Friday, March 21, 2014

Guest article: YA Dystopian Fiction: Divergent and The Hunger Games

I was contacted by Spencer a while back about a possible guest post idea for the blog. Now with the premiere of the film adaptation of Divergent  tomorrow in US, this article is well timed. So I warmly welcome Spencer to Read.Read.Read and I hope you enjoy this article as much as I did. 

(photos were added by me)

Many YA readers are, at the very least, familiar with both The Hunger Games and the Divergent book series. While there are some significant similarities, for example both plots take place in a dystopian future with female heroines who lead rebellions, the two series do manage to venture into very different directions. 
With the upcoming release of the film adaptation of Divergent premiering on March 21, it seems that an official end to the vampire trend that Twilight ushered in is in sight, and the beginning of the dystopian trend 
just blossoming. One could argue that the pandemonium surrounding The Hunger Games brought Twilight’s reign to an official close, but the failure of Vampire Academy’s recent film adaptation really put the nail in the walking dead coffin (at least for now). As further evidence, there are a slew of dystopian themed films preparing to release this next year, including The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I - an odds on favorite to bring in the most viewers of any film this year.

While the Divergent and Hunger Games films do have major similarities on paper, what will appear on screen will likely be very different from each other. Director Neil Burger has stated that he wanted “to tell it visually” when it comes to Divergent’s unique setting and government, and he worked hard to avoid any rambling explanations of the current society. In an interview with Buzzsugar he also did his best to explain the differences between Divergent and Hunger Games saying, “This is a far more complex story than Hunger Games, and if you know the book, [Tris] starts out questioning her place in society and questioning society itself in a real way.” For those unfamiliar with Burger’s directing style, I’d suggest watching some of his other films like The Illusionist, or Limitless, which is widely available streaming, and nationally through DirecTV (more details here) to understand how he uses visuals to craft his stories.

In addition to Divergent differentiating itself in terms of how the plot unfolds, the film will also bring some Shailene Woodley, who scored the lead role of heroine Tris. Already a Golden Globe nominee for her role in The Descendents, she’s largely remained out of the spotlight due to contractual obligations with her ABC Family show The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Now that the show is over, the 22 year old is free to take on more projects, such as her other film releasing this year, The Fault in Our Stars, based on the popular YA book of the same name.
fresh faces into the mix, all of whom are sure to be household names by the end of the year.

Perhaps the actor with the most potential to make it onto the A-list is the film’s other main character, Theo James, who will play lead male Four, is also unknown for now. He’s got all the makings to oust Robert Pattinson as teenage girls’heartthrob of choice, including the Brit factor. The fact that James is an unknown makes his chances of reaching superstardom all the greater given the almost played out current teenage heartthrobs - he might just be the breath of fresh air that a new generation of teen and tween girls want.

If you had a chance to see Divergent this weekend, what did you think? How do you think it stacks up against other dystopian films?

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