Sunday, March 13, 2016

Shadowhunters vs. City of Bones - Which is the better The Mortal Instruments adaptation?

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I'll be using three categories to determine which one's the better adaptation. Characters, Artistic Freedom, and What if you haven't read the books.

May the best man win.

SMACKDOWN!

  • Characters

What I find most striking about Shadowhunters is that the characters just seem more alive. Instead of rushing through explaining all the lore like they did in City of Bones, the individual characters really have the time to shine. Side characters like Simon Lewis and Alec Lightwood really, really get to gain sympathy points with witty one-liners. Point for Shadowhunters.

Another positive aspect that probably just comes from the fact that it's a TV series is that side characters exist! Maryse Lightwood, Raphael, Camille, etc. YES to seeing more beloved characters on screen! Point for Shadowhunters.

The main romantic couple in the series, Jace and Clary, again have to carry the narrative, but I think that City of Bones did this a little better. There is just no chemistry between Dominic Sherwood and Katherine McNamara, at least not to the extent that Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower had.
Point for City of Bones.

The other couple, which if often absolutely forgotten - Simon and Clary are pretty much just as great together in both adaptations. I absolutely love the actors' dynamics and sympathize with both Simons! Points for City of Bones and Shadowhunters.

City of Bones: 2 
Shadowhunters: 3

  • Artistic Freedom

What City of Bones completely seemed to disregard is the possibility of putting a unique spin on it all. Shadowhunters absolutely convinces me that Luke definitely should be a police officer and that the Lightwood siblings could definitely be hispanic. Generally so much more ethnic diversity. Point for Shadowhunters.

With a unique spin and some alterations to the story come also things that just didn't work. For example putting Valentine's hideout in Chernobyl for absolutely no reason and having all Circle members walk around in black suits like the men in black. Just no. Too cliche. Point for City of Bones.

City of Bones: 3
Shadowhunters: 4

  • What if you haven't read the books?

This is the one question I kept asking myself. As someone who knows their way around this series, it was fairly easy for me to keep up. But I watched the first episode with a friend who had never heard of either Cassandra Clare or The Mortal Instruments before, and she almost fell asleep during Shadowhunters
On the surface, it is an impeccable new interpretation of the characters we all know and love but UTTERLY fails at piquing the interest of anyone who hasn't heard of the TMI universe before. 

Why is that? 

First off - lingo. So many things remain unexplained, like the titular Mortal Cup from the first episode. It's just briefly explained what it does in one sentence, just like the descent into the City of Bones in the second episode. It's all rushed, which is just a shame considering that they DO have the time to explain everything in detail. Though City of Bones had a similar problem, they simply solved it by omitting. Take notes, Shadowhunters.

Secondly - taking relationships for granted. The reason why I said earlier I don't think Jace and Clary have any chemistry in Shadowhunters. This isn't due to the actors' lack thereof. It's because there is hardly any reason for Clary to trust him so quickly and so completely, and basically move in with him after exchanging two sentences. Someone who hasn't read the books will just raise their eyebrows at their quick relationship progression, not get invested in the show, and consequently not watch the next episode.

Thirdly- suspense. There is no reason for anyone to care about these characters! So many people get introduced so quickly and someone who has no idea what shadowhunters are will be even more confused having to keep up with the personalities of Clary, Simon, and the shadowhunter gang. If you don't care about what's going on, cliffhangers just don't work.

To illustrate, my friend's reaction to the reveal that Valentine is the father of Jocelyn's child/Clary at the end of episode one was "Who is Jocelyn again?"

So what does City of Bones do better?
Omission!
  • They just completely left out Isabelle and Alec and just gave them basically extra roles. 
  • They don't bother to explain what The Circle is, really
  • They didn't try to give the characters depth through flashbacks that come out of nowhere
Of course, this is frustrating for people who are already in love with the TMI universe, but they aren't really the target audience anyway, are they? Fans of the books will watch the show no matter how terrible or good it turns out to be.
But this show will only keep on getting renewed for a next season if it manages to at least pique the interest of some people who don't know anything about TMI.

So therefore, point for City of Bones.


End count: 
City of Bones: 4
Shadowhunters 4

To sum up

I don't think there's a clear winner here. There'll always be something to criticize with every adaptation of Cassandra Clare's books we get and to be honest, I like both in their own ways. 

City of Bones works as a nice little entertaining movie that you'll forget the second you've finished, and Shadowhunters is just hilarious with Alec's witty comments and the awkward special effects.
They're both not perfect, but definitely not bad either.

Which adaptation do you like better? 

City of Bones or Shadowhunters?

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