With “The Hunger Games” killing everything in its sights at the box office, Sony has decided to get serious about its adaptation of “The Mortal Instruments,” which has the potential to become a “Twilight“/”The Hunger Games”-esque franchise, but perhaps even bigger. Or, at least, longer. Like the other aforementioned franchises, “The Mortal Instruments” is based on a series of novels targeted at young adults, though, unlike those other franchises, author Cassandra Clare has six volumes planned compared to four for “Twilight” and three for “The Hunger Games.” Like a Stephen King for the YA set, Clare has been cranking out a new “Mortal Instruments” volume once a year since 2007, and somehow found time to simultaneously write two books for the prequel trilogy series “The Infernal Devices.” And, finally, Sony is set to make them into movies.
Given the wealth of material Clare has provided, it seemed strange that Sony and their genre arm Screen Gems decided to pass on “Mortal Instruments” in February, even if it was only for a fleeting moment. Screen Gems has proven with the “Underworld” and “Resident Evil” franchises that it knows how to milk a concept for multiple installments, and yet here was a stack of books just waiting to be turned into a film franchise. Constantin Film, who worked with Screen Gems on the “Resident Evil” movies, never gave up, and officially mended fences last week when they closed the deal to partner on the adaptation of “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.” With the film financed, the studio has already scheduled a release date of August 23, 2013 — a weekend which currently has no other releases scheduled. That gives new director Harald Zwart a little over a year and four months to cast, prep, shoot and edit “The Mortal Instruments.”
Zwart was hired to direct only a few weeks ago, replacing Scott Stewart, who left the project when Screen Gems got cold feet in February. It could be suggested that Screen Gems was looking for a way to get Stewart to walk, thereby avoiding the chance that he might take a potential franchise and make it anything like his previous directorial effort, “Priest Legend.” Wait — “Priest” and “Legend” were actually two different films. Memory does play tricks sometimes. Zwart, of course, is no less a gamble than Stewart, but after delivering Sony a surprise hit with his 2010 “The Karate Kid” remake, they’ll take their chances.
Already set to lead the cast is Lily Collins, who, in our review, was one of the few bright spots of the recently-released “Mirror, Mirror.” Collins will play teenager Clary Fray, who, in a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer“-esque twist, learns that she is actually a descendant of the Shadowhunters, a secret society of humans who are enhanced with angel blood so they can protect humanity from demons, vampires, werewolves and other creatures. The story may seem a bit familiar and derivative of other things, but, in fairness, the same could be said of “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games,” who owe a debt of gratitude to “Romeo and Juliet” and “Battle Royale” respectively.
With only Collins set to appear thus far, expect casting notices for “The Mortal Instruments” to drop soon. Jamie Campbell Bower was set to play Clary’s love interest and fellow Shadowhunter Jace, but is no longer attached. [Box Office Mojo/Deadline]