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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Divergent is a box office success: can there be any doubt that there is enormous hunger for stories about girls and women as heroes?

From Contactmusic.com:

Say What You Will About ‘Divergent’, It Had a Big, Big, Box Office Opening

The movie adaptation of Divergent, the young adult novel by Veronica Roth, has recorded a massive opening at the box-office despite middling reviews. Though it would have be nice for the movie to have scored reviews akin to, say, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Lionsgate executives will not have worried about the critical reaction and the movie tallied $4.9 million from midnight screenings on Thursday alone.

The film is estimated to have taken in $22.8 million on Friday, and is looking to have an opening weekend in the range of $50 million to $60 million. And with a relatively modest budget (for the kind of film it is) of $85 million, that’s very good indeed.

I’m sure Hollywood will find a way to spin the success of Divergent as something other than “Hey, movies about girls and women do make buckets of money!”

Divergent doesn’t open in the U.K. till April 4th, and because its studio here refuses to invite me to screenings, I’ll have to wait until then to see it.

posted in:
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  • Kathy Jarvis

    I wish the movie was more visually stimulating. Are we not tired of seeing the same old post apocalyptic look? where was the creativity and the supporting cast was nothing interesting. The movie was just blah. One note, yet it will make money because kids are looking for movies about them and that they can rule the world and make a difference at young age. I am not sure it is about the lead characters being female, yet it is about time that females had these roles even though there is still 3:1 ration of boys over girls in movies. It is a start but when the BG become 50/50 the whole cast become 50/50 males to females, I wouldn’t call it equality.

  • RogerBW

    I read the book because I knew the film was coming out soon; my thoughts are here. Going by reviews I’ve read, the film is fairly true to the book, including its faults.

    I think that in order to work out what Hollywood will take from this it’s necessary to look at the failures too: Vampire Academy, Mortal Instruments, Beautiful Creatures. Those were movies about girls and women too. If The Maze Runner does well, then it’s certainly going to be “movies of YA books have a good shot at success”, not “movies about girls and women”.

  • Ah, but the failure of movies with male leads NEVER leads to the conclusion that movies with male leads are not a good investment.

  • Those who defend Hollywood’s insistence on making crap always say, “But the crap makes money.” That’s what’s going on here.

    Until we get to a world where “brainy” is not a perjorative, the best we can hope for is a world in which there are as many blah or crappy or same-old movies about girls and women as there are blah or crappy or same-old movies about boys and men.

  • RogerBW

    Of course not. They’re normal movies. Having a female lead when it’s not a rom-com makes it a non-normal movie.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    If it’s a popular YA novel or series of novels, there’s a good probability a studio has optioned it and a producer, director, screenwriter, and/or actor(s) has/have been attached to it. I don’t have any hard numbers, but my perception is that female leads are strongly represented in the genre. I think “Hollywood” has noticed the potential for success (it’s really hard to ignore the kinds of numbers Twilight and The Hunger Games put up), and is working to exploit that about as fast as it can.

    I do fully admit that my observations here also works in favor of your thesis (it’s a specific genre, focusing on the travails of pretty teenage and early-20-something women).

    There is also a numbers game in play here, one which favors the status quo. Movies about women are still so rare that they represent mere drops in the buckets of box office successes and failures. There’s still not enough “mass” here to shift the industry’s risk-benefit analysis. And, as always, “Hollywood’s” risk aversion may make for bad art, but it doesn’t make for bad business.

    Finally, by all accounts Divergent is a predictable, formulaic movie at best. Should we not be loathed to encourage even more bad movies?

  • If it advances the case for women as heroic figures and/or protagonists, even a bad movie has an impact.

    That said, I’d rather see a movie aimed at adults. As much as I love sci-fi and action, it’s all about kids these days, seemingly. Divergent looks cool, but man am I tired of seeing the same story told about a kid with special powers learning to be a hero.

    Now, a grown up with special powers? That I can get behind! This is one of the reasons I loved MAN OF STEEL… it didn’t turn Superman into a young twenty-something melodrama.

  • Exactly. Until we can safely say “movies with female leads” is no longer a special genre all by itself, we’ve still got a long way to go.

  • Bad movies need no encouragement, and they ignore discouragement. They are going to happen whatever we want.

    Hollywood should have been exploiting stories about girls and women all along. If Hollywood were really just about money, there would have been a dozen *Titanic* knockoffs in the very late 90s and early 2000s: there should have been — in a universe in which Hollywood shamelessly exploited any opportunity to make money — a slew of movies about constrained young women who have adventures and find romance (and themselves) amidst action and disaster. And there weren’t.

    Cue arguments about how there was something “special” about Cameron and *Titanic*…

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Hollywood should have been exploiting stories about girls and women all along.

    No argument, but what should have been is neither here nor there to what is. What is does have some marginally encouraging signs.

    If Hollywood were really just about money, there would have been a dozen *Titanic* knockoffs in the very late 90s and early 2000s

    Were there not? I’m really not sure, because knockoffs are kind of by definition forgettable. But was there really nothing released between 1999 and 2005 that could be said to be the a response to the success of Titanic? I’ll have to do some digging…

    But if you’re looking for some counterpoint on Titanic, it wouldn’t be hard, if one had any inclination to do so, to argue that Titanic was Jack’s story, not Rose’s. It’s a weak argument, but not indefensible. (For example, as a protagonist, he initiates more of the action than Rose, who often appears to be along for the ride.) Personally, I think the most compelling argument is that it’s their shared story. But then I also think it’s a terrible movie.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Yeah, but a small impact. An incremental shift, whereas what I think MaryAnn is looking for is a sea change.

    Now, a grown up with special powers? That I can get behind! This is one of the reasons I loved MAN OF STEEL… it didn’t turn Superman into a young twenty-something melodrama.


  • RogerBW

    As I see it, the exceptionalism argument for Titanic was that it was a megabudget blockbuster and other filmmakers couldn’t afford to put on similar spectacles. Obviously nobody would ever watch a female protagonist not against a background of impressive special effects.

  • Jack is Rose’s Manic Pixie Dream Boy. He does not change or grow through the story. He is there to support Rose’s journey.

    Terribleness is beside the point. You can’t argue that Hollywood copies success no matter the quality *except* in this case.

  • Same could be said of *Star Wars.* In fact, just about any argument that could be deployed to explain why there weren’t a dozen *Titanic* ripoffs could be applied to *Star Wars.* And yet… look at all those *Star Wars* ripoffs. Many of which flopped. And yet we’re still living with the legacy of “We need to make more movies like *Star Wars*!” today.

  • RogerBW

    Oh, I certainly agree that the argument breaks down if you poke it with even a fairly blunt stick, but these aren’t people who try to work out the best thing to do and then do it: sadly like most people, they use reasoning to justify doing the thing they wanted to do anyway.

  • And that’s why we have to point out their bullshit to them!

  • cinderkeys

    MaryAnn beat me to it. Jack may set events in motion, but his character exists to serve Rose’s.

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