Divergent (Blu-ray)

July 29, 2014 11 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

What happens when you capitalize on the success of Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games, throw in a bit of the still wildly-popular Harry Potter franchise and add a dash of originality? Evidently you get Divergent!  Now I digress as I actually enjoyed the movie, but to be completely and totally honest, I’d never even heard of the books/film(s) until a few months ago. Having read all of the Harry Potter books as well as The Hunger Games trilogy, I suppose I’m a bit biased, but after seeing Divergent it’s clear to see that there’s more than just a few coincidences. Stilll, I have to give a little credit to author Veronica Roth, since every aspiring writer out there must be trying to get a piece of The Hunger Games’ success, and she managed to make that happen (under the age of 25, no less). And throwing in red hot actress Shailene Woodley from The Descendants, The Spectacular Now and The Fault in Our Stars fame, certainly didn’t hurt matters. Now you know the history, so let’s focus on the present, er – future, shall we?

Set in Chicago a century from now, Divergent looks at a society that literally divides its citizens into five distinct factions. These factions, pigeon-holed though they might be, embody those that comprise them. There’s Abnegation or the “selfless” as those that do public service and value others first. Erudite are the intelligent ones while Dauntless are militant and brave.  Amity are peaceful while Candor value honesty above all else. Katinss Tris (Shailene Woodley) comes from a good home and it’s now time for her and her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort), to select their factions. These factions will determine the course of their lives. Both Caleb and Tris have been tested and Tris has been warned that she’s different in that she doesn’t fit solely into one faction. This marks her as divergent and is therefore dangerous. Tris selects Dauntless while Caleb selects Erudite which leaves their parents (Ashley Judd and Tony Goldwyn) unable to speak to them since they’re in a different faction (Abnegation). The story follows Tris as she goes through a “boot camp” of sorts and we meet the main cast of characters. We see that there’s more to Tris than meets the eye and under the watch of Four (Theo James), the two form an unlikely bond.  We get a sense all isn’t well as we meet Jeanine (Kate Winslet), leader of the Erudites and someone who seems out to get Tris. In a society governed by factions, is there any room for someone that doesn’t fit the mold?

Admittedly I rather enjoyed Divergent and as one of the bigger films of the year, we already know there are two other installments on the way (well three if you count the inevitable two-part “climax”). There’s more than a passing resemblance to The Hunger Games, but really – so what? Isn’t nearly every romantic comedy out there just about the same? How about most war movies? I could go on…Divergent has a great cast of characters, some interesting story lines and I felt the 139 minutes go by in the blink of an eye all the while being entertained. In my book, that’s a good movie. Of course, this sets the stage for the next installment, Insurgent, and having not read the novels I have no idea what to expect. Still, the cast does a great job here with a very overlooked Miles Teller (Shailene Woodley’s co-star in The Spectacular Now), Kate Winslet as a villain and a few other surprises that I won’t divulge. So call it a copy or what you will, but I found the film to be exciting and enjoyable.

Video: How’s it look?

As one of the marquee movies from Lionsgate this year, the bar was set pretty high for Divergent and it delivered on all levels. The 2.40:1 AVC HD image is nearly flawless showcasing a pristine dystopic future in all its Blu-ray glory.  Flesh tones seem a bit washed out at times, but it’s due to the film itself and not a fault of the transfer. Kate Winslet’s porcelain skin seems to produce a halo effect on screen. Contrast and black levels work well with one another and the detail is second to none. We can read little things in the background, see bits of rust and decay on things like a ferris wheel and everything in between. I noticed no errors at all, no banding and shadows seemed strong and consistent. Suffice it to say that if you’re looking for a bang up transfer, Divergent delivers.

Audio: How’s it sound?

As a perfect compliment to the reference-quality video, the DTS HD Master Audio mix stands well on its own. Rock solid vocals are just one highlight of this uncompressed mix as the surrounds are nearly always in some action. The LFE get a workout in a few scenes as well, though the front stage takes on the brunt of this soundtrack. To me it’s the little things that stand out, like a knife whizzing by from the front speakers to the rear, a bullet has the same effect and the film has plenty of action to go around. Again, it’s the discrete details like the tapping of Tris’ fingernail on a pane of glass, the sound of someone diving in water – things like that that make this a top notch audio effort.

Supplements: What are the extras?

No doubt this title will be one of the bigger ones of the year and Lionsgate has given us a pretty decent selection of extras with some being exclusive to the Blu-ray. It should be noted that the supplements that appear on the DVD also appear on the Blu-ray.

DVD Extras

  • Audio Commentary – The first of two audio commentaries, this one features Director Neil Burger as he dissects the film’s plot, some of the details on the shoot and the challenge of making Chicago as it would appear 100 years from now (and no water, to boot). It’s a bit more technical than the second commentary, but a good listen nonetheless.
  • Audio Commentary – Next up we’ve got Producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher who tackle the film from a different perspective as they’re more about bringing the novels to the screen, the casting of the different roles and some of the other shooting details not covered by Burger. It’s a good track, but personally I preferred Burger’s.
  • Deleted Scenes – Six in all, though there’s no commentary or set up so it’s not really clear as to why they were cut from the final film.

Blu-ray Exclusives

  • Faction Before Blood – More of a history of the series as we get a brief overview from actress Shailene Woodley who tells us of the factions and what they stand for. Also interviewed is author Veronica Roth (seeming very pleased with herself) as she gives us the inspiration for the novels and how she came up with the ideas for the different factions.
  • Bringing Divergent to Life
      A Bold Beginning – We learn of the history of the Divergent series, Roth’s inspiration for it and its transition from novel to screen as well as the different factions and beliefs contained within the series.

      Becoming Divergent – Woodley and crew tell us about the vigorous training regiment to prepare for their respective roles and the need for the military aspect for more authenticity.

      The Epic Experience – We learn of the unique fighting style created for the film as well as some of the different types of training and the progression the characters made throughout the film.

      A Fearless Finish – We get a look at some of the special effect used for the film, some of the naturalistic things used as well. Even things I’d not have realized, but little things like traffic lights were removed due to the lack of cars, no bus stops and so forth. Very interesting.

  • Music Video – Ellie Goulding’s “Beating Heart.”
  • Marketing Gallery
      Theatrical Trailer – Two total.

      Poster Gallery – Literally as the name entails, it’s a look at some of the different posters for the film.

  • Also from Lionsgate – Previews for other Lionsgate/Summit films.
  • DVD/Digital HD Copy

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