Divergent is set in a future world where society has been divided into five distinct factions. But Tris will never fit into any one group-she is Divergent, and what makes her different makes her dangerous. Targeted by a faction leader determined to eliminate all Divergents, Tris turns to the one person she believes she can trust: Four, an instructor for the militant Dauntless faction, and a man full of dark secrets. Together, Tris and Four uncover a mind-bending conspiracy that will put their courage to the ultimate test and forever link their destinies.
Overflowing with — mostly nonsensical — ideas about autonomy and free will while imagining itself as a dystopic sci-fi epic about a controlled society, 'Divergent' inundates the audience with possibilities for something better and exciting. The grand, and admittedly imaginative, spectacles of a seemingly peaceful civilization hiding behind a stories-high wall that surrounds a ruined Chicago are unfortunately nothing more than a pretty mask concealing a lack of genuine understanding of the ideas the plot sporadically touches on. Granted, the target audience isn't likely expected to dwell on the thought-provoking notions when a budding teen romance takes center stage, but the potential for something meaningful that young adults can chew on is there, buried beneath quick, easily-digestible Hallmark-like quotes about being true to yourself.
Based on the popular tween trilogy of the same name by Veronica Roth, the film foresees a future devastated by war, and survivors have established a society divided into five factions. In a story where these disparate groups work towards a common goal, it's interesting to think their designations expose the plot's various internal inconsistencies. Abnegation are the selfless caregivers with governmental powers, but, as the movie demonstrates, every character is motivated by selfish desires. Why there's a difference between them and the commune, hippie-like Amity is never explained. The Candors are a forthright people that never lie, yet certain, rather important details in the plot are continuously kept a mystery. Dauntless is the brave security faction with weak members constantly living in fear while the Erudite funnily demonstrate the little intelligence to be found anywhere in this tween actioner.
Plunged into this needlessly overly complicated and discrepant universe is Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley), a heroine we're meant to believe is gifted and intelligent to excel in any faction but just dumb enough not to be skeptical or question authority. When kids reach a certain age, they partake in a city-wide aptitude test that determines which group they will belong to, and we follow Beatrice as the rest of her life is decided for her. By the way — and this is where the endless contradictions quickly become a gross distraction — excelling in the exam is a bad thing according the plot because it means you don't belong to any of these childish cliques, called Divergents, which is not the same thing as the destitute Factionless. But that doesn't matter because in the end, every kid is allowed to pick their faction in a meaningless ceremony, regardless of the exam's results.
At this point, it is clear director Neil Burger ('The Illusionist') and his team has chunked logic off a speeding train much like the stupid Dauntless soldiers, and we're only fifteen minutes into the movie's 139-minute runtime, which diverges further into irrationality as the story progresses. Never mind that no one ever explains specifically why or how a Divergent is a threat to the system when -- given the structure of it, they would actually be a benefit. What matters is the Erudite leader Jeanine (a boring dull Kate Winslet looking suspiciously like Hillary Clinton) planning a coup d'état so that she can launch her fascist regime. Her reasons are riddled with a variety of fallacies and ultimately born of a trivial understanding of simple concepts. She fashions a violent takeover and attempts genocide in order to establish peace? She wants to eradicate one faction's will to power while at the same time forcefully imposing her own on others?
In a movie that supposedly encourages critical thinking, free will and independent thought, 'Divergent' goes to great lengths at demolishing those very lessons mainly because the actions and motivations of the characters make little sense. It's frustrating figuring out how our heroine is a threat to a supposedly rigid system that offers choice, yet one faction's leader illogically wants to overthrow it for another rigid system that still caters to an individual's choice, in spite of the results of an aptitude exam. All the while, Beatrice discovers a sense of self, finds love in her instructor Four (Theo James) and learns that being Divergent is a good thing but fails to explain it to us. Even if some viewers choose to overlook these glaringly bad aspects, they must still contend with the fact that the plot is a blatant cross of 'The Hunger Games' with the 'Harry Potter' series, evincing the plot is not so divergent after all.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Summit Home Entertainment brings 'Divergent' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for an UltraViolet Digital Copy and six temporary tattoos. The Region A locked, BD50 disc sits comfortably opposite a DVD-9 inside a blue, eco-cutout case and a glossy slipcover. After several skippable trailers, viewers are taken to an animated menu screen with music and a smaller screen on the right side showing full-motion clips.
Shot entirely on the Arri Alexa series of digital HD cameras, 'Divergent' debuts on Blu-ray with a flat and boring 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that deviates from expectations.
On the whole, the presentation is pretty good with plenty of sharp detailing in the clothes, buildings and surrounding foliage. Facial complexions appear natural and warm with strong lifelike textures during close-ups. The overall palette seems deliberately limited, but primaries remain true and full-bodied. Sadly, the freshly-minted transfer is also a bit inconsistent with many noticeably blurry scenes, likely thanks to poor CGI effects, and contrast that wavers often from spot-on to bland. Blacks are generally murky and grayish, though there a few sequences which appear accurate. At times, the 2.40:1 image comes with a good deal of depth but will suddenly turn lackluster and dull within the same conversation. Most problematic is the many instances of glaringly obvious banding.
For a very recent sci-fi actioner, the movie is a sour disappointment in the audio department. Not that it's bad or riddled with artifacts, but rather, it's a stale front-heavy design that frankly fails to engage the viewer with anything particularly impressive or unique.
Much of the action in this DTS-HD MA soundtrack takes place in the soundstage, generating a pleasant enough wall of sound and exhibiting sharp detailing in the mid-range. Strong channel separation and lots of convincing background activity keeps things lively while vocals are pristine and crystal-clear in the center. Low bass can be powerful and substantial during the many electro-style songs, but fails to provide any weight to the action sequences, making them feel humdrum and unexpectedly tame. (Bass graph) Other than a couple sporadic moments of decent directionality, rears are hardly employed or the least bit effective to envelopment the listener, except for some nice immersive bleeds by the music.
All in all, the lossless mix isn't terrible or poor; just dull and unengaging.
Overflowing with — mostly nonsensical — ideas about autonomy and free will while imagining itself as a dystopic sci-fi epic about a controlled society, 'Divergent' inundates the audience with promises of something better and exciting which it can't deliver. A wasted Shailene Woodley, an underused Ashley Judd and a boring Kate Winslet star in an unoriginal and ultimately dull film swimming in an illogical plot and riddled with more questions than answers. The Blu-ray arrives with a troubled but still passable picture quality and a better audio presentation. With a healthy assortment of supplements, the overall package will surely please fans, but the curious will want to give it a rent before deciding.