New teen heroine emerges from 'Divergent' take on dystopia

Wed Mar 19, 2014 5:31pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A futuristic utopia is divided into five communities, each defined entirely by one personality trait - wisdom, honesty, selflessness, kindness and bravery. But can humans be defined by just one?

That's the question at the core of new film "Divergent," out in U.S. theaters on Friday. It is the latest movie adapted from a young adult novel series that features a lead female heroine who goes on an epic journey in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world where people lead dehumanized lives.

While that premise sounds much like the runaway success "The Hunger Games" led by Jennifer Lawrence, "Divergent," based on the books by author Veronica Roth, hinges on a society that attempts to curb human nature with neurological manipulation.

Lions Gate, the film studio also behind "Hunger Games" and the "Twilight" saga, is hoping "Divergent," with its devoted fanbase, will kick off a new franchise. A second film "Insurgent" is already in the works for 2015.

The young actress leading the franchise is Shailene Woodley, who plays Tris Prior, no ordinary 16 year old.

"I was really inspired by the fact she became an incredibly tough empowered woman, but she didn't start off that way. Her journey, it forced her to examine what she valued most in life," Woodley said in explaining why she wanted to play Tris.

When Tris takes her society's standard aptitude test that is meant to divulge her defining personality trait and thus indicate which faction she should spend the rest of her life in, Tris discovers she is "divergent," a term used to define anyone with multiple defining personality traits.

After growing up in Abnegation, a community that values modesty and selflessness, Tris leaves her family for Dauntless, the brave and fearless warriors who defend the inhabitants of a post-apocalyptic Chicago. But her divergence poses a threat to the faction system.   Continued...

Cast members Shailene Woodley and Theo James pose at the premiere of "Divergent" in Los Angeles, California, March 18, 2014. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni