Last Updated: December 22, 2019
The Divergent Series: Ascendant was supposed to wrap up the sci-fi saga but was eventually abandoned, and here's why that cancellation occurred. Following the huge success of The Hunger Games franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence, there was a short-lived fad of movie adaptations of YA sci-fi novels. This included The Maze Runner trilogy and The Divergent Series, with the latter set in a futuristic society where people are divided into factions based on their virtues.
The main character Tris learns she is a Divergent, meaning she doesn’t fit into any one group, leading to her becoming a target. 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, Zoe Kravitz, and Bill Skarsgard. While Divergent and its sequel The Divergent Series: Insurgent were solid hits, they didn’t reach the same heights as The Hunger Games, and the future of the franchise was put into question following the underwhelming performance of The Divergent Series: Allegiant in 2016.
After the financial disappointment of The Divergent Series: Allegiant, there were plans made to wrap up the saga with TV movie The Divergent Series: Ascendant, in lieu of a theatrical conclusion. Those plans didn't come to fruition, and it's worth exploring why this final movie was canceled.
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 interest in the franchise was waning. The second movie only topped the original's total gross by a tiny margin, and audience interest in YA movies in general appeared to be shrinking rapidly. This downward trend was confirmed by the poor box office of Allegiant, which grossed less than $180 million worldwide, a staggeringly low sum compared to the almost $300 million Insurgent made the year before.
The Divergent Series: Allegiant split the final book in Roth’s trilogy into two films, with production planned to begin on the final movie after its predecessor hit theaters. The meager financial returns of Allegiant halted those plans, and in July 2016 it was announced that a TV movie would instead wrap up the story, and also add new characters that could feature in a potential TV spinoff. The cast response to this was far from enthusiastic, with Shailene Woodley stating she didn’t sign up for a TV movie and doubted she would return. Co-stars Theo James and Miles Teller later ruled out a TV movie return too.
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. Woodley wanted to return to complete Tris’ story, but only for a theatrical movie. The actress later admitted she was so disappointed with how the saga ended that she considered quitting acting entirely. While development on the TV series was still ongoing in 2017, it was eventually confirmed in 2018 that lack of interest from the original cast killed The Divergent Series: Ascendant.
While The Divergent Series: Ascendant would have provided closure to the story, making it a TV movie would have been an acknowledgment the series had failed on the big screen. 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. It’s a shame for fans of the franchise that it didn’t get a proper conclusion, and proves The Divergent Series: Allegiant shouldn’t have split the final book in two.
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 fanbase, and it's hard to imagine the Divergent franchise not returning to the screen in some form down the line. With multiple new streaming services popping up in just the years since Allegiant was released, Hollywood's hunger for new content doesn't look to be abating anytime soon. So soon after Allegiant's failure, it's likely rights owner Summit Entertainment won't rush the franchise back out with a new movie or TV series anytime soon, but the property won't stay dead forever, even if the cast from the films has no desire to come back. After all, the Divergent movies did make over $765 million worldwide.Next: 20 Characters YA Adaptations Want Everyone To Forget