Tomorrow is the anniversary of one of the most popular YA dystopias of all time, Veronica Roth’s Divergent. Written while Roth was still an undergraduate, Divergent was a tremendous accomplishment, both personally and financially. Today, fans can celebrate the publication of one of their favorites! But they might still be wondering what happened to the movies, given their insanely popular source material. That story, unfortunately, ends in far less financial success.
In the early 2010s, YA film adaptations were popping up everywhere. Trying to replicate the success of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, studios were trying extra hard to find the next big tween hit. Films based on Percy Jackson, Beautiful Creatures and The Maze Runner exploded onto the big screen. Some fared better than others, but most crashed and burned due to poor quality or lack of interest.
One of the most interesting cases of this phenomenon is the Divergent film series. What started out as a promising YA franchise quickly lost steam until it couldn’t continue. Let’s take a look at the book and film series and see what happened.
The Divergent Trilogy takes place in a dystopian society where everyone is defined by their dominant personality traits and forced to live in factions based on those traits for the rest of their lives. The main protagonist, Beatrice Prior, is classified as a Divergent, meaning that she does not fit into any group. The series follows Beatrice as she tries to navigate a dangerous world that kills those who diverge from the system and act independently.
The trilogy was easily compared to other series such as The Hunger Games and The Maze Runner. Nevertheless, the series was positively reviewed by critics for its action, characters, and themes of independence and identity, and each book became a bestseller. So, it seemed inevitable that a film series would come out of this.
The Ingredients For A Successful Film Franchise Were Already There
Studio Lionsgate purchased the rights to The Divergent Trilogy in 2011 with hopes to turn it into a film series, even going as far as splitting the last book into two films in the tradition of its moneymaking predecessors, Twilight and Harry Potter. With The Twilight Saga ending and The Hunger Games films just getting started, another YA blockbuster was a logical step.
The casting for the film was strong and well-received. Shailene Woodley, a rising star at the time, fit the role perfectly. A well-rounded cast featuring the likes of Miles Teller, Ansel Elgort and Zoë Kravitz gave the film a good amount of star power.
With a modest budget and a dedicated fan base, everything was in place to make an amazing film.
When the first film, Divergent, released in 2014, reception was mixed. While the action and the performances were praised, the plot received criticism. Many reviewers called the film “unoriginal”, comparing it to other films in the YA genre. Still, the film did well at the box office, grossing over $280 million worldwide, and was well-received by fans.
A sequel, The Divergent Series: Insurgent, came out in 2015. This movie was less well-received, with the same criticisms regarding the plot remaining. The film eventually grossed close to $290 million worldwide, but with a much larger budget the returns weren’t as significant.
Things really turned south with the release of the third film, The Divergent Series: Allegiant, in 2016. Not only was this one the worst reviewed film in the series from critics and fans, it was also a box office bomb, grossing only $179 million against a $142 million budget.
A Proposed TV Show
With diminishing returns, Lionsgate had to rethink its strategy. After slashing the budget for the last intended film, The Divergent Series: Ascendent, it was later revealed that the studio would wrap up the story as a television “event” series, set to premiere on Starz.
This revelation did not sit well with the cast, specifically Woodley. After almost a year with no news, Woodley finally revealed in 2017 that she would not be a part of the television series. Once the main star departed, other cast members showed a lack of interest in continuing, and the planned show was promptly cancelled.
It’s a shame that the series wasn’t able to continue, especially considering the last film ended on a cliffhanger. Given the series’ popularity, it’s likely that many fans are still hungry for more content. Fortunately, they can always re-read the books they love so much.
What are your thoughts on Divergent? Were you a fan of the movies?
Featured Image Via Screen Rant