Lionsgate and Summit are on the hunt for a new director to steer their Divergent franchise to the finish line. First of all, yes, those movies are still happening. In fact, there’s a new one coming out in just over a month! This March’s Allegiant is the third picture in the sci-fi franchise based on Veronica Roth’s trilogy of novels, but this being Hollywood and all, Lionsgate and Summit opted to stretch the series to four movies instead of three, even though the trailers for Allegiant suggest they’re wrapping up the source material in this third film, meaning the finale, Ascendant, is uncharted territory.
But before we get to that, we need a director. Neil Burger helmed Divergent, which Lionsgate and Summit hoped to craft into its own Hunger Games-style franchise, but which fell short of those box office aspirations. The picture was a decent sized hit though, and since Burger couldn’t meet the time frame necessary to dive straight into the sequel, the studios enlisted Red and R.I.P.D. director Robert Schwentke to helm Insurgent, the second film. Schwentke subsequently signed on to complete the franchise with Allegiant and Ascendant, but Deadline now reports that the filmmaker has exited the director’s chair for the finale. There’s apparently no drama or “creative differences” to account for the change—Schwentke simply needed a break after making Insurgent and Allegiant back to back.
Lionsgate and Summit have to act fast, though, as Ascendant is racing towards a June 9, 2017 release date with plans to start filming this summer. Shailene Woodley and Theo James lead the films as Tris and Four, a pair of individuals brought up in a futuristic Chicago who come to learn that their walled-off city was actually part of a larger worldwide experiment. Allegiant finds them coming face to face with those beyond the wall, but the trailers suggest a much more action-oriented, military-focused story than what was in the books. Moreover, with so much of the third book’s story being covered in this film, I’m curious to see what Lionsgate and Summit have planned for Ascendant.
It was clear with Insurgent that the studios changed tone a bit, going after a more male-centric audience after Divergent failed to capture the numbers they hoped for. Ironically, Insurgent grossed a worldwide total of $297 million—just $9 million more than Divergent. Will Allegiant give the franchise an upswing, or if it misses the mark, will Lionsgate and Summit scuttle the final installment altogether? I have a hard time seeing them scrapping plans for the finale after producing three movies, but the fact remains that this series was far from the Hunger Games-esque hit they were hoping for, and a turnaround of that magnitude seems unlikely.
I’m interested to see what kind of filmmaker they nab for Ascendant, although with such a tight deadline they’re no doubt on the hunt for a quick and capable director, not necessarily someone with a bold or ambitious vision that will shake things up. They’re in the home stretch, so really it’s just a matter of completing this thing in a serviceable fashion.