‘Divergent’ Gives Us a Haunting Tour of Chicago

‘Divergent’ Gives Us a Haunting Tour of Chicago


 DivergentSummit Entertainment

If Divergent is right, residents of Chicago might want to get out and enjoy the sites while they can. In Veronica Roth’s books, Tris Prior’s Windy City is described as a fenced in community, split into five sections, that sits next to the giant marsh that was once Lake Michigan.

The film was shot entirely on location in Chicago, both throughout the city and at Cinespace Studios. The production even made a set of fake El tracks, since in the books Chicago’s trains are the citizens’ main mode of transportation. Apparently the Chicago Transit Authority balked at the idea of having people jumping on and off of the moving trains as they do in Divergent’s future.

A number of the city’s landmarks are mentioned throughout the book; based on the trailer, Chicago will play a vital role in the film as well. Featured prominently in the early clips was Navy Pier, which in the story is abandoned but still has its trademark Ferris wheel standing, as Tris (Shailene Woodley) and Four (Theo James) climb the structure to get a better look of the city. The real Ferris wheel was given a make-over for the scenes so that it could appear rusty in the film.

Similarly, the book decribes the John Hancock Building in the city’s famed shopping disctrict on Michigan Avenue as being empty and in poor repair, with Tris and her compatriots using it for ziplining. The film shot some of its exteriors on the real Michigan Ave.

The tallest structure in Chicago, the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower), remains a central part of life in Divergent, as Roth describes it as being the location of the all-important “choosing ceremony” where 16-year-olds must decide which of the city’s five factions they’ll live with. Reportedly, the production used the Seventeenth Church of Christ, Scientist as a stand-in for the futuristic interior of the Willis.

The Erudite faction, home to Divergent‘s villian Jeanine Matthews, is described as controling the area surrounding downtown’s Millennium Park, since one of the park’s most famous sculptures The Cloud Gate (more commonly known as “The Bean”) serves as a meeting place between Tris and her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort).

Tris’ home faction of Abnegation isn’t pinpointed in the book, but the production used the Wells Street area in South Chicago for the exteriors. It seems fitting that a faction that values selflessness would elect to take up the city’s much maligned South Side as its home.

While not being familiar with Chicago won’t interfere with the audiences enjoyment of the movie, those with connnections to the city will have a fun time watching what the filmmakers have done with its landmarks. Just as long as the dystopian changes remain in the distant future, since having Lake Michigan turn into a marsh would not do many favors to lake shore property values.

Divergent hits theaters March 21. You can check showtimes and purchase advanced tickets here.