File this one under WHOA: Variety broke the news yesterday that Ascendant, the final film in the Divergent movie series will no longer be released in theatres. Instead, Lionsgate intends for it to air as a TV movie that would serve as introduction for a spinoff series.
Production of Ascendant had already been plagued by setbacks. Robert Schwentke, the director of Insurgent and Allegiant, bailed on returning for a third time; not a good sign when the director of a Part 1 doesn't want to come back to finish Part 2. In the wake of Allegiant's underwhelming release, Ascendant's budget was slashed. And now it'll be skipping the theatres altogether.
As unprecented as this is (I can't think of another theatrical sequel switching over to TV in midstream), this feels like a surprising-yet-not-surprising turn of events. Box office returns and critical response dropped precipitously as the series went on. From Box Office Mojo and Rotten Tomatoes:
|Divergent (2014)||$150.9 M||$288.9 M||41%||70%|
|Insurgent (2015)||$130.2 M||$297.3 M*||28%||59%|
|Allegiant (2016)||$66.2 M||$179.2 M||13%||44%|
*The only outlier. Who knew that Insurgent actually made the most money?
For movies that have been hemorrhaging both money and goodwill, it makes sense for Lionsgate to cut its losses. It'll be interesting to see how this strategy plays out, esp. how much of the film cast will be staying on (if any, let's be real, now that they might have a legit escape route). That original Variety article also states that Lionsgate hasn't pitched this project to networks yet -- so this wrap-up plan could potentially not happen at all and just fade into obscurity.
Story-wise, the TV movie seems like it might diverge** from the original conclusion of Allegiant (book version):
The idea is to finalize the storylines involving the current cast and to introduce a new cast, who would then continue the series on either a traditional or streaming network.
... which leads me to wonder what else might change from the books. BOOK ALLEGIANT SPOILERS AHEAD: if Shailene Woodley doesn't return (and honestly, who would blame her), does that mean Tris might not die after all? Or would the studio recast and proceed as usual?
**Look, I resisted for like 4 paragraphs. IT HAD TO BE DONE.
The big takeaway for all future YA adaptations is whether Divergent's failures will end the practice of splitting final books into two movies. The financial appeal is obvious; Deathly Hallows, Breaking Dawn, and Mockingjay all made ginormo money. But from a fan's perspective, this model has only been successful in producing two quality installments with Deathly Hallows. So please, please, PLEASE let this money-grabbing trend be retired. Because not every franchise has a Boy Who Lived, a Girl On Fire, or even Vampires That Sparkle.
Now that it's abundantly clear Divergent is not the heir apparent to the YA adaptation throne, which series do you think is capable of becoming the next YA powerhouse?