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We've actually seen Divergent stars Shailene Woodley and Theo James on the cover of Entertainment Weekly before, so that in itself isn't quite as interesting as the subject matter teased on the magazine's cover. Under the image of Tris and Four looking Dauntless and ready to fight their fears, the system and anything else that stands in their way is the headline, "All Eyes On Divergent," which is subtitled "Inside the Fan Frenzy... and Why Hollywood Needs the Movie to Succeed."
Anyone with an interest in the young adult genre will likely draw a reasonably accurate guess as to what the magazine is referring to there. Because there are films like Twilight and The Hunger Games, and then there's Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments. Two of those movies hit and became successful franchises that have raked in an enormous amount of money for the industry. The other two, not so much. Where is Divergent going to land? If the source material is any indication, in my opinion, it should be a hit. Or it deserves to be, assuming the film is good. The book is solid. And Shailene Woodley has proven to be a capable actor, strong enough to lead a franchise. But even with that said, it's hard to predict whether Divergent will hit, so it's understandable that -- in EW's words -- "The pressure is on for this film to soothe the jangled nerves of a jittery industry that is watching the film closely, in hopes that it will be the one to continue the wave of YA hits."
The buzz for this film seems a bit mixed, as we know there are plenty of fans of the books eager to see Veronica Roth's dystopian version of Chicago brought to life. The first book is currently among Amazon's Top 10 bestselling books (as is the trilogy set). People are reading it and a lot of them may be lined up to see the film opening weekend. There are also likely plenty of people who haven't read the book but are already sold by the trailers and ready to shell out for movie tickets and popcorn. And then there are other movie fans -- likely those outside the targeted audience of Young Adult book/movie fans -- who've expressed firm disinterest in the film. But what does that backlash mean, if anything, as it relates to the film's success rate? Before The Hunger Games released in 2012, we were constantly seeing comments from people writing the movie off as a rip-off of the Japanese film Battle Royale. (Seriously, you can see at least a dozen comments referencing Battle Royale in this post alone, and that's just one random example). Hunger Games is obviously a success story, so pre-release grumblings aren't necessarily an indication of a film's success.
It was actually The Hunger Games that EW referenced when Woodley and James were on the cover of Entertainment Weekly the last time...
"The Next Hunger Games?" The pressure was there from the beginning, but it's interesting to see it emphasized a bit more directly as Divergent's release approaches, especially if it does have a strong impact on the future of the genre in Hollywood. It's possible that movie-goers are getting burnt out by young adult adaptations, but I'm more inclined to think that they're feeling burnt out by the ones that aren't very good. It may be an obvious observation and maybe that's based more on my own personal opinion from the books I've read and the film's I've seen, but The Hunger Games is a good story and it's being brought to the screen beautifully. So I'm not surprised by its success and if Divergent succeeds, I won't be surprised by that either.
I believe that being good films is at least part of why Hunger Games and Catching Fire performed so well at the box office, not simply because they're YA or part of a craze. So I'm inclined to agree with what Executive Producer Doug Wick told EW in their article, which is, "It’s like saying because of Gravity, let’s do more space movies. Forget that this is a YA book. When you read it you see scenes, you visualize the world. That suggests a great movie."
Divergent is a good story. The source material should lend itself well to a feature film, and my optimistic belief is, if Neil Burger's adaptation delivers something visual and thrilling and people like it, it'll do well. But that remains to be seen. So it'll be interesting to see what kind of buzz Divergent generates after its March 21 release, and how well this film does at the box office, as it may very well have an impact on how the industry moves forward on other young adult adaptations.
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