Review by Michael Jacobson
Stars: Shailene Woodley, Theo
James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoe Kravitz
Director: Neil Burger
Audio: DTS HD 7.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Features: See Revie
Length: 139 Minutes
Release Date: August 5, 2014
“You're different. You don't fit into a category...they can't control you.”
Divergent is a very good science fiction film that's both a little different and a little bit the same of what you've seen before.
What's different is that even though it's set in the future, it's a more realistic looking future than we normally get from this genre. In many films, imaginations run wild as to what everything will look like and what technologies we will have, and in the case of some classic films, we've already passed the date when these wild visions were supposed to come to pass!
No, Divergent shows a more natural timeline. Most of what makes it look futuristic is signs of destruction from some referenced war, and a marvel of a giant wall meant to keep the citizens and city (formerly Chicago, if I read that right) safe and well.
What's not-so-new is that this genre has started to become a bit of a home to tell parables of teenagers coming to be. Growing up is scary enough, what with changes, hormones, responsibilities and making choices that will affect the rest of your life...now, science fiction has given these issues a bigger stage and bigger consequences whereby the future of the world may be in the hands of a few young people bucking the system (see: The Hunger Games, Harry Potter).
And the premise here is indeed a strange one, although it certainly works in being the driving force behind a very entertaining movie. The world of Divergent is a world where groups of people are separated...not by race or class, but by virtues. These “factions” include the Amity, kind of terminally happy people who farm the land, the Candor, those who are truthful and fair and care for justice, the Erudite, the scholars who pursue knowledge above all, the Abnegation, those who are selfless and devoted to helping others, and the Dauntless, the recklessly brave ones who protect the city and its people.
By virtue of their selflessness, the Abnegation are the governing faction, but all is not so well in this perfectly ordered society...the Erudite are feeling more and more entitled to rule because of their great intellect.
Enter Beatrice (Woodley), a young girl about to go to her “test”, which all people her age go through to determine what their virtue is and what faction they will join for the rest of their lives. She comes from a family of Abnegation, including her mother and father (Judd and Courtney), but the test will show her true calling...and, regardless of the test, she can actually choose her own faction, but one the choice is made, there is no going back. Those who choose a faction but can't make it there become outcast...the “factionless” wandering like zombies on the outskirts of the city.
The test doesn't run smoothly...Beatrice, or Tris, as she will soon be known, turns out to be a “divergent”...something society deems extremely dangerous. What does it mean? Well, it means she has more than one virtue...possibly brave, selfless, happy, smart and fair. Oh, the horror.
She is advised to keep that quiet for her own sake, and she then chooses Dauntless. There, she will meet the crazy brave and be forced to prove herself in one challenge after another. The Dauntless never back down, and if she doesn't make it...it's the factionless for her.
Leading the troupe is the arrogant Marcus (Stevenson) and the quiet, stoic Four (James)...why he has that name will be revealed later, but not by me.
As Tris endures the challenges, something begins to become apparent to Four: her multiple virtues make problem solving a little easier for her. They are also beginning to call attention to her...and it's not the kind of attention she wants.
As mentioned, this is a wonderfully entertaining movie...very well acted, especially by the two attractive leads in Shailene Woodley and Theo James. Director Neil Burger delivered a believable world and a well-paced story that balances action with emotion, keeping the audience both thrilled and involved.
But the premise? So strange...and it's the aspect of the movie I find myself thinking about most. Maybe that's half the point; a society with no other real prejudices will still tend to find some, and that even positive stereotyping (not one of the factions is based on a negative) can still be damaging. Maybe I should simply view the story as an allegory, because it doesn't make much sense as even the most fantastically imagined of realities.
It's a bit puzzling to me, but hardly enough to put me off the film. Divergent is enjoyable, fun, and engaging from start to finish, and I don't mind saying, I'm looking forward to the next installments in the trilogy.
The look of the film is important in grounding it, and this is one amazing looking high-definition transfer from Summit. It's fantasy, but looks real, and the combination of special effects and excellent cinematography blend together seamlessly, with solid coloring and crisp clean detail in both brightly lit and darker settings.
The uncompressed 7.1 audio is quite strong...clean, clear, well-balanced, but very dynamic as this is a movie that runs the gamut from quiet, introspective scenes to all out pandemonium. The rear stages keep the action sounding full, and the subwoofer adds the necessary elements of danger.
The extras include a documentary on the making of the film, plus a featurette called “Faction Before Blood”. There are several deleted scenes and two good commentary tracks; the first with director Neil Burger, and the second with producers Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher.
Divergent is an engaging and very well-done piece of science fiction...not all of it made sense to me, but this terrific Blu-ray release from Summit offered more than enough to keep me in the story at all times.