- The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was a box office flop, making only $95.4 million worldwide against its $60 million production budget.
- The sequel, City of Ashes, was canceled due to the poor box office performance and negative reviews of the first film.
- Instead of a sequel, a TV show called Shadowhunters was produced, which ran for three seasons before it was canceled. A return to the franchise in some form is still possible in the future.
The Mortal Instruments was heralded as the next big YA movie franchise, but will the sequel to The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, titled City Of Ashes, ever happen? Writer Cassandra Clare began publishing her urban fantasy series The Mortal Instruments in 2007 and ended the saga with its sixth book City Of Heavenly Fire in 2014, though other novellas and anthologies set in the same world have been released since. The original books in Clare’s Mortal Instruments series spent a combined total of 102 weeks on the New York Times Best-Seller List, which made it a property ripe for a big-screen adaptation.
German production company Constantin Films secured the rights to the series and partnered with Screen Gems to bring the first novel – The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones – to the big screen in 2013. The film starred Lily Collins as protagonist Clary Fray, a New York teen who discovers she is descended from a long line of half-human, half-angel demon slayers known as Shadowhunters. Future Game of Thrones prequel star Jamie Campbell Bower co-starred as Shadowhunter Jace. A second film titled The Mortal Instruments: City Of Ashes based on the next book in the series was set to go into production shortly after, but years later the sequel is nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately, the Mortal Instruments movie sequel isn’t happening – here’s why.
The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones Was A Box Office Flop
Following its August 2013 release, The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones made just $95.4 million worldwide against its $60 million production budget. Add to that the $60 million Constantin Film spent marketing the movie overseas and the undisclosed sum Screen Gems stumped up to cover stateside marketing costs, and it’s safe to say City Of Bones was a box office bomb. Typically, if a big-budget movie fails to make back its cost during a theatrical release, it’s unlikely for a movie to get a sequel.
There may have been hope that The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones could still make a profit thanks to DVD sales, video-on-demand rentals, or the streaming services available at the time. Even after the disappointing box office, Screen Gems and Constantin Film were still considering bringing The Mortal Instruments: City Of Ashes to the screen.
The Mortal Instruments Sequel Was Canceled
The Mortal Instruments didn’t just have a disappointing box office return; City Of Bones also received disappointing reviews from critics. Years later, it holds a 13% critical score on Rotten Tomatoes. The most common criticism of the movie was that it combined too many fantasy elements without actually utilizing them, but since the movie was meant to introduce audiences to a new urban fantasy setting, some were willing to overlook that and hope that later installments had more effective world-building.
The plan was to plod ahead with The Mortal Instruments: City Of Ashes. Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Lena Headey, and Jonathan Rhys Meyers were all set to reprise their roles and Sigourney Weaver was in talks to join the cast. After several delays in the production, however, it was eventually announced in October 2014 that Constantin Film had decided to cancel The Mortal Instruments movie sequel.
Mortal Instruments Got A TV Show Instead Of A Sequel
The Mortal Instruments: City Of Ashes may have been canceled, but the franchise wasn’t entirely over. Rather than push ahead with the intended sequel, Constantin Film decided to produce a TV show based on The Mortal Instruments book series instead.
Shadowhunters premiered on Freeform in early 2016 and starred the Arrowverse’s Mia Queen, Katherine McNamara, and Dominic Sherwood of Penny Dreadful fame (replacing Collins and Campbell Bower, respectively), running for three seasons before it was canceled. So, while the movie sequel didn’t happen, at least The Mortal Instruments fandom got to see the story continue in TV form. The three seasons didn’t cover every aspect of the novels, but it did allow for more in depth examinations of the characters and more effective world-building over time.
Could The Mortal Instruments Franchise Ever Return?
Though a continuation of The Mortal Instruments with the original movie cast is likely out of the question, a return to the franchise itself is not. The books by Cassandra Clare have expanded beyond the story of Clary Fray and her friends to include Shadowhunters before Clary was ever even born with the prequel series The Infernal Devices. There’s even a sequel series called The Dark Artifices. There’s a fascinating mythology that could mean new chapters of the franchise could return with those other characters on the screen.
Because there is so much source material for The Mortal Instruments franchise, it also seems unlikely that there would be additional movies. Instead, it seems more likely that a television or streaming series would be the way to go. After all, Disney+ has a reboot of the Percy Jackson stories on screen, a series instead of standalone movies featuring the characters. Six to 10 episodes on a streaming platform inevitably have a higher budget than longer seasons of shows on a television network, which could very much help the production value of The Mortal Instruments series.
Shadowhunters, however, only ended its run on Freeform in 2019, so it’s unlikely a complete reboot would happen right away. It could be a decade after the conclusion of the series before there is an attempt at another on-screen The Mortal Instruments. That would allow for plenty of time between projects as well as potentially new material from Clare to be incorporated.