Excuse my candor, but at this point, the Divergent film series would be better off just starting from scratch.
The future of the Divergent saga has been in question ever since the first reports surfaced about the final installment, Ascendant (more aptly titled Allegiant Part 2), not hitting theatres.
Following the less than spectacular box office performance of Allegiant, Lionsgate just couldn’t justify spending the money required for a wide theatrical release, only to be burned again. Instead, they planned to release Ascendant as a TV movie, which would serve as a launching point for a series.
Months passed with no more news, and it kind of seemed like the series was just going to accept defeat and die quietly. The sheer number of “wtf” responses to the TV series news would’ve been enough to put far more successful series’ to rest.
However, Divergent proved to be more resilient than I gave it credit for when it was announced, a full year after the initial story broke, that Starz is currently developing Ascendant as a TV series.
All we really know about it, so far, is that it’s happening, it will be directed by Lee Toland Krieger, who has always been attached to the film, and it will be written by Adam Cozad. Since Ascendant won’t be released theatrically, the stars have no obligation to return.
Knowing all of this, I just have one question.
Why does Lionsgate feel the need to try to continue this series that they’ve already had to admit was a failure? Why would they think that an audience who wouldn’t come out for a two hour movie, will tune in to an entire series? And finally, why would an audience want an even more drawn out conclusion to a story that’s already been rendered unrecognizable from its source material?
The Divergent books are filled with great characters, including a fierce female lead, an intriguing dystopic world, and strong and interesting themes. There was more than enough great material in the three novels to make a great adaptation that both book fans and non-book fans could’ve enjoyed.
Were the books perfect? Not by any stretch. While Divergent did a great job at introducing the characters and the environment, Insurgent took some weird turns that lead to some annoying and flawed plot lines. However, the sequel still had a lot of very strong moments that will always keep me coming back to it.
Allegiant, being the most problematic of the book series by popular opinion, suffered from some deep character flaws, a sudden severing from the world we’d come to know and love, and a controversial ending (which this writer still supports). No, the Divergent books weren’t perfect, but they still hold an important place in the hearts of so many fans.
If the books went from great, to good, to semi-decent, to severely over-simplify things, the progression of the movies went something like this:
Divergent: A fun and pretty faithful adaptation. Some book to film changes were understandable, while some weren’t appreciated by fans, but overall, a good movie. Worth a second watch, at least.
Insurgent: Probably the most divisive of the trilogy, but Insurgent is definitely where they started taking some giant leaps from the source material. However, even though they made some mistakes with plot lines and character arc, overall, the characters and world still felt familiar. Right up until the citizens of Chicago started running toward the city walls, the Insurgent film was decent.
Allegiant: Wow! Whoever made this weird fan film, set in an alternate reality from the rest of the series, really made it look like Shailene Woodley and Theo James were in it.
To make matters worse, they followed the trend of splitting the final book in the series (which is also by far the most problematic) into two films, since that’s basically a mandatory requirement for book to film adaptations, at this point. This move sometimes works out, or at least, doesn’t turn out horribly, but it definitely didn’t work out well for Allegiant.
Where Insurgent took big, isolated leaps away from the source material, Allegiant seemed to tell a different story entirely. The world outside of Chicago’s walls in the films was a huge departure from the simple airport setting of the book. Even the main plot points were nearly unrecognizable.
On top of all of the changes, Allegiant made the mistake of telling its own, skewed version of almost the entire book. The film basically made it through a fun house mirror version of the entire story, minus the controversial ending. Multiple character arcs even came to fruition in the Allegiant film, despite the fact that they were always planning for one more movie. It was all very confusing.
When so many fans lost interest between Insurgent and Allegiant, it only seems logical that even more would cut ties with the film series following the train wreck that was the third instalment. Admittedly, if Ascendant had been released in theatres, in March 2017, as planned, I probably would’ve gone to close out the series. However, now that the series is switching formats and will almost certainly feature new actors, I don’t really see the point in sticking around to see the conclusion of a story that bears little resemblance to the books I fell in love with.
At this point, the Divergent film series just can’t be salvaged. The last thing fans want is more of the current franchise, with different faces in the roles.
In my opinion, the only path forward is for the Divergent series to cut its losses and start over. If Spider-Man can have 50 different film franchises in 10 years (I’m pretty sure that’s the exact statistic), then surely Divergent can have at least one more shot at it.
The loyal fans of the Divergent books deserve an adaptation that they can be proud of, or at least one that’s good enough to complete. If a new film franchise was cast and marketed correctly, I believe they could drum up the same excitement that surrounded the first film, if not more. Stay faithful to the source material, and finish the series in two or three movies. That’s all they’d have to do.
The Divergent series has the material to make a great series of movies, if done correctly. Since Ascendant will most likely be completely recast anyway, why not just start over. If they do, they’ll already have one thing going for them… they can’t mess it up more than it already has been!