Young adult has always been a popular genre for Hollywood, but the recent cinescape has seen the emergence of young-adult megafranchises. Series such as the Twilight Saga, The Hunger Games, and even some less-successful series like The Mortal Instruments have been ruling our Kindles and movie screens for years. Now, another young-adult adaptation is about to hit, and it has the potential to become the biggest franchise yet. Based on Veronica Roth’s trilogy of the same name, Divergent is yet another dystopic tale starring a young female heroine. This may sound familiar for Hunger Games fans, but the comparisons stop there. Here are five reasons why Divergent will be our next obsession.
1. Shailene Woodley
If there is any actress who could dare come close to the mass appeal of Jennifer Lawrence, it’s Shailene Woodley. After watching her captivating, nuanced performance as George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants, the public fell even more in love with her as she graced award season red carpets with stunning but age-appropriate gowns, a relaxed and free-spirited attitude (as exhibited when she ditched her heels for toe shoes), and all-around class. At 21, she projects an image that is more mature than many starlets who are older. In short, we won’t mind being overloaded with Woodley when she inevitably becomes ubiquitous.
2. The Premise
While The Hunger Games appealed to its young audience with its brutal, fight-to-the-death storyline, Divergent addresses more relatable themes with its coming-of-age premise. In the future, citizens are divided into five factions, depending on their strengths, to uphold a virtue of humanity: Abnegation (the selfless), Amity (the peaceful), Candor (the honest), Dauntless (the brave) and Erudite (the intelligent). When a child reaches the age of 16, they take an aptitude test to see which faction they are best suited for, and then they must decide whether they want to stay with their family or transfer to another faction. This is a theme that resonates with teenagers and real-life themes — applying to college, figuring out what you’re good at, and the anxieties of leaving home for the first time. “Don’t try to define me!” Tris (Woodley) exclaims, and that could very well be the slogan for the movie. Tris learns that she is a “divergent,” one who fits in more than one faction. We’ve all been in that position of not knowing what our true identity is and where we belong, only in the world of Divergent, not belonging can cost you your life.
3. Kate Winslet Is the Villain
This is something completely new for Kate Winslet, whose usual roles are normal everyday women who fight for control over their lives. Now she’s playing the most powerful woman in the movie, albeit an evil one. Her character, Jeanine Matthews, is the leader of the Erudite faction, and her goal is to find and destroy all divergents. She makes vaguely ominous statements like “The system removes the threat of anyone exercising their independent will” and “The future belongs to those who know where they belong.” This new side of Winslet is miles away from Mildred Pierce, and we can’t wait to see it unfold on screen.
4. The Action
While the Hunger Games and Twilight series both had their fair share of action, in the form of slow-motion vampire fighting sequences and shooting arrows in the woods, Divergent looks like it will be faster-paced and more intense, with loads of fight sequences, which the actors trained for by taking muay thai lessons. The trailer shows snippets of the action, like Tris in front of a row of punching bags being trained by Four (Theo James) in proper striking form, and the Dauntless members brandishing their shiny new shotguns. It looks like these characters would be able to take out anyone from Twilight or Hunger Games.
5. The Chemistry Between Pris and Four
It’s not a young-adult sensation without the love story and resulting sexual tension on screen. And Divergent has that in spades. According to James, “The chemistry is pivotal but also needs to be natural and real, and I think that’s something we stumbled upon quite easily. . . . It was just there.” Costar Zoe Kravitz seconds James’s observation: “They have amazing chemistry on and off camera. They’re great friends. They can turn it on like that. It’s magic.” Pretty soon, young audiences everywhere will be swooning over these two, wishing they were a couple in real life, and giving them silly nicknames like Shaileo.
Divergent comes out March 21, 2014. Until then, you can watch the trailer below.