Divergent on DVD and Blu-ray

Thursday, 21 August 2014 23:00 Written by 

Divergent - out now on DVD and Blu-ray“Divergent” is the latest adaptation of a young-adult fiction hit in the sci-fi and fantasy genres. It follows the likes of "Twilight", "The Hunger Games" and "The Host", and precedes the imminent release of "The Maze Runner". Shailene Woodley ("The Fault in Our Stars") stars as Beatrice, a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in a future where war has ravaged the planet and the Chicago has become a utopian refuge for the survivors.

Within the protective city walls, the population is neatly divided into five peaceful, character-based factions such as honesty, intelligence and bravery, ostensibly to negate conflict. Beatrice must undergo a test to help her decide her destination, with the onus on serving society rather than picking the faction she was born into. She selects Dauntless, leaves home and begins a gruelling 10-week physical and mental training course, where failure means becoming an outcast.

"Divergent" did pretty well at the box office and it is easy to see why. It explores similar themes to the books and movies mentioned above, but feels sufficiently different in tone that it stands out from the crowd. The film is both a coming-of-age tale and a scary depiction of what society might be like in the relatively near future.

Although the five-faction system is supposed to be utopian it is more like a horrible, straight-jacketed existence where individuality is forbidden. The selfless Abgenation block govern, those in Dauntless are the protectors of the realm, and farmers come from Amity. There is no crossing over and no questioning of the arrangement; heaven help anybody who is equally strong in all five traits. These so-called Divergent beings are hunted down and killed because they are unpredictable and cannot be controlled.

The film is far less saccharin and lovey-dovey than the "Twilight" saga, possessing a gritty, pared-back, urban feel that is reminiscent of "1984" and "Gattaca". People are constantly monitored and assessed, making the lives of rebels and the Divergent very fraught. The drive to succeed in their initiation also encourages unhealthy, highly aggressive competition.

Woodley is great in the leading role, strong, human and sympathetic. Theo James (Downton Abbey) and Jai Courtney ("Jack Reacher") make for very colourful Dauntless training instructors, one firm but fair, the other cold and brutal. Kate Winslet plays the divisive head of the Erudite clan, but unfortunately she does not get enough screen time to flesh her character out much. Hopefully that will happen in the three sequel movies already planned for 2015-2017!

The sets and effects are of a very high standard (as befits a budget of $85 million), completely selling the slightly claustrophobic, concrete city environment, and the action scenes such as training fights, high-wire initiation rituals and "Starship Troopers"-style battleground scenarios are exciting and adrenaline-fuelled. Junkie XL's score complements the action superbly.

All in all, this is a fun, immersive film where you care about the characters and want to know where they will go next. Thankfully we will not have too long to wait to find out!

Special features include:

  • 'Faction Before Blood' featurette
  • Audio Commentary with Neil Burger
  • Audio Commentary with producers Lucy Fisher and Douglas Wick
  • Deleted Scenes (approximately 5 minutes)
  • Marketing Gallery (trailers and posters)
  • 'Bringing Divergent to Life' (Blu-ray only, multi-part making-of, approximately 45 minutes)
  • 'Meet Four' Featurette (Blu-ray only)
  • 'The Look of Divergent' Featurette (Blu-ray only)
  • 'Behind the scenes of Divergent' Featurette (Blu-ray only)
  • 'Choice' Featurette (Blu-ray only)

Two commentary tracks represents pretty good value on the DVD (though it is a shame none of the cast is included), but the Blu-ray package truly is a bumper crop of extras! The DVD version reviewed has good picture quality and the darker scenes are easy to follow thanks to good levels of contrast.

“Divergent” (2014) is out now on DVD and Blu-ray, courtesy of Entertainment One. The main feature has a running time of 139 minutes approx, carries a ‘12’ certificate and retails for £17.99 on DVD and £19.99 on Blu-ray, or less from www.culttvstore.com

 

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