On Sunday, Big and I had the great good fortune to go to the European premiere of Divergent, based in Leicester Square, London. The square had been transformed to a fan experience based around the book/film, and there were actual real live stars due to attend, Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet and most importantly, the person without whom none of it would have been possible, Veronica Roth.
To say that we were excited is putting it mildly.
Big and I are huge book fans. We both read furiously, frantically and copiously. Only a fraction of what I read gets reviewed here, mainly because this is more than just a book blog. And I feel guilty about that at times, but it’s the way it is. It might also be why I don’t feel like a real book blogger – I don’t live and breathe books on here. (I don’t feel like a real parenting blogger either, but that’s an aside.) Anyway, it was so fantastic to get the opportunity to go to the premiere (the actual premiere! With famous people!)
As well as excited, I was nervous. The timings on the original email were different to the e-ticket timings I got. Even though I was given the tickets in return for running a competition (which was massively popular) I was sent a ticket that referred to me as a competition winner. I had suspicions that this wasn’t going to work out well.
The square was great – lots of excited teenagers lining the barriers. Competition winners got exclusive access to the fan experience from 12.30, so about 12ish we queued up. And waited. And waited. We were entertained by some actors dressed up as Erudite scientists, but they weren’t really in character. I’ve a sneaky suspicion they hadn’t read the book, and neither had whoever briefed them.
The experience was more of the same. There was a testing spot, where you answered three questions on an iPad, and got assigned a faction. (What, no serum injections, no simulations? Shame.) Big and I, who were dressed as Amity and Abnegation respectively, were both assigned to Erudite.
We didn’t want to bungee jump, or shoot laser pistols, or climb the wall, or have pictures of us in the film poster, or even get tattoos. So we loitered for a while – we had managed to meet Amber and her parents, Zoe and Jason, and Big recognised Sabrina but despite lots of tweeting, didn’t hook up with any of the other book bloggers there. I asked someone with a clipboard what the plan for getting in to the cinema was, and she pointed us up to one end of where they were laying the red carpet out. The opposite end to where the stars were due to arrive. So I asked how we would get to see them, and she said we’d see them inside.
Slightly reassured, we went and joined the queue for the entrance. By this time it was maybe 1ish? We were near the start of this queue, so I hoped that we’d get a decent seat at least. And then we waited, and waited, and waited, with people barging into us as they tried to get through the queue, and us getting more and more wound up and unhappy. And then the stars started to arrive, and we couldn’t see a thing, because we were back from the barrier and there were other fans along it.
When they started processing the queue into the cinema, people with postcard invites or rubber wristbands got to jump the queue. Those of us down as competition winners had to have our emails checked against a list of our names – frustrating as we’d already gone through that process once to get into the fan experience. (I can quite understand why the security guy was pulling them out whether they were more important than not – he was desperate to get everyone in to the cinema in time, and the email checking process was very slow.) Then we had to select a wristband, which corresponded with a seating plan inside the cinema – we stuck with Abnegation, fairly near the front. And by this time, we were being shepherded about and I didn’t get to take a selfie on the red carpet.
Once in the cinema, more waiting as the stars were interviewed outside – we at least got to watch this on the big screen. (We also got a free bottle of water and a free faction T shirt. Ladies M.) Big’s autograph book though, stayed pristine, there was no opportunity for us to get anywhere near the stars or author. Which did make me sad. The competition winners and bloggers who had provided publicity for the film consisted of major fans of the film, and we didn’t get any chance to get autographs or selfies, unlike the people lining the barriers outside.
(This was as near as we got to the stars inside. Not quite what I’d had in mind.)
Yes, we got to watch the film a week before anyone else. And I did love the film. And watching it in a cinema with a lot of fans, was a fabulous experience – there was no rustling or chatting, but lots of joint intakes of breath and it was just wonderful.
But I think Jessica sums it up best:
— Jessica (@JessHeartsBooks) March 31, 2014
I did indeed love and appreciate the chance to be at the premiere of what I think is a great film. (Go see it. Go. Read my full review too if you like.) I also think it’s an important film – for my money, Tris is a far more rounded character than Katniss, and she carries this film fantastically well. A woman in an action role, headlining the film, and drawing the crowds. Hear that Hollywood? More please.
But the actual premiere experience could easily have been so much more for the committed fans. With just a bit of organisation. Book bloggers having the chance to get two minutes with Veronica Roth? Oh please. (That way we’d have got to meet up with each other as well!) And no, I wouldn’t have asked her what she was wearing. (What *is* that about? And how come we didn’t get to hear what Theo James was wearing? Inquiring minds need to know.) I would have asked her how it felt, to watch her imagination on screen. Was she happy with the bits that weren’t there? The bits that were different from how she wrote it? How does it feel to be in a room of people, all laughing at your jokes, crying when you kill characters off?
Is it very different to when the first book was published?
And how do you top that?
That’s what I wanted from the experience. Although I wouldn’t say no to the chance to attend more premieres, if anyone is offering
Disclosure: I was given tickets to the premiere. I funded our travel myself, so spent over £30 on that alone, plus other expenses. Not precisely a cheap day out.