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Divergent (Blu-ray Review)

6 Aug, 2014 By: John Latchem

Box Office $150.95 million
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated 'PG-13' for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality.
Stars Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Ashley Judd, Jai Courtney, Ray Stevenson, Zoë Kravitz, Miles Teller, Tony Goldwyn, Maggie Q, Kate Winslet.

For those who thought the "Hunger Games" movies featured too much action and scope in their depiction of a dystopian future, here's Divergent, which is essentially "The Hunger Games" minus the games.

The setup is essentially the same. Hundreds of years into the future, after devastating world wars, the remnants of society are fractured. Divergent focuses on what's left of Chicago, where the survivors have walled themselves off from the rest of the world and organized themselves into five factions based on basic personality types, which in turn determines how the basic functions of society are accomplished. Teens are tested to determine to which faction they should belong, then allowed to choose for themselves where they end up (based on some principle of "knowing yourself" as the cornerstone of stability). Those who don't fit in are relegated to the factionless — essentially homeless people who perform society's menial tasks.

Tris (Shailene Woodley) grew up in a faction based on selflessness, who are tasked with running the government, but she doesn't fit in, and after her test is inconclusive about her future, she chooses to join the Dauntless faction, who are essentially reckless, daredevil young adults responsible for the society's military and police services.

Tris then spends most of the rest of the film trying to keep up with her Dauntless training, which involves a series of war games and other exercises. Her inability to fit in puts her in the crossfire of a conspiracy by the hyper-intellectual Erudite faction, led by Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet), to eliminate the factionless and their selfless advocates and take over the government for themselves.

People like Tris who don't fit in are identified as "divergent," and are considered threats to the status quo because they're too free-thinking or something. It would all be a pretty solid allegory for modern politics if it weren't so caught up in the teen angst needed to attract its core demographic, who will no doubt eat it up. As a franchise kickstarter, it does just what it needs to establish the fictional world for future installments, populated with an abundance of attractive characters for the fans to fawn over.

The Blu-ray includes a few inconsequential deleted scenes and a lot of behind-the-scenes material, including two production featurettes and two commentaries, one from director Neil Burger and another with a couple of the producers.

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