Do you remember when The Divergent Series: Ascendant (more commonly known as Allegiant, Part 2) was going to be a movie?
In April 2014, Summit announced that the final book in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series would be split into two films. “Of course!” fandom sighed, recalling the splits of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay.
The movie, “based on” the second half of Allegiant, was titled Ascendant and was originally slated to be released March 24, 2017. It was later pushed to June 2017 to accommodate Power Rangers. But after Allegiant, Part 1 tanked at the box office, the studio canceled the finale (See December 2018 update below).
What happened to ‘Allegiant, Part 2’
For studios, if your franchise is a major hit, squeezing two films out of a single book is a no-brainer — so long as it’s done correctly. The studios behind Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games split the final book in half, then shot both parts back-to-back in one supersized production. It was a way of streamlining the productions and, more importantly, saving money: By filming two movies at one time, you reduce the amount of time it takes to start up separate shoots (gathering the casts, production teams, locations, etc.).
For Divergent, this is where the mistakes started occurring: For a reason we still don’t know, Summit decided they would film Allegiant Part 1 and Part 2 separately. Suddenly, it didn’t seem like splitting the book was a very cost-effective move.
The decision to film separate productions may’ve had a bit to do with Lionsgate trying to rush helmer Robert Schwentke. The director shot Insurgent and Allegiant but left before Ascendant due to tough time constraints.
Making matters worse, the Divergent series’ box office profits took a steady slide. Domestically, Divergent made $150 million, Insurgent made $130 million, and Allegiant made $66 million. Simultaneously, the quality and loyalty to the source material dwindled. The films looked cheesier and the plots became more muddled, diverging from Veronica Roth’s original vision.
In July of 2016, only a few weeks after Allegiant, Part 1 exited theaters, Summit / Lionsgate decided to pull Part 2 from their theatrical schedule and move the project to the studio’s TV department. In August 2017 we learned there were plans to shoot the finale at a lower budget for television and use it to introduce a new spinoff series at a TV network. Those ideas never got past the brainstorming stage.
It was embarrassing for the studio for multiple reasons: Their previous commitment to a two-part theatrical finale, the inability to move forward with just one more movie, and the fact that diverting from the source material only lost fans and hurt box office revenue.
Update (December 2018): It shouldn’t come as a surprise since there’s been no updates over the past two years, but Starz / Lionsgate has now confirmed to BuzzFeed News that Allegiant, Part 2 is no longer in development as a TV show or a movie. It’s as dead as Tris.
Though the studio’s been silent through all of this, what we have heard are actors bailing out of the final movie. The actors had contracts that stipulated all of the Divergent movies must be released in theaters. Since the new plan would cause the agreements to be violated, Lionsgate had to go back to the negotiating table. But the actors, sensing a bomb, have decided to stay away.
Actors who dropped out of ‘Allegiant, Part 2’
- Shailene Woodley (February 2017): “No. I’m not going to be on the television show.”
- Theo James (December 2016): “I think it’s a shame that we can’t finish the story, but I think it’s evolving in a place where the actors that have been in the three movies probably won’t be in whatever it evolves to in the future.”
- Miles Teller (August 2016) “Things do change anytime they’re messing with something that was not the original intention. We all signed on for it in hopes that it’d be released in theaters, and we all had every intention of finishing [the franchise].”
For her part, Veronica Roth has said the situation is out of her hands, and even she doesn’t know what lies in store for her first book series: “I was not a part of the decision to split the last book into two parts, though I was curious to see how the movie team would accomplish it. And now the situation is a little uncertain as Lionsgate pursues another avenue for the final installment of the series. I, like you, am waiting to see what happens,” she said.
Adding to the drama, the final book in Roth’s series was not well received by fans. One big plot twist was particularly upsetting to longtime fans. Though talk tends to be cheap, many fans swore that they’d boycott the final movie in retaliation for what Roth did to one of their favorite characters. Looking at the box office numbers, it seems the twist and the general reaction to the Allegiant book hurt the film adaptation, too.
In a conference call with fansites in September 2016 (Hypable was not on the call), studio publicists told longtime fansite owners that they were “actively searching for networks [to purchase the rights], and once decided, that network will choose whether they want to do a TV Film or TV Series to finish off the series.”