ShadowHunters – The Way Things Go…

‘A sloppily handled pilot that is more congested than morning traffic into the city, with some points of humour and good acting. Tentatively watching its progress.’


Two episodes of ShadowHunters is now out in TV and on the web. I was going to do a pilot review, but as I was plotting out the points in my head, it sounded like I only had negative things to talk about it (which I do), and I wanted to watch another episode before I make a review.
Here’s my review for the movie adaptation of the ShadowHunters novel series.

I do not owe allegiance to the fandom of ShadowHunters in any form, whether it’s the books, the franchise or the movies. I like what I like – deal with it.

CASTING


Clary Fray/ Fairchild

Clary Fray, played by Lily Collins
Clary Fray, played by Kat McNamara
She is often said to look almost exactly like Jocelyn—with their green eyes, curly red hair, slender figure, small chest and narrow hips—though she does not see it, nor does she see the beauty others often see in her. There was a time when Clary felt herself to be a smaller, less beautiful, and more childlike version of her mother, although most people disagree. She is quite short, just a little over five feet tall, has hair she considers carrot-colored, and “a face full of freckles.”
– Excerpt from ShadowHunters Wikia
First of all, I don’t hate the casting for the TV series. I’m not really that connected into Twitter, so I don’t know what’s the majority consensus on the casting, so I’m just putting this first. I had some misgivings, back in Dec ’15, when I found out, but that was because I couldn’t remember what Clary was supposed to look like, and I couldn’t picture – or knew McNamara – as Clary.
Both actresses work well considering the description Cassandra Clare gave. I’ve always found this very Mary Sue of YA fiction authors – unconscious of how pretty they are – something I try very hard to avoid in my current style of writing.  As a side note, I read the first arc (the first three books of the series) and gave up on the books. Clary, as I recall, rubbed me wrong, and I just didn’t feel that this was my cup of tea. I also didn’t read Divergent, which by my friend’s recommendation, became really bad towards the end (I read the ending just to see how it was, and also the synopsis of the three books and a sample of the first book.) But I watched the movie adaptation of both series.
I just found that McNamara’s character, even with two eps under my belt, was very stripped. She was very cookie cutter, and I wish the writers had injected more into the character. I haven’t seen any of McNamara’s work – in the works with Scorch Trials – so I will not comment on her acting.
I don’t mind the orange-ness of McNamara’s hair, which she explained in the special before the pilot’s premiere (though I am not so pleased that they had to explain everything to us audience like we can’t google and find out on our own.)
For more about plot, scroll down.
Jace Wayland/Morgenstern/ Herondale/ Lightwood

 

Jace Wayland, played by Jamie Campbell Bower
Jace Wayland, played by Dominic Sherwood
Jace is known for and has a strong title for his good looks. He is described as having fine, curly, golden blond hair, long eyelashes, and eyes that look gold in the light, due to the magical experiments performed on him and the angel blood in his veins. He has a slim, muscular build and is about 5’11” in height. His face is often described as being beautiful, sexy, gorgeous and angular and Clary often refers to him as beautiful and leonine, with a narrow mouth. Like all other Shadowhunters, he is covered in thin, silver scars from years of applying various magical runes with a stele for battle and healing purposes, as well as permanent runes that look like tattoos.
The only flaw in his face, as Clary has noticed, is the slight chip in his incisor teeth. Clary is said to be relieved by this as it is a proof that he is not that inhumanly handsome and perfect.
–  Except from ShadowHunters Wikia
I love the two Jaces for entirely different reasons. For Jamie Campbell Bower, this was his breakout role to me. Before this, I didn’t know him as more than Caius and Gellert Grindelwald (although the latter was more of a bit role, I always wondered who the dude was.) I also picked up Camelot, from Starz Originals. I didn’t watch all of it, but it got me into a phase where all I thought about was Camelot – even re-watched Mists of Avalon because of it.

I really liked the snarkiness of Jamie’s Jace, and the way he portrayed the character. I re-watch City of Bones just to listen and watch him. Jamie’s not been on the news or the movie scene, since he recently modelled for Burberry, and I’m just waiting for his next work. I also like how Jamie’s look is so similar to what I saw for Jace – that very leonine, charismatic look with his narrow face and strong nose, the wild blonde hair that looked like he’d just done a backflip and stabbed a vampire.

 

For Dominic, he caught my eye in Vampire Academy – review here (sorry about the pictures, I took them from the web and they have been taken down in the web, so will put in pictures soon!) I felt that he worked very well with what he got – which was the snarkier, moody vampire. I didn’t put this down in the review, but I really looked forward to his future acting.  Now I get to see him in Shadowhunters! :))

Dominic has sectoral heterochromia – a scientific term for his brown and blue eyes. It gives Jace a very two-sided, unusual look to him, like he’s between worlds. He’s a little too cookie-cutter handsome for Jace, but those eyes and his acting sealed the deal.

I haven’t seen much of Dominic as Jace – partly because of the excess plotlines jammed into the pilot IMHO – but what I have seen,  I liked. There’s an obvious difference between Jamie and Dominic’s Jace – in the fact that Jamie’s came across as much darker due to the time constraint and also the actor’s choice for the movie. Dominic’s felt more like a natural graduation and feeling of getting to know the character, which I really liked. There’s a point in Ep 2 where Jace and Clary actually talk outside of establishing the fact that Clary can see stuff others can’t, spoilers; about Clary wanting to jump out into the world to find her mom and Jace revealing his past. It was good – McNamara was trying her best here, but Dominic outshines her. I want to see more of Dominic’s Jace, and it is definitely something I would recommend others to look out for when they watch ShadowHunters.
And here was the one point that really got to me.
Valentine Morgenstern
At six feet tall, Valentine was described as a formidable man with a wide chest and thick muscular arms. Considered handsome and good-looking, Valentine had an almost triangular face with a hard, pointed chin, black eyes, and hair so fair it was nearly white.
Lucius Malfoy, played by Jason Isaacs

 

ShadowHunters’ Valentine Morgenstern

 

City of Bones’ Valentine Morgenstern
I don’t mind character changes when it benefit the series on the whole. I had gripes with the casting of Jonathan Rhys Meyers, but only because he didn’t fit my ideal of Valentine, but not with his acting.
I have big ones with Freeform’s Valentine. For plot reasons, please scroll to the bottom of plot. First of all, he is not terrifying in all of the five minutes that he was on screen. He doesn’t have the presence, and just came off as a jerk.
PLOT
Courtesy of shadowhunterstv.com
When the tongue in cheek moment becomes the review of the pilot.

 

I really do not like the way the pilot went. This is coming from a creative writing course student to-be-graduate. I studied at least basic scriptwriting and basic film-work, so I can say this is not how a pilot works. 
I will admit that the problem with Cassandra Clare’s work is that it is a big universe. There are vampires, werewolves, the Nephilim, runes, angels and tattoos. It’s not quite as big as Buffy, but it does take considerable space and explanation.
BUT.
You don’t need to tell the whole plot line of the first book in ONE EPISODE.
I’m using what my teachers taught me to illustrate good (script)writing. Most movie critics, and movie geeks and movie fans, should already know/realise this.
What is good writing?
– You are emotionally involved with the characters
– You want to know what happens next
– You are surprised
– It’s clever
– It’s about something
And this is what a pilot should be.
What do you need to achieve in the first episode?
– Set up
— Story world
— Premise
— Main characters
— Relationships
— Inciting incident

 

– You still need your ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C’ plot.
The pilot was like the tv version of City of Bones, except slightly worse. You could tell that they were trying to set up the entire world in one ep, when it could be done in a slower, less hammy way. It didn’t feel organic, like ‘Oh, so she did this, and met him, then went there, and found out this.’ It just jumped from character to character to character until you become dizzy with it, and it’s so fast, with so much character that the most each character gets of screen time is a scene and a line (unless you happen to be the Shadowhunters).
Clary (and as a result, McNamara), was stripped of any actual character. With Lily Collin’s, Constantin Film, Don Carmody and the scriptwriters, there was much more fire with Clary – one example is when Clary confronts Alec, and also talks about homosexuality. But this is early yet in the series, and I can only hope that the scriptwriters actually do pick up the slack in later eps.
The love triangle was badly handled – the Simon-Clary tv romance was sloppy compared to the film version. Flashbacks are used sloppily – they could have easily been cut out, or used at a later date, or expanded to not just make the pilot better/be fillers. Flashbacks, montages, slow-mo – these are all signatures of filming. It can be good, but it can also be bad. I can’t talk about the slow-mo here, but you can scroll down to read more about it in CGI & Effects.
The fact that the pilot had flashbacks, montages and slow-mo shows how good/bad it is. Pilots have to set up the world (meaning story world and premise), and characters. Somehow the pilot manages to also squeeze in an A and B plot. I feel that Clary being accepted into an arts program isn’t a big thing compared to everything else, although it does set up the ‘normal’ world.
And because of how much is jammed into the first ep, I feel that the pilot, plot and characters all suffer from it. At least the film version took time to establish each character, gave them (characters and actors) breathing room to play and didn’t feel like you need to rewatch everything just to get things straight (I didn’t, but that’s because I have read the books, watched the movie, and done my research).
They even managed to squeeze in Valentine, who goes boo and disappears.
Were they trying for a Game of Thrones thing??? Even they had enough sense to separate clearly each side of the narrative, and they also have the benefit of representing each side clearly, not just from character but visually. The pilot feels congested and ep 2 reduces that but is still not good. I bet if they just shaved off most of the adult scenes (Valentine, Luke and Jocelyn) and also the flashbacks, there would have been enough time for actual character development.
The only good things are Isabelle, Alec and Jace. I can’t say much about them since (a), two out of three are newbies to big shows, (b), I haven’t seen enough to be able to judge their acting, and (c) the series is only in the early days.
What I can say is that the camaraderie is good and there’s chemistry. I particularly like the ribbing between Alec and Isabelle. It’s natural, and makes me care more about them.
CGI & EFFECTS
City of Bones – Runes
Shadowhunters – Runes
There was some explanation included on why the runes look different on tv. It’s an iffy point for me, because on one hand, I understand the look and appreciate the tv show actually explaining and showing how the difference affects their impression of shadowhunters.

I feel that it loses the ideal of tattoos, becoming more tribal as it looks like burns on the body. I like that it’s invisible unless activated by a stele, but the look just turns me off.

City of Bones – Sword
ShadowHunters – Seraph Blade (essentially the same thing)

 

I do find the look of the swords tackier than those in the film version, but also more practical. The sword is retractable, which means it can be easily disguised and cops won’t know what it really is. It loses its cool factor, but has a practical factor, which makes it better.

The CGI is decent considering that it’s a tv series. It doesn’t have the green-screen feel that some shows have. I’m not much of a CGI geek, I just want things to not look fake and take me out of just watching the show.

Figure I’ll put this since it’s funny XD

Shout out to Matthew Daddario! Looking forward to more shows from you!

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