Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Divergent, The Hunger Games and the dystopian YA trend

by Spencer Blohm

You’re likely familiar, if only in passing, with the Divergent series of books by Veronica Roth, or perhaps you’ve even heard about them on this blog. It’s also likely, thanks to the massive advertising and marketing push by Summit Entertainment, you know that the first book in the series, Divergent, has begun to hit theaters worldwide. It’s the latest in a string of YA dystopian books to be adapted into films, and by the looks of it, it certainly isn’t going to be the last.

In 2012 the massively successful The Hunger Games hit theaters and broke box office records, pulling in $691 million worldwide. It is, of course, based off The Hunger Games book series by Suzanne Collins. While Divergent and The Hunger Games have been compared endlessly in the weeks leading up to the film’s release, the similarities are merely on the surface. They do both feature strong female lead characters fighting an oppressive government set in a dystopian future... but the general themes are very different.

While Divergent hasn’t had as big of an opening weekend as The Hunger Games in the U.S., it still pulled in an impressive $54 million it’s opening weekend and reviews of the movie seem to be generally mixed. Examples of this include Detroit News’ Tom Long saying, “Fans of the book will likely be pleased. More importantly people who don’t know a thing about the books may get swept up, as well.” On the other hand, Scene-Stealer’s Eric Melin blasted the “humorless, dumb script” and film critic Eric D. Snider called the film “nothing more than facile, easily digested teenage wish-fulfillment based on a shaky futurist premise.” The general consensus appears to be that if you liked the books, you’ll likely enjoy the movie.

Many readers may only think of the two aforementioned series, Hunger Games and Divergent, when you think of dystopian YA series, but they were actually late to the game compared to older works like Ender’s Game. The Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card was a popular book series in the 80’s which followed the conflicts between Earth and an alien race set in the future. The first book of the series was adapted into a film in 2013 (which you can catch through services like Amazon Prime and DirecTV). However, it failed to make an impact on moviegoers, perhaps because the film came out almost 30 years after the book.

Not all hope is lost for YA dystopian fans though if you didn’t enjoy Divergent, though, because The Giver will be in theaters the end of this summer. After taking nearly 20 years to get from the page to the screen, it’s finally made it, with a knockout cast attached too. Jeff Bridges will be playing the titular character opposite Meryl Streep as Chief Elder and newcomer Brenton Thwaites as Jonas. In addition to that, Katie Holmes and Alexander Skarsgard will be playing Jonas parents, and Taylor Swift will be taking the role of Rosemary. Based off the newly released trailer, I think this one is going to give all of us something else to talk about in a few months.


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