Divergent: 5 Options For This Future Franchise
One Choice, decided your friends.
One Choice, defines your beliefs.
One Choice, determines your loyalties – Forever.
ONCE CHOICE CAN TRANSFORM YOU”
– Veronica Roth, Divergent
Beatrice Prior is born into a society somewhere in future Chicago, where most of your life depends on one single choice. Raised in the faction of Abnegation (the selfless), she must choose between staying with her family, friends and neighbors or transferring to another faction and staying true to her own, rather selfish nature. At age 16, she must take an aptitude test that will decide her suitability for either Abnegation, Amity (the kind), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave) or Erudite (the intelligent). What Beatrice doesn’t know: she is Divergent, one of the few people who have aptitude for several factions – and that for some reason rarely survive faction initiation.
With millions of copies sold, sequel movies confidently lined up for 2015 and ’16 and the budget for the first film raised from $40 to $80 million, Divergent is sure to attract audiences come March 21st. The trilogy is a particular blend of Young Adult fiction, Sci-Fi and the Dystopian Future genre that has already proved its effectiveness with The Hunger Games – and even more so with its sequel, Catching Fire. The dystopian tale is omnipresent now, especially in YA fiction, proving that the genre is overflowing with popularity at the moment, readers swallowing the stories that function as a mirror to our own society.
Not every story that works on the paper works on the screen though. In its attempt to turn some of the most successful book series of today and yesterday into successful franchises, Hollywood has had its fair share of Box-Office disasters in the past few years. Readers, film buffs and critics alike picked the film adaptation of Eragon to pieces and few people even bothered to go to see this year’s City of Bones in cinema. Other YA book-to-movie adaptations did turn into grand successes but failed to earn the respect of the film industry and grown-up audience.
Where does all of this leave the upcoming Divergent film? Let’s have a look at the possibilities and run a modified version of the aptitude test on this franchise in the making.
5. The ‘Eragon’/ ‘Inkheart’ (the lazy)
For studios, adapting a series of books to the screen means a financial risk, while fans of these books face an emotional risk when trying to decide whether to watch the adaptation. Hence, studios must consider this emotional risk and try to cut it by studying the source material thoroughly and trying to apply their knowledge to the production of the film. The makers of the above movies surely never considered this aspect.
The scripts could have been – and may have been – written merely based on the synopsis of the books, ignoring major plot devices and thereby blocking the way for sequels to come. From wrong hair colours to characters left out of the film, it’s hard to find anything likable about adaptations of this kind. It certainly doesn’t help that the newcomers either show no apparent acting skills (Eliza Bennett in Inkheart) or have no possibility to do so (Ed Speleers in Eragon) – not even to mention the scandalously wasted talents of grand names (Brendan Fraser and Jeremy Irons in Inkheart and Eragon, respectively).
Even with a startling budget of $100m, Eragon was by far no box-office disaster, even though it had the potential for much more, whereas the rather unknown adaptation of Inkheart only earned $2m over its budget. Divergent with its slightly more modest budget and oceanic following is therefore unlikely to leave a hole in the wallets of its producers. Quality-wise we can count on the comparatively experienced director Neil Burger (as compared to a one-flop-wonder and B-movie director) who already proved his ability to unite entertainment and social commentary in 2011’s Limitless. Besides, with Shailene Woodley and Theo James in leading roles, the film will rest on strong shoulders. Let’s just hope that Vanessa Taylor’s influence will be greater than that of her co-writer Evan Daugherty – if so, everything should work out just fine for Divergent.
4. The ‘Twilight‘ (the horny)
What made Twilight successful then was its premise – sexual tease suited for the teenage girl. Which also explains why the storyline was altered to fit into a predictable love triangle – more space for Taylor Lautner. And then some people just watched it because it was Twilight, being fans of the books and/ or wanting a good laugh. However, as this explanation suggests, the Twilight series was a major flop among critics and never gained much acclaim among audiences with even just a slightly demanding taste.
It’s not a spoiler that there’s more sex in Divergent than in Twilight – after all, Tris falls in love with a tattooed, knife-throwing 18-year old instead of a cold-skinned, pale vampire that has walked Earth for more than 100 years. Surely, this is going to help its marketing and has in fact already been used in some romantic, sexy posters and wallpapers. However, there is little room for a love triangle if the story isn’t changed completely, so we can aspire to finally get some originality from this franchise in that aspect (even The Hunger Games couldn’t let its fingers from dramatizing the triangle). So far, the atmosphere of the film can only be judged by the trailer, but it does look like the adrenaline ride that the book provided. And again, the cast and crew should help the film acquire a higher level of quality than the adaptation of the Twilight series.
3. The ‘Percy Jackson‘ (the quirky)
For two films that performed underwhelmingly at the box-office, the Percy Jackson series has one of the most steadfast fan communities in the world. With the films being neither the big success producers hoped for nor the major flop that critics wouldn’t have minded, the adaptations of the sequels of this series are yet to be determined – but the fans are doing everything they can by creating petitions and ripping the DVDs and BluRays from the shelves. Even as a book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians isn’t for everyone; a middle grade fantasy story that mixes greek mythology with adventure is just too exotic to appeal to a wide audience.
The films changed huge parts of the story, mixing up characters and subplots until they’ve made it clear that they’re neither the straight-forward nor the confusingly disappointing adaptations we’re so used to. The whole franchise is a little on the trashy side, but it doesn’t take itself very seriously. From the iconic ‘This is a pen’ meme to Dylan Neil’s portrayal of a modern-day Hermes to the entrance to hell just by the Hollywoodland Sign, the Percy Jackson films are original, fun adaptations of an entertaining source material.
Judging only from its target audience, Divergent has much more potential to reach a wide audience than the PJO series. The Percy Jackson books are clearly targeted towards young teenage boys, whereas the films try to reach both these, their parents and the young adults. Confused parents don’t know what to expect and don’t take their young teenage boys, leaving only the young adult readers that are crazy enough to have read a 5-book-series of middle grade fiction. Divergent however is so much more precise in its approach, and it does help that The Hunger Games has beaten the path already.
There is a big hype for the Divergent series in the growing community of Young Adult readers, so they are sure to go and see it, most probably taking their friends that haven’t read the films yet. And every adult that Caught Fire back in November will at least keep track with the reviews of Divergent once it releases. As for story changes; there is only one minor change in the trailer – and even that one could be different in the film (trailers do tend to confuse things). Overall, the prospects of Divergent becoming the next Percy Jackson are frail.
2. The ‘Hunger Games‘ (the thrilling)
Since the release of Catching Fire, there is no question about the future of the film adaptation of Mockingjay, the remaining book in the Hunger Games series anymore. Skeptics enjoyed this second installment in the series, critics praised it and fans have no words. This was not always the case; back when The Hunger Games (the first film) was released, it was just another YA book adaptation with a relatively unknown actress in the lead and Stanley Tucci wearing a blue wig. Although it was a decent success, the muttering about the use of the shaky cam and the film’s resemblance to the Japanese hit Battle Royale went on. But Catching Fire burnt whatever doubts anyone could have about this franchise to the ground with much better CGI fire than its predecessor and a plot that offered food for thought.
It wouldn’t be bad for Divergent if it continued along the same path as The Hunger Games. Both series (in book form) take their time setting up for the two sequels in the first books – explaining their respective worlds and rules and introducing their characters explicitly. Therefore, we can assume that certain viewers will be less intrigued by Divergent than by its sequel Insurgent. Divergent has a limited setting, it takes place in a rather short timeframe and it leaves you with more questions than it answers – this won’t necessarily put audiences off, but it might not intrigue them enough to completely allow themselves to fall in love with the franchise yet either. Meanwhile, we are sure to hear many comparisons to the Hunger Games franchise itself – if so, they will be more fitting than ever.
1. The ‘Harry Potter‘ (the magical)
To most people who haven’t grown up with the original Star Wars movies, Harry Potter is The Ultimate Franchise. It got a hold of them when they were little children, least able to defend themselves, and continued its grip on them for many years to come. Once a Potterhead, always a Potterhead. When the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone started production, big parts of the world were already infected by the virus that J.K. Rowling had set loose with her books. But it took a while for the films to actually become accepted on a more intellectual level.
One of the grandest snubs in the history of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, none of the 8 Harry Potter films ever brought home one single golden statue! And it wasn’t before the third film that grown-up audiences started regarding the franchise as more than a series of harmless children’s movies. Today however, the value of the Harry Potter brand is estimated to $15 billion, and with a stage play and prequel movies in the making, the magic of this franchise is nowhere close to fading.
Comparing the Divergent franchise to the Harry Potter franchise may seem a little harsh and unfair, but it’s only by looking at both the worst and the best that we can find the value of something. Even from an unemotional angle, it doesn’t seem like an exaggeration to pronounce Harry Potter the best franchise that has seen the world. It has united thousands of people in their love for this fictional world, it is a milestone for British cinema and it made more money than most studios can dream of when they decide to start a new franchise.
Divergent, most likely, won’t be able to reach Harry Potter territory – it is most likely to not even come near the numbers that this franchise generated. But the plot twists are there, the painful revelations are there and the magic is, to some extend there. So who knows?
Aptitude: below average.
This leaves us with a high aptitude for a franchise resembling The Hunger Games in production, development and impact. Whatever way it chooses to go, may the odds be ever in the favor of Divergent.
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