It’s commonplace, in today’s competitive marketplace, for studios to announce release dates years in advance. Marvel has mapped out its release strategy through 2019. The Star Wars universe theoretically is planned through 2020. And DC plans to make movies until June of 2020, so long as audiences enjoy Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. But what happens when you announce a film that will be the fourth entry in a franchise, yet all indicators point to the audience giving up on your series and having no real interest in its conclusion?
This is a harsh reality facing The Divergent Series after the third film in the franchise Allegiant, suffered a disappointing weekend. The third Divergent film opened to roughly $29 million, which is far behind the opening-weekend numbers for the first Divergent ($54 million) and its follow up, Insurgent ($52.2M). Allegiant couldn’t unseat Zootopia from the top of the box office charts, and the Disney animated movie – as good as it is – was in its third weekend. On top of that, the CinemaScore for Allegiant, according to Deadline, was a B, down from the A- that Insurgent earned, and the A that Divergent notched.
Of all the problems the Divergent Series, faces, fan apathy has to be the biggest. Critics have been piling on these films from the beginning. Yes, Allegiant posted a humiliating 10% Fresh grade on Rotten Tomatoes, but Insurgent nabbed a 29% and the original film posted a 40%. These films have never been critical darlings, but for the previous two movies, the fans turned out. This time, the fan base seems to have determined that Allegiant was a stinker, and they stopped handing over their money to see the latest chapter in a disappointing series.
What’s worse, The Divergent Series seems to be in a state of creative turmoil. In February, Allegiant helmer Robert Schwentke, who was on the hook to direct The Divergent Series: Ascendant, left the project citing the fact that he "just needed a break." Schwentke eventually was replaced by director Lee Toland Krieger, whose credits include The Age of Adaline with Blake Lively. So, not exactly a sci-fi and action background, and yet Krieger is tasked with sticking the landing for a franchise that has been floundering and lacks strong direction.
In a column analyzing the future prospects of The Divergent Series: Ascendant, Forbes notes that new director Krieger likely will be faced with a smaller budget, having seen the dwindling returns Lionsgate posted on Allegiant. But anyone who saw Allegiant knows that one of its chief drawbacks was the fact that it looked cheap, with low-budget special effects inadequate green-screen work detracting from an already nonsensical plot.
Is that what you want, Divergent fans, from the conclusion to your franchise? A cheaper version of Allegiant, that has to come in under a tighter budget because the studio doesn’t want to throw any more money at a series fans have grown tired of? Sometimes, I think it’s better for a studio to admit defeat. There’s no need to plow ahead on a franchise that the fanbase lost interest in. It’s OK to wash your hands of a series, and put Divergent on a shelf next to The Mortal Instruments or Beautiful Creatures. There’s no shame in not finishing the race. There’s more shame, in my opinion, in finishing with a string of movies that makes a laughing stock of the brand you once celebrated.
Do you want to see the fourth and final Divergent movie?