While Summit Pictures releases a number of movies each year in various genres, the company is becoming known for their adaptations of young adult novels. By far, their most popular book to big screen franchise is ‘Twilight’, but they’re also responsible for ‘Warm Bodies’, ‘The Perks of Being A Wallflower’, and ‘Ender’s Game’. Now, they have another one to add to the list this weekend with ‘Divergent’.
Based on the first novel in Veronica Roth’s dystopian trilogy, the story follows a protagonist named Tris Prior who lives in a society where people are separated into five factions based on the qualities that they possess. However, Tris is divergent, meaning that she has traits from each group, and the people in charge aren’t necessarily cool with that. While trying to stay under the radar and proceed normally with her life, Tris stumbles upon a conspiracy that could cause chaos among the factions and tear apart the world as they know it.
To be perfectly honest, when details first started to emerge about this movie, I assumed that it was another attempt to capitalize on the success of ‘The Hunger Games’ (which is also distributed by Summit’s parent company, Lionsgate), so I didn’t really give the film a second thought. In my mind, this was going to be another version of ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ and it was going to appease the clamoring fan base, but not many more. However, as I sat in the theater watching the movie, I was proven very wrong.
Just like ‘City of Bones’, Neil Burger’s film borrowed many elements from major franchises that came before it. I detected obvious hints of ‘Harry Potter’, ‘Terminator’, and ‘The Hunger Games’. There were even a few lens flares a la J.J. Abrams’ ‘Star Trek’. But the story quickly came into its own and distinguished itself from the others. A lot of that was thanks to the performances from Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Kate Winslet. They created very dynamic characters that were interesting to follow and easy to root for. Well, not Winslet, who played the villain by channeling a bit of Meryl Streep in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and Glenn Close in ‘101 Dalmatians’, but you get what I’m saying.
Woodley was obviously the breakout star of the film though. Just like ‘The Hunger Games’ helped propel Jennifer Lawrence into the mainstream, I can definitely see the same thing happening to Woodley after ‘Divergent’. It also doesn’t hurt that she’s starring in the best-seller and fan favorite ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ after this, but people are definitely going to notice her strong performance as Tris.
Another thing that made ‘Divergent’ pretty cool was the awesome soundtrack. I loved the ‘Stomp’-esque industrial sounds used to introduce the Dauntless faction. The music chosen for those moments really fit the characters depicted onscreen and represented them well. Of course, it’s hard to expect anything less than excellent from something that Hans Zimmer has a hand in, but Elle Goulding was the one who really set the tone for what we were seeing with her incredibly beautiful, but sometimes haunting voice.
My one issue with ‘Divergent’ was the pacing, especially when it came to the love story. I feel like they really rushed the relationship between Four and Tris. It was something that was loosely hinted at throughout the film, but when it came time for the relationship to be important, it felt like the script went, “Oh crap. They need to be a thing. RIGHT NOW.” and that’s when they were thrown together. This could have occurred naturally if their romance storyline started earlier by being more ramped up in some of their moments together. Since the two of them were so important to the end game of the film, I felt like that brought down some of the other important moments surrounding it.
With that being said, I really liked how they approached some moments like the scenes that took place in Tris’ or Four’s minds or the war games during their training. These were some of the coolest sequences in the film and they contained some of the most gorgeous shots.
The bottom line is that I could see ‘Divergent’ having some fairly major mainstream success. It’s definitely not going to be bigger than ‘The Hunger Games’ for wider audiences, but fans of that franchise should enjoy this while waiting for ‘Mockingjay’ to hit theaters. It’s going to make a killing in it’s targeted demographic and I can already see Tumblr exploding with joy after the credits roll.