For those fans who are still allegiant to the franchise, the TV version could ascend to new heights.
After the last film in the Divergent series, Allegiant, bombed at the box office, Lionsgate decided to turn the final installment, Ascendant, into a TV movie. The feature would then kick off the pilot season of a spin-off show. Now, Deadline reports that Starz has begun pre-production on the project, which seems focused on just the series element. The cable channel merged with Lionsgate in December, so the arrangement makes sense.
Adam Cozad and Lee Toland Krieger, who were originally set to write and direct Ascendant, respectively, when it was a theatrical release, are still on board. But at this time it’s unclear if any of the actors from the series, including Shailene Woodley, Theo James, and Ansel Elgort, will be returning. Probably not. When the new plan was announced last summer, Woodley, Elgort, and Miles Teller all expressed disinterest in continuing on the small screen.
The concept of the series is unclear at this time. The options are that it would be a straight continuation from the movies, a completely separate spin-off, or a reboot. Allegiant left viewers with an open ending (Allegiant and Ascendant were envisioned as two movies based on the final “Divergent” book, also titled “Allegiant”). So part of its audience will at least want closure there. But where it goes from there, who knows?
In a situation like this, there is no right answer on where to go forward. Divergent has a large teen following, as most YA dystopian novel franchises do. These fans deserve an ending to their beloved franchise. However, the franchise itself was doomed to fail since the release of the first movie, because of its genre and its time of release.
The first Divergent film came out as The Hunger Games was releasing its last two installments, at the height of the dystopian craze. That year alone, we saw the release of four different YA dystopian novel adaptations, in addition to other dystopian films. The market was oversaturated by these types of films, and for those who weren’t familiar with the books, they only saw Divergent as a rehash of The Hunger Games.
On the other hand, fans were let down by Allegiant, which wasn’t so much an adaptation of the book but a film that took place in the same universe. Lionsgate decided during the filming of the second film, Insurgent, that the movies would go down a different path than the novels. This decision led to a terrible installment, not just by movie standards, but by book adaption standards.
Allegiant followed the altered time line, losing the dedicated fan following, as well as the general audience. No wonder it failed at the box office. NO ONE wanted to see it, fan or not. Despite being a fan of the books myself, I purposefully skipped that last film knowing it wouldn’t be the adaptation I wanted.
Divergent won’t be the first series to have a film adaptation turn into a TV show. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was supposed to kick off a franchise, but the first film was a theatrical flop. Freeform picked up the series and created Shadowhunters, which is currently in its second season and has been renewed for a third. Unlike the film adaptation, Shadowhunters is a much more fateful adaptation of The Mortal Instruments series. Even when the show chooses to not follow the books, the plot points make sense with the novel’s time line.
Seeing something like that gives me hope that Ascendant could be a great TV series. By turning each book into an hour long, 13 episode season, the show would allow for more details from the book to end up in the show. You could focus on better character development in the secondary characters, such as Eric from the first film or Uriah and Marlene in the second film. You can follow the original ending for Insurgent, which offers more drama than the film ending. There’s so many ways the TV show can right the wrongs done by the film, if they choose to do a reboot.
Otherwise, it’s hard to foresee how much interest fans will have in Ascendant. The response to Allegiant was poor, but we could be convinced this will be an improvement. If the series ends up being a reboot, that will allow for the series to thrive in a new environment and get a do-over. Hopefully, Lionsgate or Starz will comment on the news soon and shed more light on the situation and what we can expect.