The Mortal Instruments was all set to be the next Hunger Games when the first movie, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, launched in 2013.
Based on the first book of Cassandra Clare’s bestselling series of the same name, the first movie starred Lily Collins as Clary Fray, who discovers she’s a descendent of a line of Shadowhunters, a secret group of warriors who protect the world from demons.
The movie’s producers Screen Gems, Constantin Film and Unique Features certainly had plans to adapt the entire Mortal Instruments series. They were so confident that in May 2013, three months before the first movie’s release, the sequel was confirmed.
It won’t be a surprise that we never saw The Mortal Instuments: City of Ashes, so why was it cancelled?
Lily Collins standing in front of a building: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones© Entertainment One The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
It’d be easy to look at the failure of City of Bones to be the main reason for the lack of a sequel, but it’s not as straightforward as that.
The first movie got savaged by critics with a 14% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and only managed $95.4 million at the global box office. However, even after this, plans were still going ahead for a sequel.
“For us as an independent company, it’s more about managing expectations. Even if the movie performs moderately, it will still warrant a sequel,” Constantin Films co-president Robert Kulzer told the Los Angeles Times in August 2013.
“Now that $60 million has been spent worldwide on prints and advertising, you can already see how the book sales are accelerating, the soundtrack is hitting the charts. Even if the first one doesn’t become a gigantic success, we will have a profitable track ahead of us.”
Despite this, the plan to start filming the sequel – which would have brought back the first movie’s cast and added Sigourney Weaver – in September 2013 was delayed indefinitely.
The decision was not taken “lightly”, according to Constantin Film’s Martin Moszkowicz, but was a result of it being “beneficial to have more time to reposition the film in the current marketplace”.
Moszkowicz added that the “incredibly loyal and ardent fan base” meant it was still a potential movie franchise, and Cassandra Clare told fans that it was probably a good thing to be delayed.
“The draft of the screenplay I saw for the first time last week was very far from the book City of Ashes, and if they’d really started shooting in September there wouldn’t have been time to change it,” she explained.
a close up of a box: The Mortal Instruments Slipcase and S/wrap: Six books© amazon.co.uk The Mortal Instruments Slipcase and S/wrap: Six books
Due to an “overwhelmingly positive” response from the fans to the first movie, Moszkowicz revealed in October 2013 that the plan was to restart production on the sequel in 2014, adding that the first movie’s failure might have come down to its marketing as a young adult movie.
“The readers of Mortal Instruments are older than you might think,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “That may have been one issue in our marketing, that we focused too much on a very young audience segment.”
Crucially though, those filming plans weren’t 100% confirmed as Moszkowicz said in a separate interview to Variety: “That is the plan, but it is not a given. We believe in that franchise, and we would like to do that, but we need to get it right.”
Unfortunately for fans of the first movie, that plan to “get it right” didn’t actually involve a movie sequel at all.
In October 2014, Constantin Film confirmed that The Mortal Instruments would be coming back… but as a TV series.
It seems the real reason why City of Ashes never happened is that they couldn’t find a way to make the book series work as movies. “It actually makes sense to do [the novels] as a TV series,” Moszkowicz told The Hollywood Reporter.
“There was so much from the book that we had to leave out of the Mortal Instruments film. In the series we’ll be able to go deeper and explore this world in greater detail and depth.”
Shadowhunters ran for three seasons as it retold the story of City of Bones and adapted other books in the series, before the TV show also endured its own cancellation by Freeform in June 2018.
Unlike the movie series, the TV show got two extra episodes to bring an end to the show’s story and despite the efforts of fans, it looks like any more screen adaptations of The Mortal Instruments aren’t likely anytime soon.