behind the film. The studio has released multiple theatrical trailers and an extended TV preview that aired during the 2014 Winter Olympic games for the film, in addition to a series of featurettes that seek to shed light on this movie’s particular dystopian setting – a world where teenagers are segregated into different factions – for those who aren’t familiar with author Veronica Roth’s source material.
The latest Divergent featurette to be unveiled is a traditional character introduction clip, with the focus placed on Four (Theo James) – the mysterious, po-faced, hunky male counterpart to protagonist Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior (Shailene Woodley). Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of insight to be gained here, with regard to either the character or his connection with Tris; the preview is foremost composed of interviews with the people who worked on the project, showering praise on James for performing his own stunt fights, bringing additional nuance to Four’s personality, and so forth.
Roth’s Divergent novel was adapted for the screen by Vanessa Taylor (a writer/producer on Game of Thrones) and Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Huntsman), though – looking at the movie from the perspective of someone unfamiliar with the source book – the dynamic between Tris and Four in the film seems to more closely resemble the Snow White/Huntsman student/world-weary mentor dynamic (with a stronger romantic element) from Daugherty’s Snow White re-imagining – less so anything from The Hunger Games, which is the property that Divergent keeps getting compared to (and with fair reason, truth be told).
Hunger Games‘ box office success resulted in Divergent‘s production budget doubling to $80 million, though the latter doesn’t need to be nearly as large a financial hit as Hunger Games in order to justify the franchise being built right now; there’s arguably room for the pair to occupy a similar niche, in other words. Similarly, although the popularity of the Divergent novels doesn’t necessarily point to a Hunger Games-sized grosser (make that gro$$er), it does appear to be a more likely bet than the list of recent YA movie box office washouts - Beautiful Creatures, The Host, Vampire Academy, and so forth.
Nonetheless, a little good press never did any film harm, and Divergent got a fresh dose of just that, thanks to Roth posting her positive thoughts on the cinematic adaptation of her novel (through her Tumblr account). For brevity’s sake, we’ve only included the actual “review” portion of her post here, for your reading convenience – you can read the entire writeup (which isn’t much longer) by clicking on the included link.
I was completely absorbed by it. Even though I am so familiar with this story, I clearly remember grabbing the arms of my chair when Tris runs to catch the train after the Choosing Ceremony because I was nervous that she wouldn’t make it. (And then I thought to myself…YOU WROTE THE STORY, VERONICA.) It was beautifully shot—Chicago is such a gorgeous city, and to see it transformed into this futuristic wasteland was incredibly cool—and suspenseful, and the cast did a wonderful job. If I start calling people out specifically I’m just going to gush about everyone, but since Tris is very much the anchor of the series, and Four is of particular interest to many of you, I feel like I should say that Shailene Woodley as Tris and Theo James as Four are everything I hoped for (or maybe more than I dared to hope for). And we were so lucky to have Neil Burger driving this—his vision of the world, the amazing details and subtleties of it, his understanding of the story, and how seriously he took every part of it…I mean, you can tell. You can see it everywhere.
Authors do sometimes get quite vocal about expressing their displeasure with an adaptation of their work (Alan Moore, that’s your cue), though that doesn’t mean you should dismiss anything positive they have to say about a film based on their creations either. After all, when you look at the Divergent cast – which also includes Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Zoë Kravitz, Jai Courtney and Ashely Judd – it reads as quite solid on the whole, much like Roth indicates it is.
That said, there is some reason to be skeptical about the author’s raving about director Neil Burger (Limitless), since the trailers haven’t exactly made his visual approach on the film seem all that inspired; he’s also not coming back to direct the sequel (titled Insurgent), which is slated to arrive in theaters in 2015. Of course, the fast turnaround might have more to do with Burger taking a pass than, say, studio heads being secretly underwhelmed by his contributions to the first Divergent installment. We’ll find out soon enough.
Divergent opens in U.S. theaters on March 21st, 2014.