The young adult novel adaptation “Divergent” has opened big, with a $22.8 million Friday, and while it won’t match up to “Twilight” or “The Hunger Games,” it is still an impressive opening for the young adult genre that has been more miss than hit in recent years. With such an impressive opening, it would seem that Summit Entertainment wants to hit the road running, and they do just that with a sequel already underway.
Unfortunately, the movie won’t see Neil Burger returning to direct part two. According to Burger, the choice not to return to the second chapter of the franchise was all his own as he feels that a March 2015 release date would not give him the time he needed to put his entire focus into it. This is also nothing new, as many popular franchises started with one director and then moved on with someone new behind the lens.
Before Catherine Hardwicke directed the first chapter of the “Twilight Saga,” she was an indie darling with movies like “Thirteen” and “Lords of Dogtown.” With “Twilight,” Hardwick would definitely lose the freedom she enjoyed with her previous movies. According to Hardwick, she had first right of refusal and said that she couldn’t be fired but left anyway. She said that she had no regrets about leaving “Twilight” after just one movie. According to Hardwicke, the studio wanted to rush the movie out, which makes her decision to leave the same as Burger with “Divergent.”
“The Hunger Games”
It seems like a common complaint between directors and studios when it comes to sequels to high profile debut movies. Gary Ross, the man who directed the first “Hunger Games” movie, left that franchise for the exact same reason. Ross said that his decision to leave was difficult, which is where he differs from Hardwicke and “Twilight.” According to Ross, he said that he did not have the time to write and prep the movie he wanted because of the tight schedule the studio set up.
This is nothing new either. Chris Columbus, the famed director who helped break in child actors in the past, such as Macaulay Culkin in “Home Alone,” helped break in a new generation of child actors in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” The movie was classic Columbus, a safe family movie about kids faced with imminent dangers. However, when Columbus stepped away after the first two movies, the franchise just got better and better. This year’s Oscar winner for Best Director, Alfonso Cuaron, was the first to come on with the third installment, followed by critic darling Mike Newell and then David Yates came on and finished out in great style.
In all the movies, the director who set up the franchise left and the studio found talented people to step in and lead the way after that. Summit has to hope “Divergent” will find someone with the talent of Neil Burger to keep it running strong with the second chapter of the story.