It’s easy to compare “Divergent,” which opens Friday, to “The Hunger Games.” Both are dramatic visions of bleak futures where society is segregated into social groups and a strong young woman must fight for her very life against her world’s restrictions.
But can “Divergent,” based on a best-selling three-book series by Veronica Roth, soar to “Hunger Games” levels at the box office?
Thanks to the runaway successes of “Hunger Games” and the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” films, every studio is desperate to establish its own young-adult franchise. Emphasis on the desperation. The failures outnumber the hits: “Beautiful Creatures” and “Ender’s Game” failed to connect, “The Chronicles of Narnia” fantasies and “Percy Jackson” young gods adventures fell off, and “The Mortal Instruments” is in development limbo.
To succeed where others failed, “Divergent” needs to avoid the pitfalls of the weaker franchises and learn the right lessons from the success stories.
Offer a strong, empowered female lead
Give credit to this new wave of YA franchises for the proliferation of roles for young women in dynamic, heroic roles. The superhero films haven’t offered much in the way superheroines yet (there’s Black Widow and …. um …). But “Harry Potter” gave us Hermione and “The Hunger Games” transformed steely survivor Katniss into a ferocious warrior. Tris, the young woman looking for her identity among the Dauntless soldiers of the “Divergent” world, is courageous, committed, and her own woman in a culture of conformity. She’d make Katniss proud.