HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:83
It seems the stream of young adult novel to film adaptations is going full power with little signs of slowing down to a trickle, despite some heavy failings in the film world. Once “The Hunger Games” took off it unleashed the dogs of war (or at least the studios were panting like dogs over the thought of more “Hunger Games” like profit) and we’ve seen quite the array of hunky young men with teen girls as the heroine. Some of them have been good, some have been decent, but most of them have actually been pretty bad. There’s only so much you can do with the same dystopian world before it seems derivative and worn out. I went into “Divergent” with about as much faith in its outcome as I had with the other mindless predecessors that have stained my viewing room with their poison. I really like “The Hunger Games” series and have been entertained by one or two others, but overall it’s not been a pleasant experience in the genre, so color me surprised when I actually ended up having a really good time with the film, despite its young adult flaws.
I’ve heard a lot of comparisons to a more famed young adult series, calling it “Hunger Games Lite” etc. While it’s true there are similarities, but it’s less trying to copy the plot and more going with the same young adult tropes that “The Hunger Games” is guilty of ripping off of countless others in the genre before it. There’s a dystopian world in the future, with lots of evil men and women bent on keeping the rest of humanity subjugated. It’s all pretty standard fare, as the idea of domination and control have been around in human storytelling for thousands and thousands of years, albeit with the standard “dystopian future” that seems to be the fad these days. In “The Hunger Games” we had a conquering ruling class who have set themselves up to live like kings while the rest of the world lives in fear and abject poverty, ruling through an iron fist and the threat of constant decimation to keep the local systems in line. In “Divergent” it’s a bit more of the opposite. We have a giant metropolis that has managed to rebuild itself after a giant world war pretty much destroyed humanity. Terrified that they would fall back into the same destructive patterns that got them there in the first place, they decided to split the people up into “factions”, based upon that person’s inert dominate personality trait. There are 5 factions, Abnegation (the servants and selfless ones), Amity (peace lovers), Dauntless (The brave ones trained to be warriors), Candor (the blunt honest ones), and Erudite (the intelligent scientist type), and each person is a part of that faction, living their lives to the fullest and fulfilling the duties of that particular faction. It’s a common theory that most people have dominate traits, dominate instincts that kind of define how the rest of their traits are honed and gives them their distinct “flair”. Here they take that theory and create little bubbles for them to live in where the dominate trait is cultured and the less dominate ones are ignored.
Beatrice (Shailene Woodley) and her brother, Caleb (Ansel Elgort) are both born into the Abnegation class, the selfless ones, trusted with running the government and doing the charitable work of the city state. When they come of age, the two are tested, and then given a recommendation for what class they are suited for. However, they also may over ride that decision, but then are stuck with whatever class they choose, no matter if they are suited for it or not. The Kicker for Beatrice (soon to be named Tris for short) is that she is an anomaly, shall we say the “ambidextrous” one of the personalities. She doesn’t conform to any one dominate trait, but has enough of each of the traits, allowing her to not be categorized or controlled, known as a Divergent. The word control, THAT is the key to this entire equation as Tris and her newfound life as a Dauntless (her choice) soon find out. The Erudite class has been making some overt threats to the Abnegation class and their leader Jeanine (Kate Winslet) is on the way to staging a coup and taking Abnegation’s role as running the government. It seems the entire faction system was built on the idea of control, for the last world war was started because of human nature, here they try to weed out and control that human nature by emphasizing a person’s dominate traits and pushing them into factions that don’t deal with each other. That way people are fractured, both in humanity as well as socially. Thusly no one person is ever “whole” and can exert his will over another. Needless to say Divergents are a huge threat to the system and are considered outcasts or even hunted down. Keeping her secret through her peril’s is hard enough, but falling in love with Four (Theo Thomas), the dauntless training officer is not going to make it any easier. Sooner or later Erudite makes its play and in that moment Tris has to decide what she wants to do with this corrupt society, laboring under the saccharine sweet façade of “peace”.
“Divergent” is actually one of the more pleasant of the young adult film franchises and has enough grit and good actors to pull it out from the rubble of those around it. That’s not to say it doesn’t suffer from many of the same flaws that other young adult films suffer from, as there’s enough ham fisted romance and overdone training sequences to choke a horse. Some have said that the film went on a bit too long and was rather bloated, but I have to disagree, as I found the runtime was very fitting for the tales being told and was rather necessary to allow time for the third act to come to full fruition. Too many times they try to keep the tale short and sweet, cramming in all the romance and other such cheesy tropes and ignore the last act in an effort to fit into that said runtime. Here we still have a second act that is a bit harder to get through, as Tris rises from zero to hero in her new faction, but leaves plenty of time in the third act for the story to not get shoved to the side and feel rushed.
I felt that there was a decent mix of good looking teen actors with decent acting ability this time, instead of the predominant bad acting, good looks style of casting. Shailene Woodley is cute, but her acting is her strong point and even Theo James does a remarkable good job at delivering coherent lines (a shocker in these types of films). The real standouts for poor acting still has to go with Jai Courtney (who CAN’T act to save his life) and Miles Teller (who’s a bit over rated as an actor in my opinion). Personally I felt the second act was the most bloated of the film, but origin tales are usually known for that, as some stuff just needs to be slogged through to get the story going.
With teens going out in flocks this summer, “Divergent” actually made quite a bit of money, giving it the green light for a sequel, and deservedly so as I felt it was one of the FEW that really deserves to have the tale continued. So many of these tales are one offs, that it’s nice to see that we might actually get a really good sequel, considering the books have a LOT of action in them and set the resistance up quite a bit earlier than the drug out “Hunger Games” can be at times.
Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=24074[/img]“Divergent” was shot digitally with Arri Alexa cameras and looks quite incredible in its 2.40:1 AVC encoded aspect ratio. The color palette is intentionally subdued, loading down the image with lots of grey and gold tones to it, and compound that, we have Tris running around in the black and grey suits of the Dauntless initiates. However, when the scenes are MEANT to, there is quite a lot of color. The rich, earthy colors of the Amity class look like a fall sunset and the almost sterile whites and blues of the Erudite class is richly saturated and almost blinding. There’s a few times where I noticed a bit of softness (mostly in the scenes where Tris goes into a hallucination), but the rest of the time the image is littered with fantastic amounts of fine detail, from the fibers on clothes to the individual blades of grass and rocks on the ground below your feet. Black levels are amazing and shows no sign of black crush or lack of shadow detail. The ONLY complaint I really have with the encode is that I noticed intermittent banding in some of the night time shots. Especially in the sky.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=24082[/img]The 7.1 DTS-HD MA track is just what you’d expect for a summer blockbuster, as it’s full of energy and wraps the viewer in a cocoon of auditory envelopment. Right off the bat I could tell it was going to be immersive, for even in the quite opening dialogue you can hear the surrounds lighting up with ambient noises and the movement of people around the person. Surrounds are almost ALWAYS active with the cheering of fellow Dauntless members or the whine of future bullets plinking around you in the final battle. LFE is powerful, accurate and extremely well used, with only a few scenes feeling like there could have been lower end oomph. The LFE won’t tear down walls, but it most certainly makes its presence known, especially in the pounding drums that sound off during the training sequences. Dialogue is actually one of the better features of the track as it’s perfectly balance with the effects and comes through with crystal clarity and a surprising amount of emphasis. The directionality and panning effects of the track are handled exceptionally well and having me wishing more tracks emphasized those features in their encodes. Well done Summit.
• Audio Commentary with Director Neil Burger
• Audio Commentary with Producers Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick
• Bringing "Divergent" To Life
• Faction Before Blood
• "Beating Heart" Music Video
• Deleted Scenes
• Theatrical Trailers
• Poster Gallery
Starting a bit weakly, “Divergent” proves that not everything that starts badly, ends badly. I thoroughly enjoyed the tale, even though the romance (if you can call something that awkward a romance) tends to make one roll the eyes a tad, the tale is intriguing and quite a bit of fun, with the only really negative (or unfortunate thing really) is just that it came out AFTER we’ve had two excellent “Hunger Games” come out, where the bar has been set. Had it not been for that, “Divergent” would have gotten more attention than it did as it stand a good head taller than the previous young adult films that have been smelling up the industry. The audio is amazing, the video is awesome and there’s even a decent amount of extras, which I have to say pushes this up into definitely a recommend, even for those who aren’t a fan of the genre.
Starring: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet
Directed by: Neil Burger
Written by: Evan Daugherty, Vanessa Taylor
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 7.1, English DD 2.0, Spanish DD 5.1
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Runtime: 139 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 5th 2014
Buy Divergent Blu-ray on Amazon
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