This is the second adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series. The first was the movie staring Jamie Campbell Bower and Lilly Collins. Unfortunately, that version did not do well at the box office. This time around, Freeform, formally ABC Family, has adapted the series for television. It premiered the a week after MTV’s Shannara Chronicles making the second YA Fantasy series to get adapted this TV series. At least that I’m aware of.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past ten years, The Mortal Instruments follows Clary Fray, a teenage girl that has no idea that she is part of a larger world and that her mother has been hiding a huge family secret from her. Clary is a Shadowhunter, a half angel half human warrior meant to protect the world from demons.
In this version Clary is 18 instead of 16 and applying to art school. All the character have likewise been aged up a couple of years making them young adults instead of teenagers. The basics of the story are still here: save Jocelyn, find the Mortal Cup, and keep it out of the hands of Valentine the crazy evil Shadowhunter who turns out to be Clary’s long thought dead father. (I’m sorry if you haven’t read the books or seen the previous adaptation.)
Now, because this is a TV adaption and not a movie, the actors aren’t exactly the best in terms of acting ability. They aren’t the worst I’ve seen either. I actually prefer their Jace Wayland, but that’s because I can’t stand Jamie Campbell Bower. And while I like Kevin Zeggers as an actor, he was way to old for the part of Alec in the movie and didn’t for a minute look like an 18 year old. The show’s Alec also is a bit old for the part, but he looks more convincing as a a guy in his early 20’s than Kevin Zeggers does. Their Simon looks exactly like he’s described, at least in my opinion, there Magnus is pretty spot on too. Their hair for Clary is bit orange, but Lilly Collins’s hair in the movie barely had any red in it, and since she’s routinely described as having red hair, that’s kinda of a big thing. I prefer the movie’s Jocelyn and Luke, but that’s because Lena Headey is awesome and Aidan Turner does brooding so well. As I said, they aren’t the best actors, but they aren’t the worst. I haven’t really noticed much over acting, but they could use a few more lessons. But since this is the first major gig for most of these young people, and everyone has to start somewhere, I’m willing to give them a little leeway to improve over the season.
Now, plot wise they have made some changes. Each episode seems to focus on a few chapters of the book. So far, nothing has really been left out, but my memory of things is a bit hazy. They have changed how some things happen though. Like how and when Simon gets kidnapped by the Vampires, and when they reveal Clary’s paternity. And they’ve definitely sexed it up a bit with Isabel’s information gathering mission. They also seemed to have put events in a different order, but like I said my memory of things is hazy. But the basics are all here, and it’s still an intriguing premise.
Now, the special effects on the other hand stink. I mean, they are the worst I’ve seen on a fantasy/supernatural show. Once Upon a Time gets a lot of criticism for it’s special effects, but this show is worse. The “magic” the worlocks have is really cheesy looking, as is the way the demons burst into very artificial looking flames when they die. I’m not sure what they spent there budget on otherwise, but they could have spent a little more here to make it a little more believable.
All in all though, it’s a decent start. It could be better of course, but it could also be worse, and easily turned into a campy horror show. At least in my opinion. I don’t love the show, but I’m willing to give it the season to see how it goes. So I give it Three Lightsabers.
With the success of shows like Game of Thrones and Vampire Diaries, we just might see more popular series getting a TV show or miniseries treatment. In fact, I think that a TV series give the adapters more time to really do the series justice since they wouldn’t be confined to 2 1/2 hours. This one and Shannara Chronicles will be a great test to see if there is enough of a market for YA adaptations on TV.