After the huge success of the Harry Potter movies, the overwhelming money-making power of the Twilight franchise, and the gargantuan debut of the first Hunger Games film, it was starting to look like adaptations of Young Adult literature were going to be the new go-to when it came to tentpole filmmaking—the new super hero movie, essentially. The longevity of the YA trend got called into question, however, when The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, which was the first film adaptation of a series of wildly popular YA novels by author Cassandra Clare, came and went at the box office without making so much as a peep. Suddenly studio execs had to start asking themselves a bunch of questions about the future of supernatural love triangles.
Was it possible that the YA craze had come and went already? Was there something about this particular property that didn’t translate as well to the screen as the successes that came before it? Eventually concerns around City of Bones’ sluggish box office returns became so great that production on the sequel, City of Ashes, was halted indefinitely just a week before it was scheduled to begin. That didn’t seem like a good sign for fans who were hoping they’d get movie versions of all three installments of Clare’s initial “Mortal Instruments” trilogy.
A new report out of THR brings good news for fans of director Harold Zwart’s first Mortal Instruments movie though, or at least for fans of Clare’s novels who thought that his film did a good enough job establishing a foundation for sequels to build off of. Apparently Constantin Films has decided to once again push ahead with development on City of Ashes, with the optimistic hope that they could get the project straightened out soon enough to start shooting in 2014.
Why go forward with a sequel to a movie that still hasn’t quite made back its production and advertising budget, even with worldwide grosses added in? Head of Film and TV for Constantin, Martin Moszkowicz, explained, “The fan response, from the blogosphere and the thousands of mails we have received, has encouraged us to keep going. It’s been overwhelmingly positive, in contrast to some other YA titles.”
That’s all well and good, but likely your next question is going to be why it matters that City of Bones received a positive response from fans, if there weren’t enough of those fans who went out to the theaters to make the film a financial success. That’s a good question, but it’s one that Moszkowicz feels could be addressed with better marketing. He went on to say, “We are analyzing what we did wrong with the first film—particularly with the positioning and marketing—and what changes we have to make. We are working with a great group of people to reposition the franchise.” He then added, “The readers of ‘Mortal Instruments’ are older than you might think. That may have been one issue in our marketing, that we focused too much on a very young audience segment.”
Indeed, it may have been something of a problem that the trailers for City of Bones made it look more like a new show that was about to debut on the CW than it did a feature film that was supposed to draw in a demographically broad audience. The original Twilight movie looked similarly low-budget and teen-focused, but that was a property that still developed a rabid fanbase despite the fact that the source novels were poorly written and downright strange in conception. The fact that fans of that series weren’t all that discerning when it came to their beloved books being made into movies isn’t terribly shocking. “The Mortal Instruments,” despite being made up almost exclusively of story elements that are derivative of other successful franchises, was never as poorly written as the Twilights or the Fifty Shades of Greys of the world, so it does seem possible that it could have a more discerning fanbase who would react more positively to a second film that doesn’t look so much like a glossy trifle full of teen models.
But then there are still those original concerns that stopped production on City of Ashes in the first place. The concerns that perhaps this series just doesn’t have that certain je ne sais quoi to pull in a mainstream audience like the YA successes that came before it did, or that maybe we’ve reached the saturation point with YA adaptations and a fatigued public just isn’t going to be willing to start over again with a new series, a new mythology, and a new melodramatic romance.
What do you think? Would taking a more adult approach to City of Ashes make it the box office success that City of Bones wasn’t, or should the people at Constantin just quit while they’re behind and forget about this series entirely?