Shadowhunters Pilot: The Mortal Cup – Killing it Softly

Shadowhunters, the new Young Adult adaptation of Cassandra Claire’s popular The Mortal Instruments series has its season one pilot airing on ABC’s new Freeform and as pilots go, it is killing it softly with its song…sort of.

Shadowhunters, the new adaptation of Cassandra Claire’s popular Young Adult The Mortal Instruments series has its season one pilot, The Mortal Cup, airing on ABC’s new Freeform and as pilots go, it is killing it softly with its song…sort of. Initial complaints thus far have been from “fangirls” of the franchise who a) did not like the big screen adaptation and b) want the McG directed opener to be more like the books.

Admittedly, this reviewer has not read the source material but after watching The Maze Runner big screen adaptation (once the entire trilogy by James Dashner was ingested in a couple of long sittings) the lesson was learned. Do not watch a film (or television) adaptation of a literary effort that blows the reader away. Especially YA tales that are good enough to bring the reader back to “that place” no matter how long ago it was.

Sidenote: The same rule applies with any Stephen King adaptation, with the except of a couple of offerings…

Claire has a firm fanbase, however, so all will most likely approach the new series with all the passion of any fangirl/boy.  The premise is one that any young adult, or old one with a great memory, will be attracted to.

Clary Fray (Katherine McNamara) learns, on her 18th birthday, that she has unique and magical powers and is indeed very special, not just a normal teenager who can now vote and legally drink in some states.  The very idea of being more than the sum of all your parts is pretty addictive stuff to any reader. 

Memory messing mother and daughter, Jocelyn and Clary Frey

Fray, as a child, had her memory wiped by a powerful man, at the behest of mommy, and while out on her birthday celebrations, she sees demons and those who hunt them. It seems the memory cleanse only lasted until her 18th.

As mentioned by at least two reviewers, the pilot is clunky, but that is based upon comparisons to the source material, never a good idea.  In reality, once the adaptation is aired the fans of the books should just be happy that none of the characters were lost or that two, or more, were merged into one.

(Or worse, a new one invented to satisfy the adapting screenwriter’s hubris…)

Other complaints have to do with the “cheesy” special effects. To be fair, the biggest problems with the pilot effects were their unevenness. Some looked pretty acceptable, for example  the riff on the old “Buffy dusting” technique (an amping up  of the process to where the demons disappear not in a flash of ash but sparks of fiery light) and from certain angles the “white” swords that “glow” like a Toys R Us light sabre,  look pretty cool.

Dominic Sherwood is fan fave Jace Wayland…

On a sidenote, the blades retract and only come out when grabbed by a Shadowhunter. The whole thing is vaguely reminiscent of the 2003 action/adventure/comedy Vampire Effect and the swords welded by vampire hunters Reeve, Lila and Gypsy…

Fangirl complaints and similarities aside, Shadowhunters looks very promising. The show’s opening sequence is brilliant. Great musical score, action that captures the eye and some good looking young people “stalking” their target.

Once the catchy opening is through we meet Clary (McNamara) and her mother Jocelyn (Maxim Roy) along with good friend Simon (Alberto Rosende) who is, despite being a musician, a bit of a “stick in the mud.”

The Shadowhunters themselves are introduced, Jace (Sherwood) by bumping into the heroine Clary and when she can see him, it understandably freaks him out a little. The rest are brought into Fray’s sightline after the big demon slaying at the Pandemonium nightclub.

Clary and Jace meet…

Before the end credits roll, Jocelyn goes missing, a family friend appears to be a villain (cop pal Luke Garroway, played by Isaiah Mustafa) and a powerful magician; Magnus Bane (Harry Shum Jr) makes his presence known.

Clary Fray learns about glamours, runes, magic, demons and an invisible world that she can see but her friends cannot.

All in all, the pilot, which airs January 12 on the new ABC Freeform channel, does move a little softly, and admittedly with some hiccups on the way, toward a promising start to a new YA based series. Clearly, fans of Cassandra Claire’s books will be rushing to both watch and rate this latest adaptation of her work.

Tune in and see what you think of this version of Claire’s verse and characters. Without reading the books, this reviewer found that despite the “clunk” it was pleasing to watch and further episodes are now eagerly awaited.

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

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