Skipping to Conclusions: Divergent

In geekdom, we see a lot of teasers. Sometimes it’s just an image or the name of a creator, other times it’s a trailer or a simple tag line. Whatever it is, it’s meant to get a reaction from you and start a discussion. Inspired by the anticipation and buzz caused by these teasers, we at Fantastic Fangirls present Skipping to Conclusions in which we speculate about the comics, movies, TV shows, or whatever we’re excited about but hasn’t come out yet.

One of the things on my wishlist when I went to see The Hunger Games:Catching Fire last month was a preview for the upcoming movie Divergent. This movie is based on the first book in a trilogy by Veronica Roth, which definitely shares characteristics with the Hunger Games series: a female protagonist, a future world that resembles ours in some ways and in other ways very much doesn’t, a culturally mandated ritual that determines the future of young people. I’m sure the folks at Summit Entertainment would also like Divergent to resemble THG by making massive amounts of money.

So how are they doing? Look at the trailer for yourself:

Good things: Shailene Woodley looks like a good choice for the central character, Tris Prior. She’s not a Jennifer Lawrence level celebrity, yet, but she’s got a good track record in movies like The Descendants and . . .the camera is sure in love with those great big hazel eyes of hers, isn’t it? I also appreciate that the adult performers highlighted in the trailer (Ashley Judd, Maggie Q, Kate Winslet for God’s sake) are all women. Yes, that trailer just passed the Bechdel test more times than the average blockbuster does in the course of two hours.

Also, I like the visual presentation of the trailer, at least up to a point. It starts out in a peaceful looking field, which is abruptly revealed to be the wasteland surrounding a rundown, post-apocalyptic Chicago. The collision of familiar and unfamiliar, the decay layered over modernity that signals we’re in the dystopian genre.

Then, there’s the ‘boot camp’ sequences involving the young people, which give an idea of the conflict in the movie. Plus we’ve got images of significant haircuts and significant tattoos, which is the sort of thing that always pushes my personal buttons.

Maybe-not-so-great things: Theo James, best known as the Turkish nobleman in the most notorious episode of Downton Abbey (yes, THAT one), is. . .maybe not the best choice to play the male lead (known for plot-significant though — trust me — stupid reasons as “Four”. The actor is almost thirty and looks it, while Woodley is in her early twenties, playing a teenager and looks younger.

Also, the first line they give Four in the trailer has him saying, “Welcome to Dauntless,” but the only way to know that is if you’ve read the book. The actor’s American accent is not quite on point, so it sounds like he’s saying, “Welcome to Dullness.”

That goes into the bigger issue that the novel’s world-building is not particularly easy to convey. The novel at least has the benefit of a built-in vocabulary lesson (some kids are most definitely getting SAT vocabulary points for knowing “Dauntless” and “Erudite” and “Divergent” as a result of these books), but it’s the kind of thing that can easily turn into “blah blah blah” when it’s movie exposition.

Summit seems to know this as they’ve put out an online featurette (sort of) explaining the different factions:

I’m not entirely sure this makes the whole thing less confusing. One thing it does accomplish is showing off some more of the faction-specific outfits, and revealing that a lot of them are frankly pretty stupid-looking. Costuming is a big part of the Hunger Games franchise, but it’s harder to imagine anybody lining up to cosplay these looks.

All things considered, I’d like to see Divergent do well. I’ve read the trilogy, and I have mixed feelings about the later books, but I loved Divergent to bits. I hope it translates well to the screen — I hope it makes a boatload of money and more actresses like Shailene Woodley get to headline their own movies.

Let’s be honest, I’m going to be there anyway.