The Mortal Instruments: The movie vs. the book

photoIn the last several years, there has been a growing number of teen fiction book series turned into box-office hits. Following the success of such teen crazes as Harry Potter and The Twilight Saga, there was massive hype over Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series.

Although the books were a colossal success, the movie failed to reach even half the level of success that was expected in the theatres. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones got an abundance of negative reviews and made only $9.3 million on its opening weekend.

This was obviously a major disappointment for the production company, considering the movie had a $60-million production budget. Where did it all go wrong?

It’s inevitable in movies adapted from books: the detail you get from a 500-page novel can’t be matched in a two-hour film.

If you read the book first, this becomes apparent from the start. For one, you don’t get the all-knowing insight into the protagonist’s head. As well, your interpretation of scenes and how they should happen, along with the character’s appearances, is no longer under your control. Often, fans are left disappointed that a character in a movie doesn’t match how they pictured them while reading the book.

These kinds of things will never please anyone, no matter how hard movie producers try. When readers love a book, they are invested in everything that concerns it, especially when it comes to that book being brought to life.

In making the movie, there were a lot of small changes in the way important details where unveiled. But because of the lack of screen time, these couldn’t be fully described in a way that made the story completely understandable to those who hadn’t read the book first.

For those who read the book, these changes created strong opinions, audiences either enjoying or loathing them. Some felt it made the story seem new and fresh, making the movie more exciting. Others wanted to see everything that they imagined while reading the book and these changes disrupted that fantasy. Changes are inevitable though, when it comes to books being adapted for film.

Although the changes in detail might not have been a major flaw, there were others, one of them being the romantic scenes. With the movie mainly aimed at teenagers, these are the scenes that make the audience swoon. These are the scenes that readers pay the most attention to and are the most anticipated.

In the book, they were written with just enough description to paint an intimate, tension-filled atmosphere that kept you holding your breath for just a bit longer. The movie took it a bit far, giving these scenes a corny edge. The tension-filled stares seemed to last just a little too long, and the background music added to the already prevalent ambiance of the scenes: a 1950s mid-kiss feel. This was done, no doubt, in an attempt to increase the longing sighs of pre-teen females around the globe. Instead, it was almost awkwardly humorous, a major contrast to what was intended.

On the other hand, when humour was intended, it came across just as it did in the book as, to the joy of readers, lines were kept as they were originally written. Despite all the comparisons to Twilight, The Mortal Instruments was almost as much a comedy as it was a romance. Despite that, the humour failed to make up for the lack of excitement in the action scenes.

These flaws may have been what caused the disappointing reception for The Mortal Instruments, but it could also be that the teen fantasy romance has run its course over the past decade or so. A sequel to the movie had been announced, but readers and the handful of those who enjoyed the movie should probably quell any hopes of that happening. The odds are not at all in favour of that.

For those wondering whether read the book or watch the movie, it seems that in all situations like this, the book is always the better choice.


  • Avatar
    Reply October 29, 2013

    Kristin Unger

    Another reason was the boycott of the movie by those who believe Cassandra Clare’s series is direct plagiarism from Harry Potter (and other sources). The series started as Harry Potter fanfiction (based around Draco Malfoy). Here’s an informative link on it:

  • Avatar
    Reply December 8, 2013

    Cindy St-Laurent

    I honestly love the book series and I am currently reading it right now. I definitely didn’t think the movie was as good but at the same time it didn’t disappoint me as much as it seems to have disappointed a bunch of other people. I do admit that the romance was definitely more cheesy but thats not even the reason I liked the book in the first place, and it is to be expected when it is meant for a young teenage audience. I do agree though that the book will always be better.

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