Shadowhunters: From Pages to the Big Screen Back to Pages Then to the Small Screen

It’s no secret that the Mortal Instruments big screen adaptation was a major fail. I’ll be honest, I didn’t even see it and I’m a huge fan of the books. The trailers didn’t make it seem right and the casting…well, the casting directors obviously never read the books. 

So naturally I was very interested when Freeform announced they would be creating a TV version called Shadowhunters. I was nervous, and still am, about this adaptation. Freeform (aka ABC Family) is basically the big brother of Disney Channel, which typically means exaggerated acting and somewhat cheesy graphics.

I eagerly tuned in last week and was pleasantly surprised. The characters aren’t quite the same, the plot is very mixed up but reasonable, and the acting wasn’t cringeworthy…yet. Flash forward to this week and I’ll be honest, the cheese factor increased a smidge and the acting was so-so. But as I’m not an actor, I won’t focus on that. What I’d like to do is give you an idea of what it takes to go from a book to a movie, or book to a TV show. 

I hate to break it to you, but it’s impossible to create on screen what you have in your head. Graphics just aren’t that good yet and writing word for word from the book is just crazy. Writers are constantly having the dialogue beaten out of them. Go back through the last book you read (the last three Harry Potter books don’t count) and see how much is dialogue and how much is narration. Emphasis in novel writing is placed on the latter, whereas with TV, it’s the former. So no matter what, the adaptation from one to the other will not be exact. 

Another non-issue I’ve had with the series is how out of order it is with the books, until I discovered season one alone is going to cover books 1-3, which I felt was a little ambitious, but if fear of cancellation is on their mind then I get their point. Be patient with the writers of TV shows and movies. Things like order often translate better one way in text and another on screen. Not to mention certain plot points have to hit at certain time stamps on screen. Let me put it to you this way, while books and movies and TV shows may all be entertainment, they are not written the same or produced the same.

I encourage you to test this out for yourself. Read at least the first three books of the Mortal Instruments series and then watch the TV show (I don’t recommend watching the movie). What differences do you see just in the first two episodes? Why do you think they made these changes going from one format to another?

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