Sunday, March 9, 2014

New Day, New Adventure: Chicago Divergent Premiere

Because I'm a lucky girl (and also because I'm a college newspaper reporter), I got to cover the Chicago red carpet premiere of Divergent this week. I was thrilled for a number of reasons. First of all, I always get really excited when I realize I'm getting paid to do awesome stuff like review movies. I love to write, and I'm a pop culture fanatic, so when the two things come together it's amazing. But I was even more psyched because I'm actually a huge fan of the Divergent book series. I never would've imagined when I was lying on my mom's couch reading the books that I'd end up going to the premiere. Life is crazy sometimes, right?

But anyway, I'll get down to the good stuff. I got to attend the red carpet where I was surrounded by dozens of screaming thirteen year old girls, but it was totally worth it. Veronica Roth, Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Ansel Elgort were all there, and all incredibly nice and gracious. It took them forever to get all the way down the carpet because they stopped and signed books and posters for just about everyone.
Red Carpet 
As for the movie itself, I want to do my best to talk about it without spoilers, because even if you've read the book, I don't want to ruin anything for you. Short response: IT WAS AWESOME. As a native Chicagoan, it was nuts to see Navy Pier in a swamp, or the Hancock building abandoned. The visual effects people did amazing work. It was pretty damn close to how I imagined it in my head.

When I first heard about casting, I was unsure, just as I am whenever a book I love is adapted for the screen. But I had no reason to worry- the casting on this film was incredibly on point. Jai Courtney was easy to hate as Eric, as was Miles Teller as Peter. Zoe Kravitz was perfect as the sassy, brutally honest Christina, and Theo James brought the perfect amount of dry sarcasm to Four. Shailene Woodley was absolutely amazing as Tris. She managed to really integrate all the "divergent" parts of the character, from bravery to selfishness to intelligence. Warning: there is a particular scene towards the end where her acting is so flawless that if you don't cry, I'm pretty sure you don't have a soul.

Disclaimer for the book purists out there: it is not an exact adaptation (but what is, really?). The screenplay takes liberties where it needs to, but I was happy with the end result. If you're looking for certain specific lines straight from the page, you may be a little disappointed, but the film flowed smoothly and kept me on the edge of my seat. (There were actually points where I'd think to myself, "Oh my god, is she going to make it?!" full well knowing the answers from the book. But it was intense!)

To further add to my unreal week, I woke up bright and early the morning after the screening to go to the cast press conference. I wasn't sure what to expect walking into the hotel, but it was a beyond surreal experience. I was part of a small group of about a dozen journalists who got to speak with the stars from the premiere and Veronica Roth herself. As a writer, it was insanely awesome to cover my first press conference. As a fan, it was crazy to get all my questions answered by the people who worked to bring the scenes in my mind while I read to life.

Veronica had great insights about the text itself, and she spoke to the process of turning her novel into a two hour film and working with the screenwriters to make Divergent a reality:
"They'd ask me about the world and I'd tell them whatever they needed to know, but other than that I think it's important to just trust the people you decide to work with and just let go a little bit."
The film does make changes, but as Roth pointed out, the ideals of the story stayed the same, which is really what's most important at the end of the day. 

Ansel was incredibly sweet, and when I asked what he's most looking forward to filming in the next film, he said more scenes with Theo. I was expecting something about Caleb's turn toward a darker character with more depth, but the thing about the cast was that they all seemed to genuinely be friends, so his answer was fitting.

Theo was incredibly funny, something that makes sense after seeing his performance as Four. When asked what character he'd like to play if he could be anyone other than Four, he replied "Dumbledore" without missing a beat. He talked a bit about time spent on set, and how he once made Shailene do push-ups in front of a group of strangers because she made fun of him during training. The vibe between the actors seemed very familiar and fun.
Blurry- but me with Theo
I would have to say I was most impressed, however, by Shailene. She was incredibly articulate without seeming rehearsed, and she gave really thoughtful answers to the reporters' questions. When I asked her what it is about Tris that makes her such a powerful role model for fans, I really liked what she had to say:
"At the end of the day there are a lot of powerful messages that come from being an empowered woman. And that was one thing that when I read the book I really responded to. There are a lot of empowered females in films, but Tris isn’t badass by nature. She wasn’t born knowing how to survive in intense situations, she had to build her strength and she had to dig deep for her bravery and for her courage."
Press conferencing with the stars

So all in all, it's been an insanely awesome week in my life, and you should all pre-order your tickets for Divergent right this second (it hits theaters March 21st!). I'm dying waiting to have people to talk about it with, so let me know what you think once you see it! And stay tuned to my twitter for links to my official review in the newspaper as well as video from the press conference. 

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