Best-selling young adult fiction novel series Twilight and The Hunger Games are, in many respects, polar opposites with regard to how they re-envision certain genre storytelling traditions (supernatural horror vs. dystopia future) for a new generation. Yet, their movie counterparts have proven to be equal-matches at the box office, with installments that have grossed well over half a billion dollars worldwide; and thus, given Hollywood all the incentive it needs to green-light even more adaptations of stories about young people coming of age under extraordinary circumstances.
Divergent will be next year’s addition to the growing pile of recent YA literature sensations that’ve been granted a cinematic “upgrade.” Author Veronica Roth’s novel takes place in a dystopian future, where teenagers (on the cusp of maturity) are segregated and divided into different factions, based on their personality that a government-sponsored aptitude test helps to decide. Protagonist Beatrice ‘Tris’ Prior (Shailene Woodley) learns that she unwittingly poses a threat to this system, because she is “divergent” – that is, someone who does not fit any one of the five approved groups.
The newly-unveiled Divergent teaser trailer (which MTV premiered during the 2013 VMA show) starts by introducing the basic premise of the movie, in addition to the story’s central antagonist: Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), who is the sole leader of one of the five factions (whose machinations for total domination involve the “divergents”). Once Woodley and Winslet’s characters are established, the preview changes gears in order to highlight the challenges that Tris must overcome when she decided to join the Dauntless (read: Brave) faction. (Much of the sizzle reel footage that was shown during the Divergent 2013 Comic-Con panel focused on this portion of the film’s narrative.)
Director Neil Burger (Limitless) seems to have done a decent job bringing the dystopian Chicago setting of Roth’s novel to life, based on this writer’s impressions of the Divergent teaser and the Comic-Con footage; like it or not, though, it’s going to be near-to-impossible for this film to escape the Hunger Games comparisons (good and bad). Having a quality leading lady in Woodley, as the heroine is a story with a relevant (if obvious) subtext that draws inspiration from touchstone novels like Brave New World and 1984, should provide Burger’s YA flick with some sturdy legs to hold it up higher.
Likewise, the solid production values and casting – which includes Maggie Q, Ray Stevenson, Ashley Judd, Zoë Kravitz and Woodley’s The Spectacular Now costar Miles Teller – ought to further elevate Divergent above the recent additions to the YA book-turned movie sub-genre Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (neither of which managed to impress most critics); not to mention, the Divergent screenwriter team of Vanessa Taylor (Game of Thrones) and Evan Daugherty (Snow White and the Hunstman) isn’t too shabby either. Nonetheless, Divergent still has a ways to go before it can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Tris and Four (Theo James) aren’t just Katniss/Gale/etc. knock-offs.
Lastly, here is an infographic (via Summit Entertainment) that introduces the world of Divergent, for those who are not familiar with the source material:
[Click for Full-Sized Version]
Does the Divergent teaser trailer get you excited to see the newest YA sci-fi novel adaptation on the big screen?
Divergent opens in regular and select IMAX theaters on March 21st, 2014.
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