Before I continue, please remember these thoughts and views are my own, and do not reflect those of anyone other than myself. Feel free to disagree with my take on the show, as differing opinions are what make the world go round in such a colorful way. But please voice your opinions in a respectful way, as I intend to do with my review.
With the niceties out of the way, shall I begin?
For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the premise of the show, I will give you a little run down to start. It is based on the spectacularly popular Cassandra Clare novels, City of Bones, City of Ash, City of Glass, etc, etc. They have the typical young girl, Clary, who thinks shes normal and boring, only to find out that she is actually from a line of demon hunters, called Shadowhunters. There are vampires, warlocks, werewolves and the like, but mainly, it is a love story between this 'ordinary girl' finding her way in this world and the catalyst to her discovery, the charming, self appreciative and descriptively stunning Jace (along with cohorts Alec and Isabelle). Its all fun and games, saving the world, combating a returned-from-the-dead father hell bent on taking over the world, being told her and Jace are brother and sister (only to discover several books later that was a lie...the broken make the best followers...), discovering her true brother who is just as much of a psychopath as her father, a little threatening of world safety, a visit to hell, and back again. All in all, good times had by all.
Like most popular young adult literary series, the books were slated to be made in to motion pictures. The first, the Mortal Instruments starring Lily Collins as Clary and Jamie Campbell Bower in the role of Jace, was a fun watch, but as with most book-to-film adaptations, some changes were too far from the line and left me frustrated. It would seem I wasnt the only one less than impressed, as the movie failed to recoup its budget, and the rest of the films were dropped.
Now, I need to start off by saying I love, love, LOVE these books. I read them all a while ago, buying the final instalment, City of Heavenly Fire, not long after it came out. But as I usually have a rule of not reading others works while writing my own, it sat in my bedroom for months before I read it during my writing hiatus. I found myself thrown back in to the world of demons and angels, and loved every minute of it to the point where I am re-reading the series even while writing my current novel.
So, when I heard that the series was now going to be made in to a TV series, I was irrationally excited. I was counting down the days until the premiere, with reminders in my phone, and my night from work cleared. I was irritated beyond belief to find out it wasnt aired in Canada on premiere night January 12, but found it on NetFlix not long after. Oh joy!
And therefore, that was my indulgence last night. My reward for writing a new chapter for my own work, I let myself get lost in the world of Clare's masterpiece. But the excitement was short lived, as within the first few minutes, I was already thinking 'Well, that isnt right'...or 'nope, wrong'...and alot of 'are you f*cking kidding me'. Only ten minutes in, and I found myself anxious for it to end.
Here is a little run down
- Clary - Katherine McNamara is a perfect fit for this character. She is pretty, without being stunning, much like Clary is described in the book. Very natural, and I found myself liking her quickly
- The settings - Shot in Toronto, I loved the use of the spaces they chose. As a Toronto native myself, I found myself excitedly watching for areas and neighbourhoods I knew, such as the distillery district. As the books are set in New York City, the use of these spaces was well done, and fit the scenes well
- General casting - overall, I felt the casting was well suited. All readers of the books have preconceived notions of how these characters look, and generally, I felt the choices they made in the main staples were pretty good. Not amazing, but good. Although, I was annoyed at the lack of 'Hodge', the Shadowhunter tutor, and eventual trust breaker.
- Dialogue - It wasnt long before I was groaning 'oh for the love of God' and cringing at the unrealistic and contrived exchanges between basically every character in the show. The conversations in the book are natural and real, which is part of its draw. It makes you feel connected, as the characters talk the talk of the people, so to speak. The TV show...not so much.
- Exaggerations - For those familiar with the books, you will now that Shadowhunters are not just normal humans. Runes etched on their skin give them a little kick, such as strength, sure footedness, and even invisibility from the mundanes (normal human folk). But the show pushes it a little further, immediately having the mains jumping tall buildings, skittering so fast they are no more than a blur, and other exaggerations that were the first things to put me off the show...all within the first few minutes
- The Institute - in the novels, the home base for these demon destroyers is a cross between an impressive and regal church mixed against a freaky sort of boarding school. Training rooms, dorms, weapons rooms...all within the confines of the Institute, which is overseen by Alec and Izzys parents. The main characters and their direct relatives are the only ones who live in this haven for the saviours, and its barren status is part of the storyline. They are running out of Shadowhunters...the world will be doomed! However, TV show features a full house of sorts; Shadowhunters with high tech gear, surveillance equipment etc. Another MAJOR faux pas in my opinion
- Pace - Anyone want to play 'How Many Characters Can We Fit in to One Hour?' Because that is exactly what this first episode felt like. You are introduced to so many characters, you cant keep them straight. Include trying to fit in all their personalities, characteristics, hints at future connections, and links to each other, I was spinning and I already knew the story!
- Chernobyl - Okay, but really? Do I even need to say anything else here? The appearance of Clary (and for a short time, Jace) father, Valentine, is supposed to be at the end of the first book, after a betrayal by their trusted tutor and confidant, Hodge. The lack of Hodge seems to only make it necessary to introduce evil ol Val early on, hiding out in the ruins of the most famous nuclear disaster in history. *droll applause*
- Maureen - Another part of the show where I was left groaning. Book Maureen is a thirteen year old girl obsessed with Simon (Clary's mundane best friend turned vampire turned back in to mundane turned Shadowhunter trainee). Maureen gets turned into a vampire, like Simon, which causes her to go a little coo-coo. But in the show, she is of equal age, friends and bandmates with Simon, and hopelessly in love with him (just as Simon is with Clary). Aw, unrequited love...
There are so many other things I could point out / complain about with this show that I could have a Guiness Book of World Record length blog post about it all, but I will stop here.
Overall, my high hopes for this show were dashed quickly and thoroughly. I was relieved when it was over, feeling a strange mixture of annoyance and sorrow at how Hollywood could take yet another fool proof money maker and bugger it right up.
What did we learn, kids?
When you're handed a book loved by millions, just stick to it. You're given the plot, the dialogue, the scenes and the settings. Dont stray from what readers love, dont take out essentials, dont add your own flare. You've been handed a completed work. USE IT!