Whenever a book series is optioned by Hollywood, everyone has big plans for the series. What the makers of the adaption of the series are hoping for is a success on the likes of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Twilight and the Hunger Games. However, for just as many who succeeded, there are just as many who failed or are in limbo part way through, leaving the last of the books not adapted for cinema. There are many examples, so this post is the beginning of a new series. Here is the first installment of the biggest unfinished movie series based on adaptations of book series.
The Divergent series is probably the most frustrating to the hardcore fans. Divergent, following the wake of the successful apocalyptic YA adaption like the Hunger Games series; was released on March 21, 2014, in the United States. Divergent is the first movie based on the first book in a three book trilogy, Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant, adapted into four movies, the last book splits into two movies. Trouble was already brewing when Divergent was only given a 40% Rotten Tomatoes score, but the movie was made for an $85 million budget and grossed $288.9 at the worldwide box office ($150.9 million US), turning a nice profit. Then The Divergent Series: Insurgent was released on March 20, 2015, on a budget of $110 million. It was only given a 28% score on Rotten Tomatoes and made $297.3 at the worldwide box office ($130.2 million US). Signaling what most critics perceive as growing boredom with the YA apocalyptic genre, the Divergent Series: Allegiant (which contained only the first half of the last book) limped to the screen on March 18, 2017, with a budget of $110 million. The movie received a dismal 13% on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $176.9 million at the worldwide box office ($66 million US). While the last movie, The Divergent Series: Ascendant was originally supposed to be released on June 9, 2017 (pushed back from a March 24, 2017, release date for another movie’s release). But after the announcement of the Ascendant being adapted into a TV Movie (to start a new TV series), which resulted in the domino effect, of the announced director and the two main stars refusing to participate in the TV version of Ascendant. While Ascendant is not officially dead yet, all signs point the last movie in the Divergent Series being officially canceled.
The Chronicles of Narnia started strong, but as the sequels were released, the box office returns started diminishing. After the success of Lord of the Rings, many looked to The Chronicles of Narnia series as the next big fantasy book series adaptation. Walden Media bought the rights to the Narnia series and Walt Disney Pictures agreed to produce the series. On December 8, 2005, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe were released in the UK and December 9 in the US. The first Narnia big screen adaptation had a $180 million budget and made $745 million at the worldwide box office ($291.7 US), and received mostly positive reviews, with a 76% score on Rotten Tomatoes. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian was put into production next, with a budget of $225 million. Prince Caspian was released on May 16, 2008, in the US (June 26, 2008, in the UK) and received a 67% score on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $419 million at the worldwide box office ($141 million US). Disney wanted a lower budget than Walden Media wanted for the next movie, so Walden Media took the movie to 20th Century Fox. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was released on December 9, 2010, in the UK and December 10, 2010, in the US, with a budget of $155 million. Dawn Treader was only given a 49% score on Rotten Tomatoes and grossed $415.7 million at the box office ($104 million US). Walden Media wanted to produce The Magician’s Nephew next, but its contract with the estate of C.S. Lewis expired in 2011, and no more adaptations of the Narnia series have been made – Stop the Presses! While it didn’t get much press, Mark Gordon Company bought the rights to the Narnia series in 2013. The latest news, released on December 16, 2016 (Read here: http://collider.com/chronicles-of-narnia-silver-chair-reboot/#cs-lewis), says that a script has been completed and the movie is considered a “reboot,” with a new cast and production company taking over the project, with none of the old people involved. But no official production announcement yet, and no projected release date yet. Could The Silver Chair really be considered a continuation of the original series if none of the cast and crew from the original are involved? Time will tell, but for now, all that can be done is waiting for the next movie to be announced.
The Divergent Series was on a regular schedule of a movie a year until the last one only contained the first part of the last book and did poorly at the box office. The Chronicles of Narnia, by contrast, spread out its production over several years, but nevertheless experienced poorer box office results with each subsequent movie. While both of the next movie adaptations are in limbo, Narnia has the advantage of being an established book series since the 1950s (Divergent, by contrast, was released in the early 2010s). While the limbo persists, all fans can do is hope and wait that Hollywood will finally make some official announcements.