'The Hunger Games' vs. 'Divergent': 3 Reasons Katniss Will Trample Tris

Every summer, movie studios try to launch the next Harry Potter , Twilight , or The Hunger Games franchise by digging through best-selling young adult (YA) novels. The efforts have been hit and miss, proving that not every hit YA novel is a guaranteed box office hit.

Time Warner /Warner Bros.' Beautiful Creatures, for example, barely broke even with a worldwide gross of $60.1 million on a production budget of $60 million. Sony's The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones fared slightly better, grossing $90.6 million on a production budget of $60 million.

Hollywood's next big gamble on the YA market is Lionsgate /Summit Entertainment's upcoming film version of Veronica Roth's dystopian novel Divergent, which is scheduled to be released on March 21. The first book in Roth's trilogy, Divergent, is currently ranked sixth in Amazon.com's list of best-sellers.


The superficial similarities to Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series are obvious -- both feature gifted, underdog heroines who go on to take part in revolutions against their dystopian overlords.

While that might sound like a guaranteed way to replicate The Hunger Games' success on paper, I believe that Divergent is doomed to follow the path of Beautiful Creatures and The Mortal Instruments instead, for three very simple reasons.

1. A more confusing and less appealing premise
I believe that the more successful films based on YA novels are built on premises that can be easily explained.

Harry Potter is about a young boy who enrolls in a school for young wizards. Twilight is tale about a girl falling in love with a vampire and a werewolf. The Hunger Games is about a battle arena where 24 kids enter and only one comes out alive.

Divergent, on the other hand, is a story about a dystopian society where teenagers are categorized into factions by five personality traits -- Erudite for intelligence, Dauntless for bravery, Abnegation for selflessness, Candor for honesty, and Amity for the peaceful.

Once a teenager picks a faction, they must remain with it and abide by its rules and practices. The protagonist, Beatrice "Tris" Prior, believes she has more than one of these qualities, which gives her the dangerous status of being "Divergent."

The cast of Divergent. (Source: Divergentlife.com)

As an adult reader, Divergent's premise is so tough to swallow that it's nearly impossible to suspend disbelief. Roth's world is also a very teen-friendly take on dystopia, and a far cry from the true dystopian environments of 1984, Fahrenheit 451, or Brave New World that adult readers are more familiar with. In Divergent, dystopia is simply replaced by a bloodier version of high school drama.

By comparison, The Hunger Games and Harry Potter are both much easier for adult readers to pick up, stick with, and enjoy. Since Hollywood films now slavishly adapt these YA novels page by page, these weaknesses in the source material are likely to also appear in the film.

2. A weaker cast and crew
Divergent will be written by Evan Daugherty, the screenwriter who wrote Snow White and the Huntsman and Killing Season. Both films were critically lambasted, with respective ratings of 48% and 10% on review aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. The film's director, Neil Burger, is best known for Limitless, a better (but not great) film with a 70% rating.

By comparison, the first Hunger Games film was co-written by author Suzanne Collins, director Gary Ross, and Billy Ray. Gary Ross is best known as the director of acclaimed films Pleasantville and Seabiscuit, while Billy Ray's recent screenplay for Captain Phillips earned him an Oscar nod. As a result of that creative triumvirate, The Hunger Games earned an 84% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Katniss vs. Tris. (Source: Hypable.com)

Meanwhile, 22-year old Shailene Woodley, who plays Tris Prior, will inevitably be compared against Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss Everdeen. Lawrence's performance as Katniss was arguably as definitive as Daniel Radcliffe's performance as Harry Potter.

Woodley, by comparison, is best known for her role as Amy Juergens in Disney /ABC's The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Although Woodley has plenty of minor awards under her belt, it's going to be nearly impossible to measure up to Lawrence's Katniss.

3. It's going head-to-head against The Muppets
Now laugh all you want, but Disney's The Muppets is actually a blockbuster franchise. The last film in the series, The Muppets (2011), grossed a whopping $165 million worldwide on a production budget of $45 million.

Could the Muppets topple Divergent? (Source: Hypable.com)

The next installment, Muppets Most Wanted, is scheduled to debut on the same day as Divergent. Muppets Most Wanted could surprisingly crush Divergent that weekend thanks to its wider appeal to both older and younger moviegoers. In addition, Disney/Dreamworks' Need for Speed, starring Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul, will debut a week earlier and possibly impact the box office returns of both films.

Divergent reportedly has a production budget of $80 million, compared to the $78 million budget of the first Hunger Games film. I doubt that Lionsgate expects Divergent to match the $691 million that The Hunger Games grossed, but the company at least expects the film to generate a profit.

Lionsgate is so confident in the success of Divergent that it is already planning the sequel, Insurgent. Insurgent will be written by Akiva Goldsman, the prolific but inconsistent writer who wrote both A Beautiful Mind and Batman & Robin, and directed by R.I.P.D. director Robert Schwentke.

Call me a pessimist, but that doesn't sound like a recipe for critical or commercial success.

What Divergent means for Lionsgate
Lionsgate is clearly trying to prolong The Hunger Games for as long as possible by splitting the final film, Mockingjay, into two parts. So far, the first two films have grossed a combined $1.5 billion on a production budget of $208 million.

Lionsgate is also a much smaller studio than Warner Bros. or Disney -- its fiscal 2014 (calendar 2013) third quarter theatrical slate only consists of three films (editor's note: this information has been corrected since publication) -- The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Ender's Game, and A Madea Christmas. Last quarter, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire helped boost Lionsgate's theatrical revenue 30.5% year-over-year to $277.6 million (33% of the company's top line).

Lionsgate clearly hopes that Divergent will be able to offset losses after The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 hits theaters in November 2015.

The bottom line
So what do you think, dear readers? Will Divergent be the start of a new blockbuster franchise like The Hunger Games, or is it doomed to burn out like Beautiful Creatures? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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The article 'The Hunger Games' vs. 'Divergent': 3 Reasons Katniss Will Trample Tris originally appeared on Fool.com.

Leo Sun owns shares of Walt Disney. The Motley Fool recommends Walt Disney. The Motley Fool owns shares of Walt Disney. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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ItsDaniLyn

I got to see a red carpet screening of Divergent last night in San Francisco and I can tell you this film is not disappointing! I am a huge fan of this series and went in excited, but with low expectations, after seeing other book favorites (Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments and Vampire Academy) recently fail miserably. This is not one of those. There is no confusion to the storyline, it is well explained and can be easily followed throughout the movie even by those who haven't read the series. It followed along well with the book and, like any book to movie adaptation, it had some changes and scenes removed. The story keeps your interest so well, though, that even as a fan of the series, you won't miss the removed scenes and will actually enjoy the changes. It does have a love story but the overall storyline of the society and the action in the film are the main focus (but those excited and ready to see the Four/Tris relationship unfold on screen won't be disappointed at all). Having read the books, Shailene Woodley is not at all who I imagined when I pictured the character of Tris in my head. After seeing her performance, though, she is Tris. She embraced the character better than I could have imagined. She was made for this part and I can't envision anyone else now but her as Tris. Theo James as Four was spot on too. He did a great job showing us the fierceness of Four as a Dauntless as well as the softness of him when he's with Tris. The chemistry between these two amazing actors was absolutely incredible. When Divergent ended it left me wanting to watch it again right away. I can't wait for opening weekend so I can take my daughter with me and relive this wonderful story all over again. Anyone who wants to see a new twist on a dystopian society should see this movie!

March 06 2014 at 11:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jamila.keys

Thia article is sopt on, commentators below are obviously fans of Divergent that are desperate to see the movie succeed. Divergent storytelling is a poor imitation of Harry Potter and Hunger Games with a weaker premise and the books get worse, not better. Allegiant was plain stupid, and not because of the ending.

The fact is, Divergent doesn't have the same appeal as Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Twilight beyond it's target population, and you need more than fans of the books for the movie to be as successful as those three. Divergent has a good possibility of ending up more like other YA adaptations that bombed than be a success like the Hunger Games.

Kate Winslet can't carry this movie no more than Emma Thompson could for Beautiful Creatures. Shailene Woodley is not that good of an actress (no matter how her fans keep pointing to her work in The Descedants, where her character/ acting was as annoying as her work in the Secret Life) and most fans felt that Tris was miscast.

Divergent is flashy, with all the action sequences thanks to the Dauntless faction, but the story itself is shallow and lacks proper world building. It's a weaker material, plain and simple.

March 05 2014 at 11:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Diana Joyce Ojeda

What a very biased article. Any who, the Divergent trilogy is by far the best book series I've ever read. Especially the last book Allegiant, just kicked those other famous books out of the water. Divergent has a high chance of success and Shailene has to start somewhere right? So sure, she may not be a well known actor but as I said she has to start somewhere, all actors do.

February 16 2014 at 10:02 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Janine Amandlaa

Okay, Hunger games is obviously not the first ever Dystopian trilogy that is ever released. You know that right? Do you even know there are thousands of teen dystopian books out there that you're gonna think it's the "next THG" (when it's not), other than Hunger games or Divergent? Let me guess...once the maze runner trailer comes out, you're pretty much gonna do the same thing...compare Maze runner to THG and how "Thomas is a male version of Katniss", "another thg rip-off", etc.
Katniss is Katniss..Tris is Tris..just because they're both living in a dystopian world, doesn't mean they have the same lives and deal with the same problems. Seriously.
and.."teen-friendly"...well duh...that's why it's YOUNG ADULT
What's the next Dystopian book that are you gonna compare to THG and think they're copying? Matched? Delirium?

February 15 2014 at 11:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Deitra Pawley

Shailene did not start off with "Secret Life" her first movie was the "Felicity An American Girl."

February 15 2014 at 2:18 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
matthewmartinez31

I think that this will be as big as other successful YA books, although its first movie may not get as much money as the other ones. And by far Divergent is my favorite

February 14 2014 at 9:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kim Dyer Lane

I absolutely think it will be big like Twilight and The Hunger Games. I have read all there book series, and Divergent is by far my favorite! The story settings ads nothing alike and the heroines are completely different! Divergent is a number one best selling series, like THG. Beautiful creatures was not. And as far as actresses go, Shailene started off with secret life. She was nominated for an Oscar last year and has starred in numerous films! I adore JLaw, but as an actress myself, I can tell you Shailene is just as talented. Divergent will be huge...you just watch.

February 14 2014 at 12:51 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply