Comic-Con is ostensibly for the fans of particular properties. But it’s truly about marketing, and marketing can’t just be about the fans of a book, TV show, earlier movie, etc. It has to expand to those who wouldn’t typically be interested or are completely ignorant of the adaptation. If you can’t draw in anyone other than those who have already bought their ticket because they love the property, then your supposedly mainstream adaptation becomes largely irrelevant to the movie-going public. Judging by the Comic-Con panel for The Mortal Instruments, this could be one of the most irrelevant films of the summer.
Hit the jump for my recap of the panel. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones opens August 21st.
Director Harold Zwart comes on, followed by author Cassandra Clare, and stars Lily Collins (who plays heroine Clary Fray), Robert Sheehan (Simon Lewis), Kevin Zegers (Alec Lightwood), Godfrey Gao (Magnus Bane), and Jamie Campbell Bower (Jace Wayland).
We were then shown an extended clip from the film (and it ended with the official studio tag, so it may be released online at some point). The clip flips between two settings. In the first, Clary’s mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey) is attacked at their apartment by two mysterious figures. Meanwhile, Clary is confronting Jace about the symbol she can’t stop drawing and why is it tattooed on his arm. He’s wondering why she can see him when most people can’t. We flip back to Jocelyn fighting off her attackers with a frying pan, and finding just enough breathing room to warn Clary. When Clary gets the call from her mother warning her to stay away from the apartment, our young heroine naturally rushes off back home to find the apartment trashed, her mother missing, and a dog that belonged to one of the attackers. The dog then transforms into a hideous, CGI beast, and tries to attack Clary. With a resourcefulness that almost comes off as mundane, Clary quickly sets up an explosion in her kitchen in order to defeat the beast. The beast is reduced down to tiny CGI globules, but then they begin to reform, and once again attack. Jace busts in at the last minute, stabs the beast with his sword, and turns the creature to dust. He then explains that the beast was a demon, and demons can take any form. After she finishes whimpering in his arms, she coolly walks away and asks, “How do I know you’re not a demon?” “I just saved your life, didn’t I?” he responds. And end scene that in no way made me want to see the movie.
Moderator Dalton Ross from EW asks Collins about what was appealing about playing Clary. Collins liked the tenacity of Clary trying to find her mom, and “she finds her own voice” no matter how difficult the situation. She was also a fan of the books before joining the movie, and it was a dream come true to get cast.
Talking about fidelity to the source material, Zwart says they didn’t really need to change anything. The challenge was compressing it into film-length, so they had to make shortcuts while still preserving the central story. Clare says she was “pretty interfere-y” and wanted to be involved with everything from the casting, costumes, set design, etc. “It was very collaborative,” says Clare.
Jamie Campbell Bower talks about Jace’s arrogance in the books and how to translate it to the film, and what stuck out about the character was his vulnerability. The cockiness is a façade, and he let his guard down around Clary. “I made him really grumpy, but he needed to be grumpy in order for you feel for him later on in the project.”
Kevin Zegers says that they just wanted to focus on one film rather than jump ahead in the books, and they want to focus on the characters for the novel at hand. He does acknowledge his character’s sexuality, which is revealed throughout the novels, but he wanted to only follow what happens with Alec in City of Bones.
Zwart says Clare makes a cameo in Magnus’ party that’s filled with demons.
She says she makes herself write 3000 words a day and then she’s free to do whatever else she wants. But she likes connecting to fans and hearing what they have to say.
The most challenging aspect of playing their character:
Collins: “Doing stunts in a tight dress and five-inch leather boots.”
Bower: “Not eating chocolate”
Sheehan: “My masculinity took a lot of hits on this film because a lot of his acting was cowering behind the women.”
Zegers: “Hanging out with Bower for three months was terrible.” He would also text Bower pictures of junk food he wasn’t allowed to eat.
Goa: “Taking my pants off in front of Harold” (Fans of the book can figure out why this is important because to the uninitiated, it just sounds weird)
Clare: “I wish there was a ‘write-faster’ rune, but I guess I would go ‘fearless’”
Zwart: “I want the ‘direct a hit movie’ rune.”
Gao: “The $20 million a picture rune.”
Sheehan: “They tattooed an ‘I Love You Mom’ rune on me. I don’t know what it does.”
For a movie based on a successful young adult book series, The Mortal Instruments landed with a whimper at Comic-Con. There were fans at the panel, but they’re high-pitched adulation echoed through a largely silent room that was far more eager to hear about RoboCop and The Amazing Spider-Man 2. I’m not even certain if The Mortal Instruments will be a hit with the fans. Far worse, I left the panel wondering what anyone could possibly see in the material in the first place.