‘Shadowhunters’ acting disappoints

Posted April 26, 2016


When Cassandra Clare’s young-adult fiction series “The Mortal Instruments” took to the big screen, hopeful fans saw their dreams crumble before their eyes. The unsuccessful movie was not true to Clare’s work and failed both in the box office and in the fans’ hearts.

Hoping to overturn that, the same producer (Ed Decter) and production company (Constantin Film) decided to re-join forces and transform “The Mortal Instruments” into a weekly television series, which premiered as “Shadowhunters” in mid-January as a new addition to Freeform (previously named ABC Family).

The television series can still be classified as mediocre partly due to weak acting that still needs maturing and because it fails to bring to reality small details like rune tattoos, which in the series, look almost fake and cheap.

“Shadowhunters” is your typical dark teen television show: there is love, drama and action, not to mention your fair share of shadowhunters (warriors that are half angel and half human), demons, werewolves and, everyone’s favorite, vampires. The series follows the life of Clary Fray, a regular girl who is suddenly faced with the supernatural world of shadowhunters, and soon discovers she is one of them.

The series’ season finale premiered on Tuesday, April 5, and has been renewed for a second season.

Despite being more faithful to the books than the failed movie, “Shadowhunters” has not quite developed into a quality television show. Talent, for instance, needs more than relying on good looks. In fact, the only unattractive beings in the show are the demons, and you can bet there are some good looking people under all the make-up and costumes. It would be refreshing to see characters that reflect the diversity we see outside the screen, but then again that would not bring them viewers, would it?

The problem arises when producers cast talent and think that their looks can make up for acting skills that are not quite there yet. Take main actress Katherine McNamara, for instance. As a sweet ex-Disney Channel star, it is sometimes difficult to see her portraying Clary as a tough demon-slayer. That being said, she has definitely matured throughout the season, which means the fans will be expecting a lot more from her when season two premiers.

Unfortunately, this development is not always seen among other characters. Matthew Daddario plays the complicated role of Alec Lightwood, a shadowhunter who comes from a powerful lineage, but must choose between carrying forward his family reputation or showcasing his love for another man. In the novels, the character goes through countless internal struggles to come to terms with himself, but Daddario falls short of portraying that emotional struggle on the screen.

He definitely has the looks, and chooses to show scenes of distress by practicing sword fighting shirtless, to the pleasure of female teenage fans. However, his teenage heartthrob status falls short of giving viewers a convincing performance. Sometimes, we need more than hot sweaty guys swinging a sword from side to side.

However, it is important to give credit where credit is due, so we must recognize the fantastic job actors like former “Glee” star Harry Shum Jr. are doing. His portrayal of warlock Magnus Bane is spot on, just as if Clare’s character had come to live. His character, a sassy but extremely powerful “downworlder,” contributes greatly to scenes of romance, tension and even comic relief.

The settings are also a plus. The producers’ recreation of “The Institute,” what you could call the shadowhunters’ “head-quarters,” is extremely well done. Viewers can tell that great thought was put into secret compartments, the technology of training rooms and even the exterior, which looks like a worn-down church. The same can be said for places like Magnus Bane’s apartment and the “Hotel Dumort,” a fake abandoned hotel that serves as lair to the vampires.

Overall, while some can see the plot as mediocre, the makeup details as unrealistic, and acting that still needs maturing, “Shadowhunters” has the right ingredients to attract the young-adult masses: a forbidden love story between main characters Jace and Clary, a love triangle, demon-slaying and cool CGI effects.

Yes, there is still a lot of be done to achieve a high-quality status, but the entertainment factor is there, and so are the fans’ smiles.

  • Name of series: “Shadowhunters”
  • Genre: Young-Adult Fiction/Fantasy
  • Network: Freeform (previously ABC Family)
  • Date of release: Jan. 12, 2016
  • Seasons: One
  • Episodes: 13
  • Running Time: 42 minutes
  • Airs: Tuesdays at 9p.m.
  • Starring: Katherine McNamara, Dominic Sherwood and Alberto Rosende
  • Rating: TV-14
  • Personal Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars