Why Shadowhunters Is Going To Be So Much Better Than The Movie

Photo: Moviestore/REX Shutterstock.
"Admirers of Philip Pullman's 1995 His Dark Materials trilogy think the film guts the backbone of the book. Me, I just think it blows," is how Rolling Stone's Peter Travers eloquently summed up his feelings about the The Golden Compass, the adaptation of the lauded young adult fantasy novel by Philip Pullman. But His Dark Materials (the name of the trilogy) is getting a second chance to be reimagined, this time as a series on the BBC. And it isn't the only fantasy series looking for TV redemption.

Less than a couple years after The Mortal Instruments film was panned and slunk out of theaters — after disappointing fans of the immensely popular Cassandra Clare YA series — the books are getting a TV show, Shadowhunters, on ABC Family. Could a serialized format be what these fantasy worlds need to tell their stories?

A big screen version of the His Dark Materials series made perfect sense when it was released at the end of 2007. It became part of a film landscape where six Harry Potter films dominated the box office and the first Chronicles of Narnia film earned over 290 million domestically. Audiences obviously wanted to see kids wrapped up in magical landscapes, and a New York Times best seller as source material must have seemed like a guaranteed recipe for success. The film tanked, earning a 42% on Rotten Tomatoes and a rep online as a destroyer of childhood lit dreams, referenced among fan communities on Tumblr as a prime example of a beloved book adaptation gone wrong.

After the final HP book was split into two movies a Hollywood law seemed to be created saying the final book in an adaptation franchise must spawns two films; the conventional wisdom in fantasy adaptations seems to me more is better. Sure, the story of The Hobbit could be easily contained in a single film, but by stretching it into three they could fit in some cool Tolkien karaoke. But giving a fantasy series a serialized platform rather than a contained blockbuster is giving it more than literal time, it's giving it the space to explore relationships and characters without the pressure to constantly dazzle the audience with special effects.

Game of Thrones
has been criticized recently for its efforts to pack in as much heartbreak and misery as possible into each hour-long episode, but they were still able to make the decision to put a major character, and storyline, on the sidelines for an entire season so they could give more screen time to develop other players. Every extra minute exploring Daenerys' moral dilemmas or Arya's descent into single-minded revenge was a minute freed up by the lack of Bran, something that couldn't be done in a film. Likewise with the recent adaptation of the '90s time-traveling romance Outlander, entire episodes could be dedicated to the development of the protagonist's love, rather than stuffing a film with a simple mix of war and sex (which would still make for compelling entertainment, but less satisfying).

We'll have to wait until January to see if Shadowhunters brings Cassandra Clare's story to life more effectively than the 2013 film (and the His Dark Materials show doesn't have a release date yet) but that fact that producers are willing to revisit the material proves fans are still eager to see their favorite characters on screen. Let's hope this time they're not disappointed.

More from TV

Cookie on Empire has a pretty spectacular track record when it comes to getting what she wants; unfortunately, she hasn't been as lucky in love. So, when...
The crazy plot twist in the pilot episode of NBC's new series This Is Us had many viewers wondering how the show could possibly top itself. But series ...
Scott Patterson hinted recently that Luke and Lorelai will, erm, copulate in the upcoming Gilmore Girls reboot
The 2016 Emmy Awards were off to a great start when a surprising announcement came over the loudspeaker. A voiceover announced the next presenter: none ...
Here's a fact that will make you feel old: Sabrina The Teenage Witch premiered 20 years ago. The show starred Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina, a pretty ...
On the latest episode of This Is Us, we got to see Rebecca in the future as a grandmother — but she is still played by 32-year-old Mandy Moore. In the ...
Kate Hudson isn't just an actress. She's also actually a pretty great singer. On Tuesday's Tonight Show, she and Jimmy Fallon bonded over their mutual ...
Kimmy Schmidt lives in her own world. It's a cross between middle school, the year 1999, and present-day New York. Mix in the fact that she was held ...
The C.U.R.E. Institution Hospital is slimier, deadlier, and sexier than last week. And the closer we get to Halloween, we can surely expect things to ...
Between 2008 and 2012, all four Twilight books were made into movies. The last in the saga was even painfully stretched out into two films just so we ...
If you ask me, pretty much any role on American Horror Story is the creepiest role on American Horror Story. The show has made a name for itself having ...
Winter is still a long ways' off, but we have some Game of Thrones selfies to keep us warm. Tormund Giantsbane and Lyanna Mormont, two of anyone's favorite...
In my mind, there is no denying it — the 2000s were the halcyon days of the Disney Channel. As a kid — especially one with younger siblings — it was always...
The American Horror Story cast isn't holding out on us when it comes to mysteries of the current Roanoke season. The actors' reticence to answering ...