If Neil Burger Doesn’t Want to Direct Other ‘Divergent’ Films, Who Should?

By  · Published on December 17th, 2013

The next big YA franchise set to hit the big screen won’t arrive in theaters for nearly four months, but its director has already taken himself out of consideration for any sequels. The shoot was that fun, huh? Variety reports that director Neil Burger will not return to direct another Divergent film, the burgeoning film franchise based on Veronica Roth’s popular series that will star Shailene Woodley in its lead role.

The first film in the series is already set to arrive in theaters on March 21 of next year, and Lionsgate has already lined up a similar release date for the second film in the series, Insurgent, which will hit screens on March 20, 2015 and the third film, Allegiant, which is now set for a March 18, 2016 release. Burger, however, will not be directing that second feature (and will not return for subsequent entries in the series). One of the reasons why Burger might not returning could be due to the fast turnaround time necessary to keep the franchise ticking along – Burger is reportedly in post-production on the first film and the second one requires a production start sometime next spring. That’s, well, a lot of moviemaking to cram into a relatively short amount of time (and that’s not even considering the huge press and publicity tour that Divergent will undoubtedly get). So if Burger is out, who is going to be in?

Lionsgate has already dealt with a similar situation when it comes to its big franchises – director Gary Ross helmed the first Hunger Games film before bowing out of follow-up features, allowing Francis Lawrence to sign on to direct the next three films in the franchise. The studio did a fine job of picking a new helmer back then (and, yes, the second Hunger Games film is far superior to the first), so this doesn’t seem like the time to panic, but instead to do some hefty consideration (and, yes, speculation).

The first book in Roth’s series about a dystopian future (because of course) and the one girl who can save the world (again, because of course) is actually a stunner – it’s engrossing and compelling, packed with sharp world building and some big ideas. Divergent should translate quite well to the big screen, but even if Burger feels secure in his work there, it’s not entirely surprising that he’d want to break from the franchise, because Insurgent is a different animal. Filled with significantly more action than the first book, a heftily expanded world to play in, and lots of twists and turns, Insurgent will likely play as more of an action film than Divergent (and, yes, Divergent will certainly have some big action set pieces, but Insurgent has some straight up gun fights).

Insurgent doesn’t need a director who is preoccupied with YA trappings – it needs a bonafide action helmer. Before Burger signed on for the first film, a number of other big names were apparently gunning for the gig, though there’s no word on just who these high profile names actually are (everything we could find just said “high profile,” so take that for what it may or may not be worth). Presumably, Lionsgate may have a well to return to, but good luck finding out just who is in said well.

So let’s dig a new one. If Insurgent requires action chops, why not turn to someone like David Yates, who directed the final four Harry Potter films with grace and grit, and who knows how to make sense of big action in the YA vein? Or how about giving this series real punch with Paul Greengrass? Why not some international flair with Luc Besson or Jan de Bont? Perhaps Peter Berg would be interested in something a bit less emotionally wrenching after Lone Survivor? Convinced this female-centric franchise needs a woman’s touch? Why not go for the clear best pick – Kathryn Bigelow. Sure, sure, this might all be wishful thinking, but it’s not crazy to hope for something wonderful and bold when it comes to a very promising film franchise.

Who do you think should direct Insurgent and/or Allegiant?