Dolby Atmos Blu-ray discs continue to trickle out, and The Divergent Series: Insurgent, is lucky number 13 to come to market. The movie is available in a few different versions, including a deluxe three-disc set that includes the DVD, digital copy, regular Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray and over four hours of bonus features; enough to keep even the most hardcore fan satiated.
For those that don’t follow young adult literature, Divergent is the other trilogy set in a dystopian future with a strong female lead. However, instead of Katniss Everdeen trying to save her sister, Prim, we get Tris Prior trying to save her brother, Caleb; instead of fighting with a bow and arrow we get fists and guns; and instead of 13 different districts, we get five different factions. See? Totally different.
Insurgent is the second film in the series and it does a good job attempting to explain the backstory established in the first move, Divergent, to bring any new viewers up to date. In a world where everyone is forced to choose and live in one of five factions—Dauntless, Amity, Erudite, Abnegation, Candor—Tris is “Divergent,” not truly belonging to any one group. As such, is she the enemy or the hero?
Tris (Shailene Woodley) and her love interest, Four (Theo James), are fugitives on the run for most of the movie as they are being pursued by the leader of Erudite, Jeanine Matthews (Kate Winslet) and the Dauntless soldiers under her command, principally Eric (Jai Courtney) who has had it in for Tris since the first day she arrived at Dauntless training. The film is set in a post-Apocalyptic Chicago and the ruins of the city make for interesting landscape, especially in 3D where there are some terrific look-down shots from the skyscrapers. (Making me very excited for the upcoming film, The Walk. Watch the trailer here if you haven’t already seen it!)
As a movie, Insurgent is entertaining enough, but as an Atmos demo disc it really has a ton to offer. This is a wonderfully lively mix with a host of subtle atmospheric audio in nearly every scene. Even during quiet dialog moments, the room is filled with convincing sounds like wind whistling, or trains clicking in the distance, or whispered voices off camera that really help to convey the mood. Of course, the film has several big action moments where the audio really kicks into high gear and offers plenty of audio that swirls and crashes through the room. There are rarely any moments in the film where the audio isn’t contributing to what’s happening on screen in some way.
Incidentally, our showroom purchased the new Sony VPL-VW350ES sub-$10,000 4K video projector which is 3D capable, so I enjoyed the 3D version of this film which includes the Atmos soundtrack. Here are my top five Atmos audio demo scenes:
***Warning: Spoilers ahead…
#5 Attack on Amity
The movie picks up right where Divergent left off, and we find Tris, Four, and Caleb seeking refuge in Amity working on a farm. This peaceful way of life is shattered at the 16-minute mark when a big truck crashes onto the screen and drives horizontally through the room. This is followed by announcements over the PA that echo convincingly through the room telling everyone they need to report for inspection.
Ultimately the trio is forced to escape on foot, and they are chased through a forest with branches rustling and whipping past your head as they scramble to avoid being caught. There are a few moments where you can almost feel the leaves brushing against your cheek, the audio puts you so tight into the scene. There are several gunshots that are well placed, letting you precisely track the position of the shooter’s location. The scene ends with the group jumping on a moving train that clatters and clicks along in the side and ceiling speakers as it rolls down the tracks.
#4 Opening Monologue
As I mentioned, the movie does a good job of trying to bring new viewers up to speed in what happened in the first film, and it does this in the opening scene via a lengthy monologue. This recorded speech is delivered by Jeanine via large video monitors and holographic video walls throughout the city, explaining the faction system and why Divergents are so dangerous.
As the camera pans around and moves to different areas and vantage points, the room is filled with different sounds, but Jeanine’s speech is always present, moving and shifting around the room, tracking the location of her voice through the side, rear, and ceiling speakers. It really shows off Atmos’ object tracking abilities to great effect, letting you easily point to where Jeanine would be positioned at any moment. The scene ends with her saying, “DIVERGENCE!” which echoes through all of the speakers.
#3 Dauntless Attack
At 48 minutes in we get not only a terrific audio demo but also a scene that really shows off all the awesome depth and dimension 3D can deliver. At the beginning of the scene we join Tris at the top of a skyscraper and we peer down over the side of the building into the city, giving terrific sense of depth. Tris is joined on the building by another character and they chat for a bit as wind swirls around the room and trains clatter away in the distance. It’s a great demonstration of how audio can create the atmosphere of a scene.
The calm of the conversation is shattered by a grappling hook that shoots overhead and across the room from right to left as the Dauntless army attacks. There is a massive gun battle that takes place, with soldiers rappelling down the sides of the building and sliding overhead, with sounds of gunshots erupting from all positions of the room. This is a true 360-degree soundfield, with audio happening all around and overhead, but all of it clearly localizable. When Tris runs down the stairwell, the audio becomes much closer with the sounds of distant gunfire popping around the room.
#2 Tris Takes the Sim Tests
At 1:08 we get another monologue from Jeanine similar to the opening scene as Tris heads to Erudite to surrender. Again the Atmos audio does a great job of moving and repositioning Jeanine’s voice around the room as the camera travels and tracks Tris’s movement and changing POV. At 1:10 Tris goes in to take the faction sim tests and there are a ton of ambient effects and Jeanine’s voice booming from the ceiling speakers. At 1:15 Tris begins the Dauntless sim and the room is filled with embers and fire rustling and swirling around the room as the city is on fire.
Tris’s mom appears in a building that suddenly bursts into flames and starts flying through the air. Tris runs after it and leaps onto cables hanging from the building, and she is flying through the city being dragged along by the flying building. As she is travelling over the ruins of the city, there is a ton of audio from all speakers as she crashes and smashes through things and manages to keep her balance on the flying building, all the while fire crackles and roasts all around the listening position. As the building finally breaks apart, the cacophony of the Dauntless sim gives way to the quiet of the Candor sim, which transitions into a big gunfight rescue, that is really another sim where Tris passes the Abnegation and Erudite sims.
#1 The Amity Sim
This is actually a two-part scene starting around 1 hour 28 minutes and then concluding again about 10 minutes later. In the first part, Tris is taunted by Jeanine into attacking her and we get a lot of dialog that shifts in tonal quality and location based on the POV on screen and that room’s acoustics. When Jeanine speaks, her voice is often heard out of the ceiling via the speakers that Tris would be hearing, whereas Tris’s voice is muffled and dulled by the acoustics of the chamber she is in.
When Tris finally attacks, she dives through the glass barrier causing glass to shatter, cascade, and sprinkle all around the room. When Tris is digitally transported into the sim, we are treated to some awesome 3D as she is falling out of the sky. The screen is filled with 3D overhead views of the city, delivering terrific depth. All around Tris the buildings are shattering, disintegrating, and collapsing, and the audio fills the room with sounds of rubble and debris careening all around and overhead. The scene is also filled with awesome, tight, deep bass from multiple explosions. Part two of the fight happens when Tris decides to complete the Amity sim and she is forced to battle the deadliest version of herself.
The scene begins with Evil Tris jumping through a glass window that shatters around the room and then slamming Good Tris through a wall. They are once again transported into the collapsing city as they fight from building to building with Evil Tris battering and punching Good Tris through walls and floors and buildings in a very Matrix-styled superhuman battle. Evil Tris is finally defeated by peace—Amity—and she dissolves. This causes The Box to unlock and open, revealing the true meaning of the city and factions and Divergents, setting the scene for Allegiant, the trilogy’s climatic conclusion.