Comic-Con: DIVERGENT Panel Recap; First Footage Revealed; Cast, Director, and Author Discuss Major Themes

     July 18, 2013


Everyone’s looking for the next Hunger Games, which is certainly better than looking for the next Twilight.  The studios have seen that there’s now a demand for not only strong protagonists, but strong, female protagonists, which have sadly been a rarity until now.  Divergent will stay in the shadow of Hunger Games simply by virtue of easy comparison, and judging by the panel I saw today, it’s an unfair comparison.  Based on what I saw today at the film’s Comic-Con panel, Divergent has what it takes to stand on its own.  The footage we saw was brief, but I was hooked by the themes that were discussed.

Hit the jump for my recap of the panel for the film.  Divergent opens March 21, 2014.

theo-james-shailene-woodley-divergentExplaining the world of Divergent

  • Takes place 100-odd years in the future and in Chicago.  It’s divided into five factions with each trying to promote a different virtue like bravery or kindness.  Tris is the protagonist who grows up in the selfless faction (Abnegation), and she feels stifled.  She feels a tug towards Dauntless (the bravery faction).  There’s also a choosing ceremony, “that’s like a graduation.”  At a certain age, you can choose your faction, and the way you choose is you take an aptitude test that’s like a “psychological-dream state where you’re given particular challenges.”  Tris closes the door on her family when she leaves Abnegation for Dauntless.

They just finished shooting two days ago, so the clip is “all very fresh for us,” says Burger.  But they knew they were coming here when they were shooting.  They put together a trailer while they were filming.

Then they show us and it’s very brief.  It starts out with teens climbing up to Chicago’s L-train, riding it, and then jumping off the moving train on to rooftops.  From the rooftop, they look over the edge and see a building with an giant hole in the rooftop and they don’t know what’s in the darkness, if anything. Eric (Jai Courtney) asks the potential new members who’s going to go first, and Tris volunteers.  She jumps, falls a big distance, lands in a net, Four (Theo James) pulls her out, and then she gets to choose her name.  This is where he decides to pick her permanent name, and she chooses “Tris” – a shortened version of her birth name Beatrice.

We then see a montage of the Tris crowd-surfing, practicing fighting, knife throwing, looking at a new tattoo on her upper chest, getting injected in the neck, wielding assault rifles, etc.  Four throws knives at Tris to test her bravery, and most of them go around her (intentionally), but the last knife grazes her ear and draws blood.  It ends with Christina (Zoe Kravitz) telling Tris, “You’re brave.  You were brave before you even got here.”

Roth tells the audience about the third book, Allegiant, revealing that it was written from the perspective of both Tris and Four, and they’ll be alternating.

Woodley on making Tris relatable:  She sees her as a normal girl rather than action star or superhero.  She never saw Tris that way.  She saw her as a young woman who had to figure herself out and help the community around here. What she loved about Tris is that she finds the bravery and courage within herself.

divergent-zoe-kravitz-ben-lloyd-hughes-shailene-woodleyJames says he believes Four is old school and masculine, but not afraid to admit the things he’s afraid of like telling Tris he’s scared of heights.  One of the concepts he loved about the book was that bravery isn’t about being fearless, but how you deal with things in the face of fear.

The rest of the cast then comes out: Ansel Elgort, Zoe Kravitz, Will Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Ben Lamb, Christian Madsen, Amy Newbold, Miles Teller, Mekhi Phifer, and Maggie Q.

They talk about boot camp, working out together, choreographing fights, knife-throwing, gun-fighting.

Kravitz says the dining scene was particularly memorable, “because we got to crowd-surf for like 45 minutes.”  Woodley says it was one of her favorite scenes because there was such a high energy in that room that night.

Roth says that when she sees the footage and looking at her world in a really detailed way like the syringes they stick people in the neck with and the other aspects of the production design.

Audience Q&A

What did Roth see in the movie that she didn’t see in the book?  “It’s really the details” that she’s lost since it’s been a few years since she wrote it.  She was surprised by the water tank where Tris faces her fear of drowning, and then seeing Shailene in the water made Roth think, “Oh. My. God.”

divergent-shailene-woodley-maggie-qDetails of their physical preparation: They did two to three weeks of muay thai fighting.  And it was a great bonding experience for the cast.

Does Roth think that Four and Tris’ relationship has been accurately portrayed in the movie as it is the book.  “I intentionally kept myself away from the set because I felt it was kind of voyeuristic.”  She also saw the slow development as she sporadically watched filming, but she thinks they’ve done a good job with it.

Similarities to their characters:

  • Maggie Q: “The dauntless casting was pretty bang-on.”  She likes to feel brave.
  • Phifer: “I grew up in Harlem, New York, so I had to be very brave.”
  • Elgort: “Caleb is really tall in the movie, and I’m really tall in real life.”
  • James: “I’m very protective of Shay by nature.”  His co-stars chime in that he’s also a very good fighter.
  • Woodley: “I admire dauntless because of the bravery involved in their faction.”
  • Kravitz: “Christina comes from candor, and she has a word-vomit problem as well.
  • Lloyd-Hughes: “Will is good at standing up for his friends.
  • Lamb: “I’ve always enjoyed learning, and Edward is an erudite transfer to Dauntless”
  • Madsen: “To explain how I’m like Al, this would turn into one, giant therapy session.  But he felt he related to Al’s shyness and gentleness.
  • Newbold: “Molly likes to fight, and through this process, I learned so did I”
  • Teller: “So Peter is not very likable…He also likes classical music, and we both brush our teeth in the shower.”

To be perfectly honest, the footage didn’t blow me away, but the film finished shooting two days ago.  Yes, they cut the footage with Comic-Con in mind, but there’s still so much more to do on the post-production side, and it was great for the fans of the novel to get a taste of the adaptation.  For those like me who haven’t read the book, I’m eager to pick it up because I like the theme that carries between the two: understanding bravery.  Earlier this year, After Earth tried to hold up fearlessness as a virtue, and it’s not.  Shutting yourself off from fear removes a human impulse.  What Divergent looks to be celebrating is feeling the fear and doing it anyway.  I don’t know how the story progresses beyond Tris joining Dauntless and her intensive training and initiation, but my interest in Divergent has definitely been piqued.


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