Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mortal Instruments the Movie and Twilight's Inevitable Shadow

Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
So, Mortal Instruments, the movie. Guys, it's not looking good.

Despite the success of Cassandra Clare's book series, that success is not translating into movie sales. Always a bummer to hear when you want YA adaptations to work out, especially so they can continue.

The movie opened at #3 with $9.5 million in sales. Sure, the end of summer the box office numbers tend to be lower, and if this was an indie drama like Tiger Eyes, it might not be so bad. But this movie was HYPED. It was supposedly the next Twilight (though what isn't these days if it's based on teen fiction?).Commercials starting back in spring aired during CW shows like The Vampire Diaries, and I've seen tons of online ads, and heavy promotion about casting news and trailers for the past year. And yet.

Entertainment Weekly may be the outlier here, they gave the movie a B- which is pretty good if you compare how they rate similar blockbusters. But the overall Rotten Tomatoes score (which gathers critical reviews into a "freshness" percentage) is a lowly 12%. That's even lower than when I checked last Friday (17%).  Meaning almost all critics are panning the movie.

Some of the critics' points:

  • Seems like a Twilight wannabe
  • Collecting scraps from other movies
  • Overly long
  • Viewers not familiar with books will be confused
  • Nonsensical

Yikes! So what went wrong? Maybe it was simply the idea of adapting another paranormal teen romance. Or, was it more in the execution? Movie adaptations can get blasted by fans of the source material for not including enough, but to make a book-to-movie work, the plot and characters have to be scaled down. Books delve into more detail and show more nuance than movies can handle (thus complaints about the rushed-seeming 2005 version of Pride & Prejudice vs. the 1995 mini-series which captured everything--a 2-hr movie cannot fit everything from a book).

It sounds like Mortal Instruments suffered from trying to tell and show everything, which might be great for fans of the book, but not so much for the uninitiated who don't have the background of all the characters.

The Twilight comparisons are legit, though not quite fair. Twilight had publishers clamoring for more paranormal teen romance, so I guess we can blame them for the wealth of material. I say blame, but in truth, readers WANTED those books. It's no secret YA fiction would not be what it is today without Twilight's success, no matter how you feel about the franchise. It put a focus on teen fiction that wasn't there before, and now great books like The Maze Runner and The Fault In Our Stars and even decades-old Tiger Eyes are being adapted for film. But Twilight got so huge, that other paranormal romance movies inevitably, and yes unfairly, get the comparison. If it's not different enough, a movie-goer or critic unfamiliar with the nuance of the book is not going to see it as wholly different from That Other Teen Vampire Movie. And Mortal Instruments isn't solely about vampires (though they're in it).

What do you think? Did you see the movie? Have you read the book series? How do filmmaker's miss the mark when adapting books for the screen?


  1. Did you see the movie? I was really enjoying it until the last 1/4. They made some plot changes (inevitable) but what ended up happening was a loss of the true impact that the books had. I remember feeling gutted when I first read CITY OF BONES, and NEEDING the sequel. You're left with none of that at the end of this movie, and no real desire to see more.

    I thought this article did a really good job of looking at how these franchises are pitched and why some do better than others:


    1. I haven't seen it yet, I was out of town this past weekend. That article has some great points; some of the higher concept stuff really gets lost in a basic pitch.

  2. I didn't feel the twilight comparison as I watched it. My wife made me read the book right before we went saying I had to so I could understand the movie better. I think it was the opposite had I not read the book I would have felt the lose of certain elements.

    The problem is directors focus on the wrong things in these movies. Yes people want the romance and yes the action is important, but if it is coming from a book the character development and story need to be the focus.

    Still better production and acting than any of the twilight movies. I just hope it picks up some traction over seas as it is a solid movie.

  3. I haven't seen this yet, but I'd like to after I read the book.


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