WHY THE SHADOWHUNTER WORLD DOESN’T TRANSLATE WELL TO THE SCREEN & WHY I THINK IT SHOULD // AKA. THE SCREEN MAJOR IN ME POPPED OUT AND I HAVE THOUGHTS | A DISCUSSION

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Just a heads up, there are going to be spoilers for all of Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter books & the movie + show! There will also most likely be spoilers in the comments!Β You’ve been warned!

Hi everyone, welcome back to my blog! Today I’m coming at you with a long discussion-chatty type post so please buckle up, grab some snacks and prepare to really tell me what you think in the comments section because today we’re discussing the Shadowhunter tv show & movie!

Remember, this is a discussion post so I do really want to know your opinions, so please let me know all your thoughts in the comments! (I love long comments so don’t be afraid!)

[Disclaimer: These are just my opinions, you’re entitled to your own and that’s okay!]

You can find my reviews of the Shadowhunter books here.

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Whenever I read one of CC’s books I always think about how they would translate to screen because they read easily that way. But, I don’t know how to talk about it really, because there’s been a movie and it wasn’t very good &/or didn’t perform very well (take your pick) and there was a rather successful show which would have gotten a season 4 (FreeForm cancelled it, Netflix wanted to renew) but unfortunately fell victim to a pretty ordinary script, bad special effects, and without sounding too harsh, rather rude (if I’m putting it nicely) fans of the books. So, how do I talk about content I think would be really interesting if adapted, but has already been adapted twice and quote-un-quote “failed” both times???

Shadowhunters Season 1 TrailerΒ vsΒ City of Bones Movie Trailer

General Thoughts

Based on the trailers: I prefer the look of the show

Based on the trailers, having read the books: I think it really depends on your perception of the characters and whether you’re okay with race-bending but I mostly prefer the casting of the show over the movie, especially for the Lightwood siblings. However, I want to add that I’ve never enjoyed either portrayal of Jace, but that I also wasn’t a big fan of him in the books either so that probably has a lot to do with it.

The Movie (2013)

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Poster

  • Clary has a great wardrobe, the colours go really well with her hair.
  • Clary’s hair looks like a bad non-permanent box dye
  • Better special effects
  • More “well known” actors aka. Lily Collins and the guy from Twilight
  • 2 hours, 10 minutes of screen time.

The TV Show (2016 – 2019)

Shadowhunters Poster

  • I don’t really like Clary’s hair here either but tbh, it’s a lot better than the movie and I know they did put a lot of time into picking a hair colour so I’m okay with it.
  • Less well known/experienced cast but that should never be a reason not to watch something.
  • Interesting background colouring – I’m not really a fan of it because it kind of looks like they’re constantly surrounded by neon lights but whatever.
  • I think you can get to know the characters a lot better in the show than you did the movie – you have more time to get to know them and the writers were okay with some episodes being more about the characters than the story – whether that was a good choice or not.
  • 3 seasons, 53 episodes (all roughly 40-45ism minutes long)

Should it be a show or a movie?

Well, I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and what I’ve decided (and remember, this is all my opinion and you’re allowed to think something different) is this: I think the story is better suited to something similar to what they did with A Discovery of Witches. ADOW was a 3 book series and so got 3 seasons, with 8 episodes each. It was paced evenly and written well enough that there was nothing unimportant left out and you still had enough time to connect to the characters and get to know them, and you could also easily follow and understand the plot and story. Also, an important factor in watching tv these days – it is incredibly easy to binge-watch or even watch over a night or two because there are only 8 episodes per season.

I think that, if anyone were to ever try again with the Shadowhunter books and this world in general, in order for it to succeed, they should try a 4-8 episode structure per book, any more than that and, as we’ve seen with the show, it all gets a bit muddled and they start taking plots from random books and inserting them where they think they’ll fit – a bit like a broken puzzle. It doesn’t quite fit but it’ll do for the moment, which is obviously a flawed method, which any of my fellow puzzle enthusiasts can attest to (no? Just me? Okay, I’ll move on).

↣ On that note would you want another subscription service to try and re-do The Mortal Instruments or would you prefer if they tried something different like the prequel series, The Infernal Devices? OR, would you rather they just leave this world alone entirely?

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What would I change? What would I keep the same?

I think this is where it all starts to fall apart. The Shadowhunter World has been around for a long time, with the first book, City of Bones having been published in 2007, so the books have gained a rather impressive fan base. It is for that reason that I really think that no one should have ever tried to touch the series but I digress… The movie was more book-accurate and to this day, has it’s fans. Whereas, the show took *many* liberties. They race-bent Luke (which I am totally okay with πŸ‘‹πŸ‘‹πŸ‘‹Β Hi, Isaiah Mustafa!!) and changed *a few* plot points along the way. But, at the same time, many (many) people still watched the show, and in fact, the show even brought more fans to the table.

So, what now? You’ve got fans taking up a large portion of the viewership – do you please them (show) or stay more faithful to the original source material (movie)?

Well, I think, like all things, a fine balance in the middle is the best thing to do. I like the new*er* trend of race/ethnicity-bending in media and I would love to see that continue. And, I also quite liked some of the changes the show made, for example, the season 3 finale. I was a big fan of all those character changes and quite preferred them to how the last Mortal Instruments book ended (sorry, not sorry).

The answer, I think, is pretty simple. You can’t please everyone so go for a 50/50 split and if that sometimes ends up 60/40 or 70/30 so be it. It’s an adaptation so there will always be changes from the original books and that’s okay, as long as it lives up to that original material or betters it I don’t think it should be an issue. For example, Isaiah Mustafa (πŸ‘‹πŸ‘‹πŸ‘‹ Hi, Isaiah!!)

I know this is a really big topic and I’m just one voice of many, so I’m really interested to see what you guys think about everything I’ve said. What would you change/keep the same? Have I said anything that made you shake your head and curse my name? Did you prefer the movie over the show or are you indifferent? Do you think the Shadowhunter World shouldn’t be on-screen at all? Did you just come here looking for pictures of Isaiah Mustafa?

BUT on that note, here is where I think they’ve gone wrong in the past & what I would change:

There needs to be more focus on character depth & development and less focus on the romance. Yes, of course, romance is a big part of the books and the development of the characters. But, I think eventually it took over the show with Malec being the only thing many viewers were actually tuning in to see. Which is great in terms of LGBTQ+ representation but bad in terms of scriptwriting and the other cast members/characters.

There also needs to be more emphasis on plot twists and developments of that sort – in the books these reveals are supposed to change everything but they’ve never felt like that onscreen – the audience needs to really connect to the characters which I feel the show did succeed more with than the movie. That being said, it took them a while to get there and I don’t think they fully succeeded because some characters got A LOT more screen-time than others.

AND MY LAST POINT: I feel like the reason CC’s books have never reached their full potential on-screen is because the books are actually quite gory and the show & movie never really displayed that. The fight scenes in the books are intense and not show-offy and the deaths are brutal and gritty. I think what future adaptations (of any of the stories in this world) really need to do, is lean into the fact that these characters live in a paranormal world and that they are literal hunters, it’s in the name. They’re fighters, they’re warriors, they’re trained, professional killers and that’s what I really want to see.

Maybe the show would have done better if Netflix had gone darker (plot/gore) instead of focusing on a romance plot most people skipped over anyway (excepting Malec, of course). Just a thought (please nobody kill me).

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I know this is a really big topic and I’m just one voice of many, so I’m really interested to see what you guys think about everything I’ve said.

  • What would you change/keep the same?
  • Have I said anything that made you shake your head and curse my name?
  • Did you prefer the movie over the show or are you indifferent?
  • Do you think the Shadowhunter World shouldn’t be on-screen at all?
  • Did you just come here looking for pictures of Isaiah Mustafa?

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4 thoughts on “WHY THE SHADOWHUNTER WORLD DOESN’T TRANSLATE WELL TO THE SCREEN & WHY I THINK IT SHOULD // AKA. THE SCREEN MAJOR IN ME POPPED OUT AND I HAVE THOUGHTS | A DISCUSSION

  1. This is an interesting post, Ellyn! I am one of the few people who actually prefer the movie compared to the show, I found the cast suits the characters better (except Alec, it’s really obvious he’s not a teenager 😬) and it captures the “normal world with an ancient underground supernatural one” vibe of the book. Well, not technically ancient, but they don’t really adapt to modern technology and the Institute in the show is like an Avenger HQ instead of a gothic, old, but still a huge home with training room we got from the books πŸ˜‚

    But I do agree the show format captures the story better, because the shadowhunters world has so much complexities and elements and development, even from the first book. It’s going to be hard to move the plot and makes us care to the characters in 2 hours. As for casting, I honestly don’t have a problem if they decided to race/gender bend a character. And I also agree on your comment regarding fight scenes; I have to admit CC is one of the best fight scenes writer, it’s always intense and tactical and filled with deaths, but still connects with you emotionally. I think this is because they use the parabatai system, where our mc is fighting for themselves AND tracking their parabatai movements. This is not something that translates well to screen and take out the emotional value of it since we can’t get into the characters head and see how they divide themselves in the moment.

    Anyways, I’m probably rambling haha but I love this post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’m not a fan of the movie but I think I might have learned to love it if we’d got a sequel since that’s how I became a fan of the show! Haha yeah, I think 100% the Alec in the show was better but I think Lily Collins was better as Clary! Yes, I agree! The movie definitely captured the world better, I always thought it was weird how the show portrayed the world and the differences between the shadow and Mundane worlds! Haha, yes, what was with the Avengers tech thing???

      I usually think that a show format suits a longer series better but I wish we’d gotten a movie sequel since I know so many people loved the movies!
      I love the fight scenes in the books so I wish they’d gone all-in with them in the show and movie! but that might have been too gory for the audience they were marketing them for! I agree I wish there was a visual way to show the parabatai connection!

      Haha, you weren’t rambling!! I’m glad you enjoyed the post, thank you so much for commenting. I loved reading your thoughts! πŸ’–πŸ’–

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