Monday Morning Critic – Shailene Woodley, Ascendant And The Upcoming Collapse Of The Divergent Series


The downside with franchises has always been that of diminishing returns. It’s rare to see a film franchise continually go bigger, get better and draw more fans. More often than not the rule of thumb is that a sequel is going to cost more, make less and probably not be as good as the original. The franchise that sprang from Divergent tried to capture the same sort of box office fire that The Hunger Games has but didn’t quite capture the imagination of the Jennifer Lawrence franchise.

Much like The Maze Runner, which found a similar sized audience, Divergent opted to go for the big score and stretch the franchise out as long as it could. Attempting to split the final film, Allegiant, into two films like so many before it, has found itself in a bad place. Part 1 of the franchise ender wound up not being successful enough to justify a bigger finale, despite being fiscally successful, and now it’s going to straight to television.

Ascendant is going to wind up with an ignoble end to a lackluster franchise and signals a collapse of a franchise the likes we haven’t quite seen before in modern Hollywood.


Long term plans for many franchises have died after a bad sequel. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 wound up destroying Sony’s plans for an entire Spidey themed cinematic universe, and wound up allowing the web-slinger back into Marvel’s hands, and The Expendables 3 wound up sinking Stallone’s plans for another film as well as an all-woman version tentatively called The Expendabelles. It’s very rare to see a franchise aimed at the young adult audience grow with sequels, like The Hunger Games did, and most die on the vine or have to be repurposed for television.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones followed this trend as plans for a sequel were scrapped for the Shadowhunters TV series. That franchise felt more inclined to the small screen, not the big one, and it’s found an audience on television it couldn’t in theaters. Shows with that sort of concept, of demons and the wars fought in the shadows, for some reason feel better suited for the smaller screen. You have better story-telling options with the long form of television and a franchise like The Mortal Instruments feels like it needs it.

Many other films that wound up dead in the water after a lackluster sequel were mercy killed fairly quickly. But the fact that Lionsgate is pressing forward with Ascendant, instead of killing the franchise altogether, is interesting on a number of levels that need to be discussed.


The big thing to me is how many of the original cast will actually come back. When the franchise started Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller, the franchise’s two biggest stars, were both upcoming actors. Now they’re both fairly bigger names, Teller especially, and they don’t need to do the franchise if they don’t want to. Throw in the fact that most likely they have contracts that specify a theatrical release and they can walk away from a failing franchise.

Teller isn’t a massive loss, story wise, but Woodley has been Tris for a number of films now. She matters.

Replacing her, especially for the finale, wouldn’t feel right and it gives her an insane amount of leverage. She can demand a lot to return and Lionsgate moving this to television gives her leverage. Much like how Atlas Shrugged kept changing its cast as its budget kept dropping, it’s hard to imagine the franchise trying to sell the finale without its actress for ratings instead of tickets.

Scott Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

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