We saw the first-ever footage from forthcoming film Divergent at Comic-Con yesterday, and got the scoop on what this movie based on the incredible bestseller is going to be like. Basically, it looks a lot like the Hunger Games — but with a whole lot of Gryffindor in there too.
The premise of Veronica Roth's novel is that teenagers living in a post-apocalyptic, walled Chicago must put on a sorting hat — erm, I mean, go into a dream machine — and have visions that help them "choose" one of five groups to join. Like the houses of Hogwarts, each group has a special talent, including selflessness, intelligence, bravery, etc. Our hero Tris was born into selflessness, but yearns to join Dauntless, the bravery (AKA Gryffindor) group.
Director Neil Burger explained:
The choosing ceremony is like a graduation ceremony. It' san aptitude test. There's a psychological dream state you go into and you are challenged in that dreamstate. That's the basis for the choice. Then you slit your palm and drop blood into 5 bowls that represent the factions and you pay sacred allegiance to it. Once you choose there is no going back to your family. Tris chooses to go to Dauntless from Abnegation. These factions keep society in balance.
So it's a little bloodier and creepier than the sorting ceremony, and the Dauntless faction does a lot more dirty deeds than Gryffindor (though nothing as scary as the battle against You-Know-Who). We learned that the film will focus a lot on testing the recruits, and includes the terrifying scenes from the novel where Tris has to deal with her fear of drowning in a huge tank of water, and her best friend is forced to confront her fear of being dangled over a ravine from a rope.
What we saw in the footage was part of Tris' induction into Dauntless, a scene where she and the other bravery wannabes have to test their mettle by jumping off a moving L train in Chicago, diving onto a rooftop, and then jumping off a building. Tris jumps first, emerging from the netting into the arms of Four, the boy who will become her mentor and love interest.
Then we see Tris enter the world of Dauntless in a montage of crowd-surfing, MMA fighting, and hanging out in a mess hall that was like a post-apocalyptic version of the Hot Lunch routine from the movie Fame. We see her climbing the ferris wheel with Four, and catch a glimpse of the needles and dream machine, which have a clean, Dollhouse brain tech kind of look. There's also a great moment where Tris is proving how brave she is by letting Four throw knives at her face without flinching — even when one nicks her ear and she starts bleeding.
Shot in blues and greys against the backdrop of a crumbling city, the movie has obviously taken its visual cues from The Hunger Games. The difference is that this movie feels more like a sports team or military unit flick than a grim futuristic warning the way Hunger Games did. The huge ensemble cast gelled really nicely, and when we see them together it's clear that they've worked hard to give us the sense of Dauntless as a family. Still, this movie is going to have to work hard to distinguish itself after audiences fell in love with the emotional intensity and dark media satire of The Hunger Games. Instead of Hunger Games' social criticism, Divergent has a Harry Potter story of growing up into a member of an elite group. These are not Gryffindor's wide-eyed school kids, though — they are Dauntless' knife-loving killing machines.
Think of it as a CW show writ large, with gorgeous young people in a crazy scifi world. That doesn't have to be a bad thing. But it may not be terribly profound.