Following word that Divergent director Neil Burger would not be returning to direct the planned follow-up to the yet-to-be-released film, Summit has released a statement clarifying the decision for Burger’s exit, first by expressing enthusiasm for Burger’s efforts in directing the adaptation of the first book in Veronica Roth’s dystopian trilogy, and then by explaining that it’s his commitment to the first film that's keeping him from being available for the second one (Insurgent). Here's Summit's statement:
"Neil Burger is a rock star and he is doing a fantastic job on Divergent. We can't wait for you to see the film. But as amazing as Neil is he still cannot be in two places at once and thus needs to finish post production on Divergent while we gear up to start production on Insurgent. So, although Neil will continue on as part of our Divergent family as an executive producer, we sadly have to find another director for the next chapter in Veronica Roth's fantastic series."
Divergent will release into theaters this March, and as the recent schedule updates indicate, Insurgent and Allegiant are expected to release the same month over the next two years (2015, 2016). It’s a tight schedule to maintain, but a smart one if they’re hoping to keep fans’ interest piqued, especially considering Roth has finished the series, so there won’t be any additional books coming out to keep Divergent in the forefront of people’s minds between films.
Summit’s announcement seems intended to assure fans that Burger’s departure from the franchise is primarily about staying on schedule and not due to any issues with his work, which is reassuring. The fact that they’ve lined up release dates that put a year between films shows Summit’s optimism that Divergent will be a success. Whether or not that proves to be the case remains to be seen.
Divergent certainly won’t be the first book-to-screen adaptation to switch directors from film to film. While Peter Jackson took on the full weight of both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit franchises, the Harry Potter films had different directors, as did the Twilight movies. Meanwhile, The Hunger Games adaptations switched directors from the first film (Gary Ross) to the second (Frances Lawrence), and Lawrence is set to stay on for the final two films. In the case of Divergent — without getting into major spoilers — the story shifts pretty drastically from Book 1 to Books 2 and 3. While Divergent centers mainly on Tris’ (Shailene Woodley) initiation into her new faction, Insurgent and Allegiant take a broader approach to the state of this dystopian setting and the nature of factions. Insurgent, in particular, seems to move around a lot, without quite as much of a central focus as the first book. I’m thinking the shift in tone and pace from book to book, at the very least, invites the opportunity for a new director to take over for the second film, and probably again for the third, if necessary.
Divergent arrives in theaters March 21, 2014. Insurgent will arrive March 20, 2015. And the final film — unless they unnecessarily split the last book in half — Allegiant is scheduled to release March 18, 2016.