This post can originally be found on the Emerson Pub Club Blog along with other great posts from really cool people!
In 2013, I eagerly anticipated The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones along with millions of other fans around the world. An adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s first novel of the same title, the movie seemed destined to launch the next Young Adult movie franchise. The books series has six books in total, is constantly on a best seller’s list somewhere and has been a fan favorite since 2007 when the first book was released. With such a massive cult following, why did the movie completely flop?
The answer is quite simple. The movie was terrible. Despite a promising looking cast and teaser trailer, the film was nothing like the books whatsoever. Sitting in a theater watching the movie in full cosplay with some of my closest friends, I was heartbroken at what I was seeing. The movie lacked all of the character development that Cassandra Clare is so famous for in her novels. Some elements of the mythology were changed for no reason and other changes, like the location of the final battle in the book, served no purpose.
I understand that when making an adaptation of a book, some things have to change. While it might be interesting to read an entire novel where the narrator speculates and monologues in their own head, it can be difficult to translate that to the big screen. My problem with the film was not that they chose to add in more action sequences to make it more interesting, it was how they chose to make these changes. The directors, producers, and other decision-makers made changes that would affect not only the way the mythology of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters functioned, but also contradicted events that occurred in later books.
For example, Clary, the main character, is supposed to be a girl who learns that her mother was a Shadowhunter. They are demon hunters who are half angel and half human. They keep the peace in Downworld, which is the side of New York City ordinary people never see where faeries, werewolves, vampires, warlocks, and demons all roam free. In the first book, Clary has to come to terms not only with the fact that she is a part of this ancient race, but also that her mom hid it from her for her entire life. She’s understandably confused and scared, but none of this was effectively portrayed. Lily Collins played Clary as if she were confident, self-assured, and already aware of powers that she did not discover until the second book of the series.
After the cheesy, cheap disaster that was The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, I was horribly upset and praying that the studio wouldn’t pull a Percy Jackson and try to keep making the movies despite fans hating them. So when it was announced that the rights had been sold to make a TV series, I was worried. The books could benefit from being transformed into a TV series instead of a movie. They’re long, all around 400 pages, so if each season could be the equivalent of one book, then more of the original content could be translated to screen. Unfortunately, all of my hopes for a good adaptation of one of my favorite childhood book series were dashed when I read that the rights had been picked up by ABC Family.
ABC Family has a reputation for having overdramatic TV Shows with poor acting and writing that barely makes sense. Think The Secret Life of an American Teenager or Pretty Little Liars (another series which has completely deviated from the books). City of Bones deserves much better than this kind of treatment. The show is set to air in January and several different clips and trailers have been released so far. If it wasn’t irritating enough that the show has been named Shadowhunters, the trailers are completely cringe-worthy.
Check out one of the trailers below so you can see for yourself!
Any fan of the books will say that the beauty of what Cassandra Clare has done with the world in her books is make it relatable. While the teenage main characters may be demon hunters with some angel blood mixed into their genetics, they are not superheroes by any means. They train hard to have the combat skills that they possess, to learn to use the different weapons like seraph blades, and to learn to draw the magical runes which they draw power from. Essentially, they are humans who are made stronger by their angel blood, but they are still human. In the trailer for the show, characters like Alec and Jace are seen jumping to ridiculous heights and seemingly flying into the air. This simple change may seem insignificant, but it demonstrates a fundamental lack of understanding of the values and themes that lie at the core of Cassandra Clare’s book series.
When the show airs in January, I will probably watch one episode to give it a chance, but I am already heavily anticipating my disgust with the series. Small changes are fine, but huge changes to the timeline, the age of the characters, their appearances, personalities, and terrible acting are all things that I cannot tolerate together. ABC Family’s Shadowhunters show may turn out to be successful in its own way, but it will definitely not be successful with fans of the book series. As much as I would love to see my favorite characters on the screen, I want to see their story done authentically, with at least some resemblance to the books that I love so much. Since it seems that is impossible, I say it’s time to let City of Bones stay a brilliant book and not continue to sully it with poorly executed adaptations.