A formulaic and derivative debut to this potential new Young Adult franchise
Divergent Blu-ray Review
Suffering greatly from having to craft the landscapes within which later, potentially more interesting stories unfold, this tame debut is little more than a protracted two-and-a-half-hour training montage.With Twilight finally laid to rest, production company Summit Entertainment decided that they needed another Young Adult novel series which they could mould into a multi-billion-dollar franchise and, given the success of the dystopic-future Hunger Games Saga, which is set to make its two-lap victory run over the next couple of years, what better arena to play in?
The trouble is that Divergent, despite its title and subject - which focusses on a future where everybody is categorised into different factions, but where a rare few are unique and don't fit any category - is utterly derivative through and through; trading in overly-familiar plot contrivances, simplistic political concepts and lightweight character design all trussed-up in a shiny but seen-it-all-before-and-better package.
Throughout the piece you'll find yourself reminded of The Hunger Games trials (or at least the training elements therein), The Twilight Saga (in terms of insipid teen angst and shallow character depiction) and even Harry Potter (the whole Sorting Hat thingy). Perhaps what is most frustrating though is that it feels like such a terribly watered-down depiction of a dystopic future; as if the writer took all of these previous young adult staples - perhaps most obviously The Hunger Games - and drained them yet further of any possible adult worth, in much the same way that the Twilight Saga was a bloodless, toothless take on vampires.
By the time the actual story gets started, you're two hours in, and you realise you've just been watching a massive training montage. Perhaps this might have worked as a pilot for a TV series, but the sequels are going to have to be pretty spectacularly different from this if they hope to salvage any substantive worth from this tepid, lightweight introduction.
What is Divergent Blu-ray Picture QualityThere's absolutely no doubt that Divergent, irrespective of the shortcomings of its content, looks spectacular, presented here in glorious 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition in the movie's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1 widescreen. With stunning HD digital cinematography, and some largely impressive effects work to back it up, the film makes this particular post-apocalyptic dystopia world look utterly stunning.
It may be post-apocalyptic, but this particular future looks pretty spectacular.
Detail is fabulous throughout, from the facial observations - which reveal a shocking amount of makeup on these faces - to the clothing weaves and background textures. Every little nuance is given focus; fine object detail is amidst the best that we've seen recently. All of this comes with no signs of any digital anomalies, no artifacting, no excessive DNR application, no edge enhancement and no signs of banding or crush. The colour scheme panders to the overtones of this particularly bright dystopic future, but, aside from the make-up-smothered visages, skin tones still look healthy and the palette still presents a few nice natural flourishes against the intentionally bland backdrop. Black levels are strong and deep. This is demo and reference video from start to finish, a near-flawless perfect-10 scoring presentation.
How is Divergent Blu-ray Sound QualityMatching up to its US counterpart, the UK Region B-locked release of Divergent boasts equally impressive audio, flavoured in DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and benefiting from a strong, although unfortunately still (rather suitably) derivative score from Junkie XL. It's a punchy, brash offering which still has enough precision and subtly to craft a healthy, all-encompassing atmosphere in most every sequence, providing demo blockbuster spectacles with attention to detail even beyond the more bombastic beats.
A punchy though utterly forgettable score from Junkie XL headlines this demo-quality audio track.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, dominating the fronts and centre channels where appropriate, whether the characters are whispering, crying, screaming or shouting. Effects are myriad, ranging from the beaten-up-looking (but remarkably functional) train that plays a key part in many of the film's most pointless sequences, screeching its rickety way along the tracks, to the sound of the strangely un-futuristic weaponry, to the fairly restrained body blows dealt throughout. The 'fear dream' sequences offer a little more in the way of invasive presence. As noted, the score provides a totally unmemorable but reasonably boisterous accompaniment to the whole piece, further giving the surrounds and the LFE channel yet more to do. You may not like the content, but it surely couldn't sound much better than this.
Divergent Blu-ray ExtrasAlthough there's nothing particularly substantial to the film itself, Divergent does offer up a slew of extras for those interested in how it was put together; with no less than two Audio Commentaries - one by the Director, one by the Producers - as well as Faction Before Blood Featurette which is further accompanied by a 4-part Bringing Divergent to Life Making-Of which is split into Meet Four, The Look of Divergent, Behind the Scenes of Divergent and Choice. With 5 minutes of Deleted Scenes, a Marketing Gallery and even Ellie Goulding's 'Beating Heart' Music Video thrown in to boot (not to mention the Previews on disc startup) this is a packed disc.
Is Divergent Blu-ray Worth BuyingWith the news that, not only are the subsequent two novels due to be made into sequels, but the final part is - surprise surprise - going to be split into two movies (*cough Twilight, Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Hobbit et al cough*), it looks like Divergent is going to be around for a good few years to come. Unfortunately, in stretching the material out to mould it into a money-making franchise, the Studios appear to have forgotten to do anything of any innate worth.
This first entry is nothing more than a training montage, and it feels like the film doesn't even get started until the closing quarter-hour, which is more than two hours in! These tactics are the opposite of the Studio attitude back when The Matrix was greenlit (where the Wachowskis' trilogy of ideas was distilled into one movie originally because nobody was prepared to commit to a trilogy) and so we get the opposite effect; essentially an overlong prologue to a movie we don't even know whether we necessarily want to see yet.
As a prologue of things to come, I don't even know whether I want to see anything more from this derivative, pedestrian, and tepid world.
Thankfully, at least for fans of the movie, this stunning Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release boasts excellent video and audio - both demo quality through and through - as well as a boat-load of extras which will provide hours of post-film entertainment. If you were hoping for another The Hunger Games, then you may well be disappointed, as this is merely The Hunger Games-lite, which, given that the former franchise was already of Young Adult source, makes this thoroughly tame from start to finish.
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