The Divergent Series: Ascendant was supposed to wrap up the young adult sci-fi saga, but was instead abandoned. Following the huge success of The Hunger Games franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence, there was a slew of short-lived movie adaptations of young adult sci-fi novels. These included The Maze Runner trilogy and The Divergent Series. Based on the best-selling YA novels by Veronica Roth, the Divergent series featured a great cast of up-and-coming actors, including Shailene Woodley, Miles Teller, and Ansel Elgort. The series ended abruptly when The Divergent Series: Ascendant movie was canceled with the intention of beginning a new television project, leaving the questions of the final Divergent book unanswered.
The Divergent series is set in a futuristic society where people are divided into factions based on their virtues: Abnegation, Amity, Candor, Dauntless, and Erudite. Those who don’t fit are “divergent.” Divergent‘s unique premise was well-received by critics and at the box office. However, while Divergent and its sequel The Divergent Series: Insurgent were hits, they did not reach the same level of success as The Hunger Games. The future of the franchise was inevitably put into question following the underwhelming performance of The Divergent Series: Allegiant in 2016. After the financial disappointment of The Divergent Series: Allegiant, the film’s executives decided to try wrapping up the series with a TV movie version of The Divergent Series: Ascendant, which was rumored to kill off Shailene Woodley’s Tris to continue the story. That would have acted as a pilot for a television series revolving around new storylines and characters that didn’t strictly follow the plot lines within the original books. Unfortunately, the television continuation of The Divergent series did not come to fruition, but why?
The Divergent Series: Ascendant TV Movie Was A Response To The Box-Office Of Allegiant
Prior to the release of The Divergent Series: Allegiant, there were already signs that the general public’s interest in the franchise was waning. The second movie only topped the original’s total gross by a tiny margin. When Allegiant grossed less than $180 million worldwide, compared to the $300 million Insurgent made the year before, the studios realized they could no longer confidently invest in the YA dystopian movies for a considerable profit at the box office. Audience interest in YA movies had shrunk as well.
Since The Divergent Series: Allegiant split the final book in Roth’s trilogy into two films, the final movie’s production was scheduled to begin after its predecessor hit theaters. However, the meager financial returns of Allegiant halted those plans, and in July 2016, it was announced that a TV movie would conclude the story. The cast response to this was far from enthusiastic, and the reality was that the cost of the movies had only increased with each venture. The first movie in the series was estimated to cost $80 million, while the third had a budget of $110 million. Even with a move to TV, the audience would have expected the same quality as the movies, something that was unlikely to happen if the budget was cut drastically.
The Divergent Series: Ascendant Was Canceled In 2018
None of the Divergent cast was interested in making the jump from three big-budget blockbusters to a TV movie, let alone one that acted as a pilot for a potential series. Although Woodley wanted to return to complete Tris’ story, she only expressed willingness for a theatrical movie. The actress later admitted how disappointed she was with the saga’s ending that she even considered quitting acting entirely. This similar lack of interest from the original cast eventually killed The Divergent Series: Ascendant in 2018, after years of development.
Cast members like Teller and Kravitz were already moving on to bigger roles and projects, so the odds of convincing them to return were always slim. Splitting the last Divergent book into two films was ultimately what killed the series’ conclusion, and demonstrates the danger of splitting a story into two parts. For if the first film doesn’t do well financially, then the series will ultimately be abandoned and disappoint both the filmmakers and the audience.
The Divergent Series’ Possible Future
While it seems like The Divergent Series: Ascendant is unlikely to ever be revived as a project, Hollywood loves a known brand name with an established fan base, and it will be difficult to imagine the Divergent franchise not returning to the screen in some form down the line. Considering there are multiple streaming services vying for audience attention, Divergent could make a comeback on a streaming platform.
Since Netflix is adapting the YA series Uglies, another streaming service may reboot the Divergent series to keep up with the competition. So, even though Summit Entertainment, which owns the rights to the franchise, will not be reviving the sci-fi saga anytime soon, that does not mean that the property will be dead forever. After all, the Divergent movies were still profitable, making over $765 million worldwide.
What The Divergent Stars Have Said About Ascendant
The stars of the Divergent series didn’t exactly have a great response to appearing in a TV movie as a backdoor pilot to a television series. While they were all very diplomatic in their answers to questions about their involvement in red-carpet interviews, it was made clear that they were mostly confused about the decision to move to television. As both Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller pointed out in interviews, they weren’t aware that the decision was made to move the Ascendant movie to television until the news broke.
Woodley was asked about the decision at a red-carpet event right after the news broke and admitted she would have to learn more about the project before making a decision since she didn’t know anything about it (via Vanity Fair). She ultimately decided to pass on the project because she hadn’t signed on to do another television project. That sentiment was echoed in interviews by Theo James, Miles Teller, and Ansel Elgort. The cast was effectively blindsided by the decision, which likely played a role in their decision to pass on participating in the project, leading to its cancelation.
Other YA Movies Series That Were Canceled Before Their Time
The Divergent Series: Ascendant was far from the only YA book series turned film series that was canceled before they got the chance to complete the story from the original books. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was meant to be the first in a series of films based on The Mortal Instruments books by Cassandra Clare, but didn’t generate enough money to justify making the sequel (Entitled The Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes). Although this particular YA series did actually get converted into a television show called Shadowhunters.
The Percy Jackson Series also only produced two movies before the film franchise was canceled in 2013 and Percy Jackson now has a Disney+ television adaptation. The YA franchise I Am Number Four was also canceled before producing any sequels. All these cancelations (and more) sadly pointed toward Hollywood losing interest in YA film adaptations, and the cancelation of The Divergent Series: Ascendant movie was the nail in the coffin of the YA book-to-film trend that hit Hollywood in the 2010s.
Next: The Divergent Series: Insurgent – Movie Vs Book Differences