There have been no shortage of schadenfreude-triggering box office flops this summer, but The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones weekend stumble to an approximately $9.3 million haul initially seems like a mystery. Weren’t Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments books really popular? Doesn’t the story of an angst-ridden teenage girl being sucked into the intrigues of a supernatural world known only to a select few people seem like it would resonate with a certain fanbase? Aren’t movie theaters pretty short on YA entertainment this week?
Film adaptations of popular YA novels seem like a hit-or-miss prospect. Sure, you might end up with a Hunger Games, but you could just as easily be stuck holding a steaming pile of The Host. You can’t really fault studios for wanting to launch the next Twilight-esque franchise, but, as Buzzfeed’s Jordan Zakarin points out, audiences that flocked to the sparkly vampire flicks might be tired of the same themes rehashed over, and over, and over, and over… We get it: vampires, angels, demons, werewolves, and all manner of other supernatural obstacles are, like, metaphors for the many pitfalls of adolescence. Based on the poor showing of The Mortal Instruments, movie audiences seem to be ready for some new metaphors.
Hollywood, however, doesn’t catch on quite so quickly. Writes Zakarin:
And so, if an angst-ridden melodrama about an innocent teen girl who gets sucked into the world of a sexy supernatural Brit sells a lot of books and movie tickets, and earns the attention of pop culture vultures who feign excitement at any “event” that might create clicks and video views from excited fangirls, you can be damn sure that Hollywood will work overtime to re-create that formula again and again.
The Mortal Instruments was greeted with near-universal critical disdain, and probably owing to its unremarkable nature, got sunk into the end-of-August release pit when kids are finally being shaken up out of their summer stupors and pushed back to school. Not every YA franchise can resonate beyond the devoted legion of fans who’ve propelled its cinematic potential to the desks of studio execs, but it seems sort of sad that some YA fans get to see their favorite book characters given thorough consideration, while other YA fans have to suffer through a slapdash adaptation meant to piggyback on the success of other movies.
Image via Getty, Jonathan Leilson