I’m a Huge Fan of The Mortal Instruments Series (Here’s Why It Failed as a Movie)

I’m a big fan of The Mortal Instruments  book series. The story captivated me after only a couple of pages. It’s rare for me to fall in love with a book to such an extent that I have a hard time thinking about anything else, but this is exactly what happened with City of Bones  and every other novel in the series. I was hooked from the beginning. I sped through the series, eagerly turning the pages.

I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning because I just could not put the books down. One more chapter… okay… one more, I have to figure out what happens… okay, seriously, just one more…

When the movie was announced, I was overwhelmed with excitement. I would finally get to see my favorite characters come to life on the big screen; with five more books in the series already written—and one still in the works—I was enthused at the prospect of seeing a long line of great movie entertainment for years to come. Almost immediately the fans, myself included, were dying to know exactly which actors would receive the honor of portraying the fearsome warriors we had come to know so well.

It seemed like an eternity waiting for The Mortal Instruments  to finally hit the theaters. When it did, my husband and I were some of the first to claim tickets. I had been gushing with excitement for so long about how wonderful the books were that my husband was pretty excited to finally see the movie as well. He did not read the books but received a pretty detailed rundown of what happens in the weeks of waiting; I left out all the good plot twists, of course.

When we sat in our seats and the movie began, all the anticipation and excitement leading up to the moment finally turned to reality.

The lights dimmed and the theater grew quiet, and then the movie started. As the movie unfolded, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I started getting anxious as I watched a messy narrative that ignored or glossed over key details of the books. To my dismay, the characters were altered in unexplicable ways, the actors’ performances were cringe worthy, and strange and uncalled for plot changes kept popping up. With each minute, my disappointment grew. The end will be worth it, though, I kept telling myself. I remembered how incredible the ending was in the book, and I held out hope that the movie would redeem itself with a great finale. It never happened.

By the time the credits rolled around, my feeling of dismay seemed to permeate throughout the theater. I looked around and saw others shaking their heads, and I realized that we had collectively shared over two hours of disappointment.  

Confirming this disaster of an adaptation was my husband, who was extremely confused throughout the entire movie. He kept whispering that he was lost and had no clue what was going on. Even I had trouble trying to figure out exactly what was going on through the majority of it. I had waited what felt like an eternity… for this? Even the “funny” parts of the movie failed miserably and didn’t receive so much as a chuckle from me or anyone else in the theater audience that day.

The diehard fans shared my disappointment, and newcomers to the Shadowworld were confused like my husband. A quick look at any fan sites or reviews confirmed that it wasn’t just me; fans everywhere were disappointed with the film, and those who weren’t pre-existing fans were left unimpressed and baffled. There are a slew of reasons why many hated the adaptation, and I have identified some of the main ones that resulted in its failure.

*Spoiler Alert*

Butchering the Characters

Without characters, you have no story to tell. When dealing with adaptations, straying too far from the original is never a good idea, as they come with pre-existing fan bases. Fans know that there will be changes along with movie adaptations, but what they don’t expect is for the characters to be so far removed from the original that they look or act as if they were completely different people. Many characters in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones  were changed, not just look-wise, but personality-wise as well.

Clary Fray is the main character of this story—she has green eyes and fiery red hair, with a fierce personality to match. She is sixteen and very independent, self-reliant, and brave, almost to the point of recklessness. At least, in the books she is. In the movie, she has brown hair and brown eyes, is seventeen going on eighteen, and is annoyingly weak and reliant on others to protect her. She is equally sarcastic in both, yet still falls short of the fans’ expectations. Many book fans loved book Clary, but couldn’t say the same for her movie counterpart.

Clary Fray from The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Movie | Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment

The producers also made drastic changes for convenience to the main antagonist: Valentine Morgenstern. Book Valentine was described as handsome and charismatic, yet calculating and driven. The movie creators decided to change book Valentine’s signature short, white blonde hair to a weird cross between a mullet and braided ponytail, as well as turning it black, for good measure.

His movie counterpart’s personality is changed into a short-sighted psychopath with anger issues, who goes on long tirades and doesn’t know what he wants other than the cup… he really wants that cup. His obsession with the Mortal Cup is the only trait they decided to keep, reducing him to a simple-minded character that only wants one thing. This cup is the only way to create more Shadowhunter soldiers, but Valentine wants it so he can summon demons. He wants an army and will do anything to get it. This motivation is the only thing that both versions of Valentine share, with book Valentine having far more depth and engagement.

Valentine from The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Movie | Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Hodge Starkweather is a much more significant character in the book than the movie makes him out to be. Hodge is a tutor that was loyal to Valentine until he realized how power-mad he’d become. Essentially, he can never leave the building that he resides in as punishment for his prior involvement with Valentine. You see him maybe a maximum of four times in the span of the film, whereas throughout most of the book, Hodge is a mentor for the group.

He chastises the characters for their recklessness and is always consulted regarding missions. If ever there is a question, ask Hodge! In the movie, he is sparsely seen. In the book, Clary describes him as ageless, yet the movie gives him a grandfatherly look and vibe. They also make him seem delusional. Hodge has been cursed by the Shadowhunter government. Because he can never leave his buildings, the movie creators decided to make Hodge mentally unstable by making the curse all in his head.

Hodge from The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Movie | Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Theses lazy changes for convenience made to these characters added absolutely nothing to the story line, but rather, in my opinion, took from it instead. I’m not sure what they thought they were accomplishing by changing the characters to such an extent. In doing so, they made the characters far less likable. Like the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” someone should have done the favor of passing this advice on to the ones responsible for this film.

Extreme Changes/Omitting Details

Making large changes to the main plot is just asking for angry fans to come knocking down your door. There were so many changes, both big and small, that seemed agonizingly pointless.The story line was altered so heavily that the impact would have been felt even into the sequel.

For instance, at the end of the movie Valentine summons demons. This never happens in City of Bones  book. It happens in the second installment because without a second Mortal Instrument he can’t control them. Another plot altering change they made was in the end. Book Valentine successfully steals the cup, and the next installment is about trying to get it back. In the movie, however, Valentine fails to steal it, getting away with only a replica.

These alterations from the book would have required major changes to the rest of the series and would’ve been difficult to intertwine into the rest of the series.

There were important elements that were pulled from the movie completely, such as the parabetai bond between the characters Jace and Alec, which bonds two souls together to form a flawless fighting team. This bond is crucial to understanding the group dynamic.

A smaller but important part is touched on briefly through the character Simon’s quick and excited babbling episode about runes. He briefly mentions the magical tattoos and how there is one for everything, but that is all that is really said about it. Being a critical component of the book and big part of Clary’s future, it should have been talked about more in depth; but, apparently, the creators thought that’s all that viewers needed to know about the subject.

The movie withholds so many details that it makes the plot very difficult to understand. In an attempt to give a quick information dump, the character Hodge gives the main character Clary a small history lesson, but it leaves much to be desired. The info dump only gives viewers the bare bones version of our villain, Valentine.

They also dispense tiny bits of random knowledge throughout the movie, though the details may be easily forgotten, as it just comes off as idle talk between characters. As hard enough as it was for fans to decipher, it confused those who never read the books even more. The only thing you really understand about the villain is that he wants something, and he will do anything to get it; it doesn’t really explain why he wants it or even how he came to want it so badly.

They also decided not to include the majority of Valentine’s backstory, which is crucial in understanding his motives.

Valentine formed a circle of friends. Together their goal was to change the Shadowhunter government for the better. When Valentine’s father was killed by a werewolf, it changed him. This traumatic part of his childhood fueled his hate for all werewolves, vampires, warlocks and all other downworlders alike. It was his belief that the impure mixture of demon and human blood was an abomination and should not be able to go on. This is the moment that sets in motion his plan to cleanse the bloodlines.

It seems like they had trouble fitting in all the details needed to make the story work, so they decided to take out the things that they couldn’t explain within a couple sentences, cut out all of the backstories, and hoped that people would pick up all the bread crumbs that were sprinkled throughout the movie. On top of this, introducing important plot points of the book’s sequel further disorganized an already crowded and messy movie plot. It wasn’t a great plan, and the movie suffered for it.

Ruining the Plot Twist

The big shock of the book is when you find out that the two main characters falling in love are actually siblings (they really aren’t, but you don’t find this out until the second book)! It really is the best part because here you are rooting for this relationship and then they lay this piece of news on you.

It’s a shocking twist that leaves you surprised and not knowing how to feel about it. It kind of makes you feel like you were the one kissing your brother.  Ew. Too much?  Well, anyway, the movie decides to tell you that it isn’t true before the characters are even told that they’re siblings in the first place. The movie decided to show the character Hodge suggest the deceitful plan to our villain Valentine. It ruins a great plot twist and makes you indifferent toward the characters’ reactions to the news because you already know what they don’t.

In the end, the movie strayed too far from the original, made unnecessary and poorly executed changes, and didn’t make sure to give enough information so that you could understand the characters’ motives.

To quicken the pace, they decided to spend less time building the backstory and minimized important details and characters. This bestselling book, with a very large fan base, had the potential to rival movies such as Twilight, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter, but poor execution resulted in a movie that was disappointing and confusing for newcomers and diehard fans alike.

Ultimately, the movie tried multiple times to pursue the sequel, but ended up deciding to take the story in a different direction. The book was made into a TV series and was recently renewed for a second season.

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I’m a Huge Fan of The Mortal Instruments Series (Here’s Why It Failed as a Movie)

I’m a big fan of The Mortal Instruments  book series. The story captivated me after only a couple of pages. It’s rare for me to fall in love with a book to such an extent that I have a hard time thinking about anything else, but this is exactly what happened with City of Bones  and every other novel in the series. I was hooked from the beginning. I sped through the series, eagerly turning the pages.

I stayed up into the wee hours of the morning because I just could not put the books down. One more chapter… okay… one more, I have to figure out what happens… okay, seriously, just one more…

When the movie was announced, I was overwhelmed with excitement. I would finally get to see my favorite characters come to life on the big screen; with five more books in the series already written—and one still in the works—I was enthused at the prospect of seeing a long line of great movie entertainment for years to come. Almost immediately the fans, myself included, were dying to know exactly which actors would receive the honor of portraying the fearsome warriors we had come to know so well.

It seemed like an eternity waiting for The Mortal Instruments  to finally hit the theaters. When it did, my husband and I were some of the first to claim tickets. I had been gushing with excitement for so long about how wonderful the books were that my husband was pretty excited to finally see the movie as well. He did not read the books but received a pretty detailed rundown of what happens in the weeks of waiting; I left out all the good plot twists, of course.

When we sat in our seats and the movie began, all the anticipation and excitement leading up to the moment finally turned to reality.

The lights dimmed and the theater grew quiet, and then the movie started. As the movie unfolded, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I started getting anxious as I watched a messy narrative that ignored or glossed over key details of the books. To my dismay, the characters were altered in unexplicable ways, the actors’ performances were cringe worthy, and strange and uncalled for plot changes kept popping up. With each minute, my disappointment grew. The end will be worth it, though, I kept telling myself. I remembered how incredible the ending was in the book, and I held out hope that the movie would redeem itself with a great finale. It never happened.

By the time the credits rolled around, my feeling of dismay seemed to permeate throughout the theater. I looked around and saw others shaking their heads, and I realized that we had collectively shared over two hours of disappointment.  

Confirming this disaster of an adaptation was my husband, who was extremely confused throughout the entire movie. He kept whispering that he was lost and had no clue what was going on. Even I had trouble trying to figure out exactly what was going on through the majority of it. I had waited what felt like an eternity… for this? Even the “funny” parts of the movie failed miserably and didn’t receive so much as a chuckle from me or anyone else in the theater audience that day.

The diehard fans shared my disappointment, and newcomers to the Shadowworld were confused like my husband. A quick look at any fan sites or reviews confirmed that it wasn’t just me; fans everywhere were disappointed with the film, and those who weren’t pre-existing fans were left unimpressed and baffled. There are a slew of reasons why many hated the adaptation, and I have identified some of the main ones that resulted in its failure.

*Spoiler Alert*

Butchering the Characters

Without characters, you have no story to tell. When dealing with adaptations, straying too far from the original is never a good idea, as they come with pre-existing fan bases. Fans know that there will be changes along with movie adaptations, but what they don’t expect is for the characters to be so far removed from the original that they look or act as if they were completely different people. Many characters in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones  were changed, not just look-wise, but personality-wise as well.

Clary Fray is the main character of this story—she has green eyes and fiery red hair, with a fierce personality to match. She is sixteen and very independent, self-reliant, and brave, almost to the point of recklessness. At least, in the books she is. In the movie, she has brown hair and brown eyes, is seventeen going on eighteen, and is annoyingly weak and reliant on others to protect her. She is equally sarcastic in both, yet still falls short of the fans’ expectations. Many book fans loved book Clary, but couldn’t say the same for her movie counterpart.

Clary Fray from The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Movie | Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment

The producers also made drastic changes for convenience to the main antagonist: Valentine Morgenstern. Book Valentine was described as handsome and charismatic, yet calculating and driven. The movie creators decided to change book Valentine’s signature short, white blonde hair to a weird cross between a mullet and braided ponytail, as well as turning it black, for good measure.

His movie counterpart’s personality is changed into a short-sighted psychopath with anger issues, who goes on long tirades and doesn’t know what he wants other than the cup… he really wants that cup. His obsession with the Mortal Cup is the only trait they decided to keep, reducing him to a simple-minded character that only wants one thing. This cup is the only way to create more Shadowhunter soldiers, but Valentine wants it so he can summon demons. He wants an army and will do anything to get it. This motivation is the only thing that both versions of Valentine share, with book Valentine having far more depth and engagement.

Valentine from The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Movie | Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Hodge Starkweather is a much more significant character in the book than the movie makes him out to be. Hodge is a tutor that was loyal to Valentine until he realized how power-mad he’d become. Essentially, he can never leave the building that he resides in as punishment for his prior involvement with Valentine. You see him maybe a maximum of four times in the span of the film, whereas throughout most of the book, Hodge is a mentor for the group.

He chastises the characters for their recklessness and is always consulted regarding missions. If ever there is a question, ask Hodge! In the movie, he is sparsely seen. In the book, Clary describes him as ageless, yet the movie gives him a grandfatherly look and vibe. They also make him seem delusional. Hodge has been cursed by the Shadowhunter government. Because he can never leave his buildings, the movie creators decided to make Hodge mentally unstable by making the curse all in his head.

Hodge from The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Movie | Image: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Theses lazy changes for convenience made to these characters added absolutely nothing to the story line, but rather, in my opinion, took from it instead. I’m not sure what they thought they were accomplishing by changing the characters to such an extent. In doing so, they made the characters far less likable. Like the adage “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” someone should have done the favor of passing this advice on to the ones responsible for this film.

Extreme Changes/Omitting Details

Making large changes to the main plot is just asking for angry fans to come knocking down your door. There were so many changes, both big and small, that seemed agonizingly pointless.The story line was altered so heavily that the impact would have been felt even into the sequel.

For instance, at the end of the movie Valentine summons demons. This never happens in City of Bones  book. It happens in the second installment because without a second Mortal Instrument he can’t control them. Another plot altering change they made was in the end. Book Valentine successfully steals the cup, and the next installment is about trying to get it back. In the movie, however, Valentine fails to steal it, getting away with only a replica.

These alterations from the book would have required major changes to the rest of the series and would’ve been difficult to intertwine into the rest of the series.

There were important elements that were pulled from the movie completely, such as the parabetai bond between the characters Jace and Alec, which bonds two souls together to form a flawless fighting team. This bond is crucial to understanding the group dynamic.

A smaller but important part is touched on briefly through the character Simon’s quick and excited babbling episode about runes. He briefly mentions the magical tattoos and how there is one for everything, but that is all that is really said about it. Being a critical component of the book and big part of Clary’s future, it should have been talked about more in depth; but, apparently, the creators thought that’s all that viewers needed to know about the subject.

The movie withholds so many details that it makes the plot very difficult to understand. In an attempt to give a quick information dump, the character Hodge gives the main character Clary a small history lesson, but it leaves much to be desired. The info dump only gives viewers the bare bones version of our villain, Valentine.

They also dispense tiny bits of random knowledge throughout the movie, though the details may be easily forgotten, as it just comes off as idle talk between characters. As hard enough as it was for fans to decipher, it confused those who never read the books even more. The only thing you really understand about the villain is that he wants something, and he will do anything to get it; it doesn’t really explain why he wants it or even how he came to want it so badly.

They also decided not to include the majority of Valentine’s backstory, which is crucial in understanding his motives.

Valentine formed a circle of friends. Together their goal was to change the Shadowhunter government for the better. When Valentine’s father was killed by a werewolf, it changed him. This traumatic part of his childhood fueled his hate for all werewolves, vampires, warlocks and all other downworlders alike. It was his belief that the impure mixture of demon and human blood was an abomination and should not be able to go on. This is the moment that sets in motion his plan to cleanse the bloodlines.

It seems like they had trouble fitting in all the details needed to make the story work, so they decided to take out the things that they couldn’t explain within a couple sentences, cut out all of the backstories, and hoped that people would pick up all the bread crumbs that were sprinkled throughout the movie. On top of this, introducing important plot points of the book’s sequel further disorganized an already crowded and messy movie plot. It wasn’t a great plan, and the movie suffered for it.

Ruining the Plot Twist

The big shock of the book is when you find out that the two main characters falling in love are actually siblings (they really aren’t, but you don’t find this out until the second book)! It really is the best part because here you are rooting for this relationship and then they lay this piece of news on you.

It’s a shocking twist that leaves you surprised and not knowing how to feel about it. It kind of makes you feel like you were the one kissing your brother.  Ew. Too much?  Well, anyway, the movie decides to tell you that it isn’t true before the characters are even told that they’re siblings in the first place. The movie decided to show the character Hodge suggest the deceitful plan to our villain Valentine. It ruins a great plot twist and makes you indifferent toward the characters’ reactions to the news because you already know what they don’t.

In the end, the movie strayed too far from the original, made unnecessary and poorly executed changes, and didn’t make sure to give enough information so that you could understand the characters’ motives.

To quicken the pace, they decided to spend less time building the backstory and minimized important details and characters. This bestselling book, with a very large fan base, had the potential to rival movies such as Twilight, Hunger Games, and Harry Potter, but poor execution resulted in a movie that was disappointing and confusing for newcomers and diehard fans alike.

Ultimately, the movie tried multiple times to pursue the sequel, but ended up deciding to take the story in a different direction. The book was made into a TV series and was recently renewed for a second season.

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