The moment that Ansel Elgort and Veronica Roth’s heads become visible as they ascend the escalator and step onto the red carpet, the screaming begins. The two are welcomed by throngs of fans, most of whom have been waiting in line for hours, or had to win some contest, to be where they are. The fans remain screaming as paparazzi snap a few pictures of Elgort and Roth. Books, phone cases, posters, and strange unrecognizable objects are all shoved in their faces to sign. In addition, both are busy taking selfies, leaving behind them starstruck eyes and, in Elgort’s case, racing hearts.
A few years ago both of these names were unknown. Elgort, a fairly unknown actor, and Roth was only a student at Northwestern University. So what changed? In 2011, Roth published a book. It was the first in a trilogy, a dystopian novel about one girl’s bravery to defy a strict class order. And although Roth was still an undergraduate student at the time, the book was predicted to be so popular that the film rights were bought before it was even published.
The book in question is Divergent, finally a major motion picture. On March 5, Elgort and Roth came to the red carpet at Mall of America to promote this new film, allowing a few select fans and journalists to see the movie before its official March 21 release date.
Going into the film, there were a few reasons for hesitation. Primarily, because the book was spectacular. It created a witty, independent heroine who was open to love, but didn’t require a man to literally fight for what she believed in. The action packed story is a breath of fresh air in the dystopian genre, which in the last few years has grown full of cheap rip offs of bestsellers like The Hunger Games. The story follows Tris, who at 16 has to choose what caste of people she will join. She chooses controversially, after getting an odd name attached to her earlier, “Divergent.” She sets off on an adventure where she discovers more about the corrupt system around her.
Fans of the book will only hope that the movie will capture this spirit, in a way movies often tend to fail. When asked if this added any stress, Elgort claimed that his supporting role as the Tris’s brother, Caleb, was “more relaxed.” So at least Elgort, “didn’t feel the pressure” that could have been magnified in Shailene Woodley’s portrayal of the lead, Tris, or Theo James’ role as the romantic interest, Four.
However, the movie was a pleasant surprise. More than that, it was the book brought to life. Perhaps this has to do with the level of involvement Veronica Roth had with the film. Not many authors receive the same extravagant welcome as movie stars, but of the crowd waiting at Mall of America, the cheers and call outs were just as loud for Roth as they were for Elgort. Roth’s involvement with this promotion tour is evidence to her overall involvement throughout production. She is listed as co-producer and claimed to have a “very good relationship” with the directors and producers. Roth was right in the thick of things. She was on the ground with the actors, available for any questioning and had the power to say something if she thought something was amiss.
This involvement is probably the biggest reason that the movie was such a fun experience. And it is an experience, the movie draws you into the plot and with help from talented actors, an amazing score, and powerful script every moment feels like it’s real. The film creates a universe that, while you may not want to dwell in, immediately transports you to the front lines of battle.
The movie was a fight for justice and the journey of a girl who defies the sexist stereotype that a girl needs a man to save her. It was the book. There were a few hiccups in the translation, nothing major, but be prepared for a slightly awkward romantic scene, where what is meant to be sexual comes off as ridiculous. Woodley is stroking James’ back in the dim light, and the camera zooms in on James’ face. That face is what ruins the scene. James looks almost constipated, and despite the fact that his six-pack is bared to the world, the face cancels out any potential sexual charisma he could have had. However, since the movie was a commensurate adaptation of the book, the romance wasn’t a major theme, so this scene’s ridiculousness is easy to move past.
Many movies take hours to draw people in, if they do at all, but Divergent succeeded in the time that it takes to open a box of candy.
At the end of the movie the Mall of America theatre burst out into raucous applause, so loud that it drowned out the music playing with the ending credits. This response from fans of the book, who had the potential to become the films harshest critics, is all the evidence needed to back up the claim above that the movie was the book on screen. And when the novel is so well written, and the story is so appealing with something for everyone, all a film adaption needs to succeed is to pull off, the often daunting task, of bringing all of that into the theatre. Divergent succeeded, and with the rest of the trilogy’s movie rights already sold, hopefully the next film will do just as well.