Look, they’re making a movie of another wildly popular YA series! Yes, following the path of successes like The Hunger Games and not-really-successes like The Mortal Instruments, Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is also hitting the big screen.
Slight spoilers for Divergent after the jump.
For those of you who don’t already know, Divergent is a dystopian story in which some of humanity lives in a run-down future version of Chicago. In order to maintain order, children are “sorted” into factions at the age of sixteen. Each faction values a different personality trait—Dauntless values bravery, Erudite values intelligence, Abnegation values selflessness, and so on and so forth. Our protagonist, Tris, takes the test to find out which faction she should be in and instead discovers that she’s Divergent: she has aptitude for more than one faction and doesn’t truly belong in any of them.
I have a lot of differing opinions on the books themselves, but as far as the adaptation goes, I think this is a story that has the potential to make a good movie. Tris chooses Dauntless as her faction, and as Dauntless reveres bravery, she has to do all manner of absurd things such as jumping out of moving trains and leaping off buildings to prove her bravery. Her life in Dauntless leads to several easy action scenes—and obviously, she has a love interest in the form of her instructor-turned-partner, Four. It may look like Hunger Games-lite, but as the Hunger Games is a hugely successful franchise, I don’t think the executives in charge of Divergent will be too disappointed.
Divergent has the rare distinction of having nearly all its important roles filled by women (Tris, the protagonist; Tori, the tester; Jeanine, the villain), and I was pleased to see that reflected in the trailer. As for the casting, however, I have some questions. At times in the books, Roth really beats the reader over the head with how small, blonde, and unassuming Tris is (the better for her, since all her opponents underestimate her). Yet stature-wise, Shailene Woodley doesn’t seem petite or vulnerable enough to fit what I imagined as Tris. Theo James, Four’s actor, was the subject of some controversy when he didn’t appear Hispanic, but as Four was described as taking after his (white) father in the books, what does bother me about his casting is that it doesn’t sound like James has a very convincing American accent—if his family has been living in Chicago for however many generations, he should not still have a trace of an English accent. In an interview, Roth was concerned that the world of Divergent not appear too shiny or Hollywood-esque, and that concern seems to have been taken into account, judging by the trailer. But the executives should consider the characters as carefully as the scenery when thinking about canon details.
Returning briefly to the issue of characters of color, though, Divergent does have a number of important people of color, including the aforementioned Tori, Tris’s best friend Christina, and many other Dauntless initiates. Yet aside from Tori, none of these characters are featured in the trailer—at best, they’re just background characters. Even more characters of color join our main characters in the second and third books, but based on this trailer, I’m starting to become worried that they’ll be cut out of sequels Insurgent and Allegiant entirely.
Divergent is out on March 21st. Will you go see it?