Can ‘The Mortal Instruments’ Succeed Where Other YA Adaptations Failed?
This week, the latest (though not the last) young adult fiction adaptation hits our cinema screens and the debate over ‘the next Twilight’ will be ignited once more. That film is Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, a supernatural adventure/action/romance movie that will try it’s best to bag the crown currently sitting snugly atop The Hunger Games’ head. Since The Twilight Saga bowed out earlier this year, authors and executives have been searching for the next big hit, so can Mortal Instruments succeed where others have failed?
This year we’ve already seen Warm Bodies, Beautiful Creatures and The Host. What do all of them have in common? They’ve made absolutely no impact on the mainstream consciousness – failing to fill the gaping hole left by the Twilight franchise despite a fair amount of buzz. The trailers are released online in the same feverish manner as a Prometheus or a Hobbit, but have so far faltered once they’ve made it into theaters. Mortal Instruments will be put to the test on August 21st.
The books, and thus the movie, follow New York teenager Clary Fray (Lily Collins) as she discovers her part in a secret underworld of shadowhunters and demons. There, she meets fellow shadowhunter Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) and they must together save her mother (Lena Heady) from the big baddie, Valentine.
With City of Bones, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Divergent still to come, 2013 might be the girly-est year for some time, and that’s no bad thing in itself. The fact that these films have given us an unprecedented amount of female protagonists to love and root for is rarely argued and, while Harry Potter has left young boys with only Percy Jackson to enjoy, it’s clear that executives have cottoned on to the financial power of fangirls. But are they utilizing this devotion in the right way or has complacency taken over?
There was nothing particularly wrong with Beautiful Creatures, for example, but the complete lack of interest pointed more to bad timing than anything else. Twilight rules the gothic teen romance genre, and the interest in Hunger Games partly comes down to its difference. It also proved that a level of quality and critical acclaim can be achieved, and YA adaptations don’t have to settle for core audience love and mainstream derision like Twilight did. There’s no appetite for mediocre pretenders, and films like The Host proved that.
Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series has already been embroiled in its fair share of controversy, and Clare herself has attempted to distance herself from the scandals as much as possible. Originally ‘internet famous’ for her Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings fan fiction, there were accusations of plagiarism and cyber-bullying that have since been brushed under the carpet. Her writing, for example, was deleted shortly before City of Bones was published, and most cinema-goers have no idea about the notoriety of its author.
The truth is that Mortal Instruments may be arriving too late, with the gothic romance it’s being advertised as already proven to be a flailing genre. Fans of the books will no doubt turn out to see the story and characters brought to life, but I’m doubtful that devotion will catch on for the uninitiated. Right now, film fans are looking for something new and exciting, and teenage girls fighting the forces of evil while falling in love just isn’t cutting it. I could be totally wrong – the weekend box office figures will tell me if so – but maybe it’s time for a different kind of heroine.
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