Young adult novels and their film adaptations have a lot of potential for success, since outside of their teenage target audience they can also draw in younger consumers and, thanks to a smattering of mature themes, older audiences as well. Such was the case with the behemoth that is the Harry Potter franchise, the film adaptations of which have drawn over $7.7 billion at the box office alone.
Among the upcoming hopefuls in the YA genre is Divergent, a dystopian sci-fi starring Shailene Woodley as Beatrice Prior, a teen who is preparing to properly enter society as a member of one of five factions that are based on their specific traits. Tris, however, does not fit neatly into any one of these boxes: she is an individual and she ain’t gonna be part of their system. Unfortunately, being “Divergent” carries with it the stigma of being feared or even executed, so Tris chooses to hide her true identity and align with the Dauntless faction.
Based on the synopsis and trailers released so far, Divergent definitely seems to be geared (perhaps even pandering) towards rebellious teen fantasies, and perhaps that’s why Lionsgate has already greenlit two sequels to the teen action movie. A report by Variety states that the release dates for Insurgent and Allegiant have already been set for March 20th, 2015 and March 18th, 2016, respectively.
No doubt Lionsgate is trying to cash in on the success of dystopian sci-fi franchise The Hunger Games, but the first two novels in Veronica Roth’s Divergent series have only sold 5 million copies between them, whereas by summer 2012 there were 50 million copies of the Hunger Games books in print and digital formats. While film adaptations of The Hunger Games, Harry Potter and Twilight have all seen considerable success, the YA genre has also seen its fair share of flops, Ender’s Game and The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones among them.
Whether Divergent succeeds or fails, director Neil Burger (Limitless) won’t be around to helm its continuation. The Variety article also states that Burger is not planning to return for the follow-up, Insurgent, which is set to begin production next spring.
It’s somewhat surprising to see Lionsgate planning so far ahead for a franchise that seems a long way from being a safe bet, but given that The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is getting a sequel in spite of its weak box office performance, perhaps studios are determined to plough ahead with these teen fantasy and sci-fi movies in the hope of finding the next big thing.
Divergent opens in regular and IMAX theaters on March 21st, 2014. Insurgent arrives on March 20th, 2015 and Allegiant will be in theaters on March 18th, 2016.