Divergent unveils 1st footage at Comic-Con: Can it be the next Hunger Games?

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Jul 18, 2013, 10:42 PM EDT

The cast, director and author of Divergent gave Comic-Con the first look anywhere of footage from the dystopian sci-fi movie.

The movie is based on a book by Veronica Roth, who imagined a future world where society is divided into factions based on their personal characteristics. Each person goes through an extensive training process before they are able to choose which faction they want to belong to, and as director Neil Burger says, "The choosing ceremony is almost like a graduation ceremony ... once you've chosen, there's no going back to your family." Lead character Tris (Shailene Woodley) leaves behind her family, who belong to the Abnegation (selfless) faction so she can join the Dauntless (brave) faction.

Picture The Hunger Games in an urban environment -- in this case a Chicago that doesn't look too far removed from the present -- and you have an idea of what Divergent looks like. The montage of scenes shown in Hall H -- the first footage from the movie shown anywhere -- opens with a group of young people running through the streets of the Windy City and jumping on an L train, before Woodley and her friend Christina (Zoe Kravitz) leap off the elevated train onto the roof of a building.

She must then jump into the hollow center of another building and land in a net hundreds of feet below as her final test to become a Dauntless, after which she meets hunky potential love interest Four (Theo James). The rest of the footage features Tris getting knives thrown at her, getting some sort of injection in her neck, a quick intro to Kate Winslet, Tris crowd-surfing, some wielding of guns, and more knives -- only this time one gets close enough to draw blood from her ear.

At first it's just Burger, Roth, Woodley and James on stage in Hall H with moderator Chris Hardwick. Burger reveals that filming was completed two days ago and they prepared the trailer in advance because they knew they were coming to Comic-Con. Shailene is asked about playing Tris and says, "I get asked a lot how does it feel to play an action star ... I never saw her as an action star, I see her as a very normal young woman who's put in elevated situations where she has to find out who she is and find the bravery to help those around her and help herself."

Theo James is asked what he thinks the movie's main theme is and chimes in: "Bravery is not being fearless, it's how you deal with things that are scary and [how you deal] with fear itself."

The rest of the supporting cast then comes out, including Kravitz, Mekhi Phifer, Ansel Elgort, Miles Teller, Maggie Q, Ben Lamb, Will Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Christian Madsen and Amy Newbold. There are a lot of people on that stage!

They share memorable experiences from the shoot, including their training, fight choreography and a dining hall scene in which Woodley gets to crowd-surf above the entire Dauntless faction. "How often do you get to crowd-surf for 45 minutes straight in a controlled environment?" she asks the audience. (Answer: not very often.)

The strangest part of the panel comes when a random guy gets up to the mic during the audience Q&A and begins to ask a question about Ender's Game -- apparently oblivious that he's asking the wrong panel!

We have not read the Divergent books (the third one, Allegiant, is due out in October), but they have a devoted following, and the concept is interesting if somewhat overly complicated. The footage was not the most compelling, but Woodley is a great young actress and Burger has made several other interesting films, including Limitless with Bradley Cooper. Can Divergent reach the same heights as The Hunger Games

We'll find out next March.