Divergent Versus The Hunger Games: Who Does YA Better?

2Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment.
Full disclosure: I haven't read Divergent. In fact, before I saw the film, I didn't know anything about the series other than the fact that it starred Shailene Woodley — who I happened to be newly obsessed with. But, I didn't read any of The Hunger Games trilogy, either, and I enjoyed those movies. So, I went into my viewing of Divergent with the same attitude as I did toward Katniss and crew — zero expectations save for knowledge that I was about to get my nerd on. Hard.
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Now, anyone affiliated with Divergent won't hesitate to tell you that they're very weary of all those Hunger Games comparisons. In fact, at the movie's Los Angeles press junket, producers even referred to THG as "that other movie," complete with audible sighs. So, I know that I'm committing a cardinal sin by even uttering both titles together in this story's headline. But, I will cover my butt by pointing out that while the two movies are completely separate and original stories, it's pretty impossible to avoid putting them up against each other. They're both young adult stories set in dystopian societies, and they each star a major Hollywood It Girl. As for the rest, well, I'm here to suss that out.
One of the first similarities was within me — I felt just as left out of the craze surrounding this flick as I did when I attended the opening night of the first Hunger Games. (Note to self: Please read the next major YA phenomenon, immediately.) So, now that my internal conflict's out of the way, I'm here to offer my semi-professional and not-at-all-scientific opinion on the comparisons to be made.
First Of All, The Soundtrack:
Divergent's wins by a landslide. I rarely even notice a movie's soundtrack, unless it's phenomenal, but I repeatedly found myself thinking, "Man, this song makes this scene badass." I couldn't remember a song from Hunger Games if I tried, and I still dream about the tunes from Divergent. Big props to Ellie Goulding for that.
Casting
Since I'm not in the mood for a public stoning, I'm not going to take sides here. I'll take my opinion on Jennifer Lawrence-versus-Shailene-Woodley to the grave, and you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead typing fingers. But, really, I think both Katniss and Tris are spectacularly acted by strong, talented women. And, just like THG, Divergent's secondary characters are a great mix of watchable newcomers and veterans that look hilarious in the futuristic garb.
3Photo: Courtesy of Summit Entertainment.
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Fear Factor
For the first 45 minutes or so of Divergent, I kept waiting for the stakes to arrive. Sure, the plot is interesting, but where's the danger? The choosing of factions isn't so much tense as it is joyful — kind of like the Harry Potter sorting hat. With The Hunger Games, the danger is there from the start; you're literally going to watch kids kill each other. It takes a little longer for Divergent to warm up, but once it does, it really does.
Love Story
I hope that public stoning I mentioned earlier isn't still on the table, because I have something to say: I don't care about Katniss and Peeta. And, I don't care about Katniss and Gale. I only care about Katniss. It's not that I wish ill upon the men of THG, but I just couldn't compel myself to care about them as romantic interests. These love stories feel forced — and I think the characters should spend more time trying not to die and less time deciding who's in love with whom.
That is not the case in Divergent. I truly did not know whether there was going to be a romantic plotline between Four and Tris (see, I told you I was clueless about YA). Still, the second they met eyes for the first time, I wanted nothing more than for them to get it on. They're a very easy couple to root for, and their feelings for each other come across as genuine, sweet, and hot. Mostly hot. Which brings us to the most important comparison...
Sexual Tension
I seriously can't say enough about these lovebirds. Immediately after I finish this story I'm going to go back to making my Four + Tris 4Eva T-shirts. The sexual tension starts building from the very beginning of the movie. The audience (of jaded reporters, no less) literally cheered when Four finally took his shirt off. (And, ladies, it was worth the wait). I don't know if I've ever wanted two people to make out more — and to do so to a soundtrack of Ellie Goulding? Well, that's just the dream. Never has a non-sex sex scene been more satisfying. If you have no other reason to see Divergent, go for the shirtless Theo James.
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