Last night we got a very special invite to see the Divergent sneak peek thanks to our pals over at Hero Complex at The LA Times. In case you are unfamiliar with the story of Divergent and are thinking to yourself.. “Great, another Hunger Games knock-off,” then have no fear! For I shall fill you in.
Divergent is the debut novel of writer Veronica Roth and the first installment in the 3 part series. Recently adapted as a screenplay by Evan Daugherty (Writer on Snow White and the Hunstman, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles -2014) and Vanessa Taylor (Writer on Game of Thrones, Alias), the story takes place in a futuristic Dystopian Society 100 years after a major war. While there is not much said about what caused the war on screen, not much is really needed to fall quickly into the story of what is happening now.
To gain control after the war, society was split into 5 factions based on their virtues; Abnegation the selfless, Dauntless the brave, Erudite the intelligent, Candor the honest, and Amity the peaceful. A beautifully crafted post-apocalypse like Chicago harbors the factions and stands proud in the midst of what seems to be nowhere after the war, with the outer city near the protective wall crumbling into ruins. All teenagers at the age of 16 are required to take a special test that suggests a faction their personality is best suited for, and additionally at the choosing ceremony shortly after they are allowed to decide if they will stay with the faction they were raised with or move on to one that better fits their personality.
Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley of The Descendants, The O.C.) faces a difficult decision while her faction Abnegation is under scrutiny from the Erudite. Her test results came back as ‘inconclusive’ due to her free thinking and made her a Divergent. While this is kept a secret and she goes home sick from the testing, she is faced with the challenge to keep herself hidden and under the radar or to potentially be murdered for being different. After much thought, Beatrice leaves her faction of Abnegation and takes on the name Tris as she joins Dauntless, the protectors of the city.
Fair warning that the below MAY contain spoilers in regards to the movie, and that if you wish to see the movie -please proceed at your own risk!
With a run time of 2 hours and 19 minutes, you immediately feel immersed in the story and are on the edge of your seat for most of it. However, a strange and somewhat forced Ellie Goulding track throughout the movie seems to distract more than amplify the scenes where Tris has profound moments of thought and self-discovery.
We got to ask Neil Burger, Director of the film, firsthand what was the process of using a single pop song and a full original score throughout the movie. Burger said, “We used Ellie as an inner voice of Tris. The book has a very specific interior voice of Tris which is easy to do when you are writing a novel. But when you are writing a movie you think, ‘How are we going to get into her head and into her feelings and emotions and have it from her point of view?’ So that was an idea we played around with to get into Tris’ head and heart.”
In addition to the strong push of Ellie Goulding’s new single, fans can also expect a little bit of awkward and forced romance between Tris and Four. Scenes where you already visually see Four touches Tris in a simple yet longing manner are exacerbated with zoom-ins to where their bodies touch and a built-up soundtrack followed by a wee little gasp. I feel the way they pushed the romance so quickly into the storyline dumbs down the viewership, and with a pop culture forced soundtrack it becomes clear that some things were done too intentional for the target demographic.
When asked about what they do to take the fans into consideration when adapting a screenplay, Producer Doug Wick said, “I think it’s a back and forth. You are aware of it and people ask and it does get daunting, but it’s really great. It’s really hard to get a movie to find it’s audience these days and to make a movie with a built-in audience is incredible. There’s always the pressure to be faithful to the book and not leave out anyone’s favorite character or event. Obviously, a movie has different requirements but I think we did a pretty faithful job sticking to it.”
Burger added, “Also when a book is resonated with millions of people you do ask yourself, ‘Why is everyone so moved? What is speaking to them so much?’ and you try to make sure that works in the next medium. And one of the liberties we took which you all saw is that in the book there is no final confrontation between Tris and Jeanine. In the book you can describe and understand Tris’ feelings inside but in the movie it was very important to see this young woman standing up to this really powerful adult. And it was really fun to pin one of the best actors of one generation and pin them against one of the best actors of another.”
Jai Courtney, Eric in the film, admitted to the panel last night that he actually didn’t read the book until the night before his first interview over Skype with Neil Burger. Once landing the role, they realized there had to be some changes to Eric as a character and hoped that fans wouldn’t be taken too aback by it. In the book, Eric has long stringy hair and fills out the look of someone you’d be scared to share a seat with on an empty subway ride. However, they felt the look was a bit too distracting from his role and helped clean him up a bit and keep some of the outrageous piercings to a minimum.
While the neck tattoos are the pride and glory of most of the Dauntless faction, Eric’s tattoo had to be changed last minute due to copyright. And the search wasn’t easy to find a replacement. They went through nearly a dozen different designs before finding one that was legally available and also spoke to the character. And we like to think it was definitely worth the wait.
When asked about the hunt to find the perfect ‘Tris’ for the job, Wick said, “We had all seen Shaileen in The Descendants and we all met with her and she seemed so exactly Tris. The worldwide search quickly went away.” Wick continued with “Neil and I were just saying that for us the fun thing on this movie was that we had this amazing ensemble of young actors. Many of whom like Jai had just gotten leads in their own movies. Miles just got the lead in a movie. So to have them all at such an early point in their career was a privilege.”
While Miles Teller (Peter in Divergent. Also known for Project X, 21 & Over, That Awkward Moment) wasn’t in attendance at the panel, there is definitely enough of him to go around in the film. Taking a step back from his normal bromance sort of role, Teller fills in some pretty big shoes in this film that left us wanting more. From witty one-liners making fun of Tris and the rest of the initiates, to eventually being behind the abduction and near death of Tris, Teller is not a force to be reckoned with in this flick.
And even Jai Courtney had something to say about off-screen shenanigans when it came to Miles Teller. Speaking of their behind the scenes pranks and banter, Courtney called Teller “Relentless” and said, “Once he gets going, you really have to know how to handle that sort of thing.”. Courtney then laughed and finished off the panel with, “It was pretty relaxed and a lot of fun. We all got along really well.”
Divergent hits theaters on March 21st with select midnight screenings on March 20th.