Being a fan of Cassandra Clare’s popular young adult fantasy book series, The Mortal Instruments, since their popularity first rose about seven years ago, I had been wanting a good and accurate on-screen depiction for a long while now. When the first film in a planned series was released in 2013 under the name, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, I was gravely disappointed by their misrepresentation of the rich urban fantasy world that Cassandra Clare had given us in her books. All of the little details and specifics that had made her world her own were gone, replaced with generic fantasy terms or altogether ignored for the sake of riding on the success of films like Twilight and The Hunger Games. While featuring several actors of acclaimed talent such as Jared Harris, Lena Headey, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers, this depiction was not only untrue to its source material, it was a poor film overall with numerous plot holes and nonsensical characterization that left fans of the book insulted. Apparently audiences and critics agreed as the film failed to be profitable and the planned sequels were subsequently cancelled.
Due to this abysmal failure, I was immediately skeptical when I discovered that the rights had passed to FreeForm (formerly ABC Family) for a television adaptation entitled Shadowhunters. Knowing ABC Family’s penchant for going overboard on their teen-based drama to the point of annoyance, I did not want to see this book series reduced to a teen soap opera that had the Mortal Instruments name slapped on it. However, I am ecstatic to say that after viewing the pilot that just aired, I am excited to see where this series will go. Not only did the pilot stay true to its source material with it’s numerous references to the books and attention to detail, it kept the characterization close to the books and didn’t go overboard on ramping up the drama for the sake of its audience. I still remain cautiously optimistic since only the first episode has aired but should the producers continue to make the series in the same manner, I can see success in this show’s future.
For those unfamiliar, The Mortal Instruments series follows Clary Fray, a supposed average 18 year old girl who, upon pure chance, is thrust into seeing a world she didn’t know was there. This “downworld” is populated with warlocks, vampires, werewolves, fey folk, and most relevant to her, Shadowhunters. The Shadowhunters are a group of skilled warriors, endowed with angelic power, that seek to keep the peace between the downworld and the normal world while protecting normal humans, known to them as Mundanes, from the various threats of demons and rogue downworlders who break the peace. Once Clary comes to terms with the existence of the downworld, she joins several Shadowhunters to help find who has kidnapped her mother.
I won’t say anymore for risk of spoiling but if the premise has reminded you of the derided Twilight series, let me dispel your fears. While there are similarities in plot structure (normal girl thrown into a world she doesn’t understand and such), I can say as someone who has read both series, that The Mortal Instruments series’ similarities with Twilight end there. Cassandra Clare filled her books with interesting characters, a brilliantly developed mythology, and a world that actually feels expansive and engaging.
With actual regards to the production of Shadowhunters, I can say I am not familiar with any of the actors or actresses save for Isaiah Mustafa of Old Spice commercial fame nor am I familiar with showrunner Ed Decter’s work. However, I was exceedingly impressed with the budget put into this show and the attention to detail given to the props and set work. While the acting was not, what I would call, worthy of acclaim, in this case, I am willing to give these actors the chance to get comfortable with their characters especially since I know these characters develop well over time and even from what little I saw, I did enjoy several character’s performances.
All in all, I can say I was very happy with this pilot and I look forward to seeing how well Shadowhunters brings The Mortal Instruments to life on the screen.