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Comic-Con 2013: The Divergent Panel
Neil Burger, Shailene Woodley and co introduce the first footage

19 July 2013  |  Written by Helen O'Hara  

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It's the very first footage anywhere from Divergent, and it's here! Based on the young adult novels set in a dystopian future, this has a similar feel to The Hunger Games in that a young woman finds herself becoming a key figure in a strange, dark future.

The film takes place a hundred or more years from now (Burger and Roth differ on this, which may end up upsetting hardcore fans) in Chicago. There's been some sort of cataclysm and the city is walled - it holds only tens of thousands rather than millions. The world has been divided into factions dedicated to a particular virtue: 'Dauntless' (Bravery), 'Abnegation' (Selflessness), 'Candour' (Honesty), 'Erudite' (Intelligence) and Peacefulness / Kindness. Tris grows up in the Abnegation faction and feels stifled; she feels drawn to Dauntless but that means leaving her family behind forever.

Author Veronica Roth, director Neil Burger, Theo James (who plays Four), and Shailene Woodley, who plays Tris, led the panel. They were joined by Mekhi Phifer (Max), Maggie Q (Tori), Miles Teller (Peter), Ansel Elgort (Caleb), Zoe Kravitz (Christina), Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Will), Christian Madsen (Al), Amy Newbold (Molly) and Ben Lamb (Edward).

Shooting finished only two days ago, so everything is "very fresh" says Burger. The footage, cut especially for the Con, showed Tris clambering up to the elevated train that will take her to Dauntless headquarters after choosing her faction. The twist is that the train doesn't stop, so she has to leap aboard at top speed - and then jump off onto the buildings around Dauntless Headquarters at the same breakneck pace (and all this in her inappropriate Abnegation grey dress). But there are yet more danger to come; Jai Courtney's character Eric tells the new arrivals that the way into Dauntless is to throw yourself off a roof into an apparently bottomless pit. Who's going to go first? Almost to her own surprise, Tris volunteers.

Surviving that (spoiler!) she rolls out of the net at the bottom and into the arms of trainer Four (Theo James), who asks her name only for her to mumble something unintelligible. He tells her that she can choose a name now, but "make it good"; she becomes Tris instead of Beatrice forever, and is listed as the first jumper - which gets her immediate cred with her new faction, but also makes her a target.

Then we saw a series of quick glimpses of the tough Dauntless training: there are martial arts rings, punching bags, ferris wheels to climb, mess hall celebrations, crowd surfing and knife-throwing. Tris gets a tattoo, as Kate Winslet's stern Jeanine Matthews (of the Erudite or Intelligent faction) looks on disapprovingly. Tris and Four also have some sizzling chemistry as they train together.

A climactic glimpse showed Four throwing knives at Tris as she stands perfectly still - but her ear is nicked, so maybe he's not quite as good as he would like to be. Zoe Kravitz, as Tris's friend Christina, features heavily to say things like, "You were brave before you got here", which makes us suspect that she's landed most of the exposition.

The footage depends a little heavily on having a fear of heights, but it looks pacy, exciting and very much in line with the feel of Roth's book, which will please fans (and it's no bad thing for the rest of us). There's definitely still a Hunger Games comparison here; it's perhaps a little less angsty and more action-y, but the two definitely feel like cousins.

In a tidbit of exciting news for fans, Roth revealed that the third book is written from two perspectives, Tris' and Four's, breaking the tradition in the first two volumes. The second is called Insurgent and is already on shelves; she's finished the third, Allegiant, and it comes out later this year.

Divergent hits UK screens on March 21, 2014, but look out for much more on it between now and then.

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