Monday, 26 August 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

The Mortal Instruments is Hollywood’s latest attempt to kick-start a franchise based on a series of bestselling young adult novels. The only difference between The Mortal Instruments and duds such as Beautiful Creatures is that I have read the books, not once, but twice.  I am fully aware that the books are not particularly original but I do have a genuine affection for them.
I discovered about an hour before I went to see the film that Cassandra Clare had adapted her own Harry Potter fan fiction and “created” The Mortal Instruments.  I had originally written several paragraphs outlining my dislike of fan fiction and my lack of interest in the Harry Potter franchise.  I may have used the word “betrayal” several times.  I deleted these paragraphs because they don’t change the fact that when I read the books I enjoyed them.

Unfortunately for us all this is going to be one of those annoying compare and contrast reviews. I  apologise in advance for the length but the blog is called Mundane Rambling for a reason.
Here goes.
PLOT:  After Clary Fray (Lily Collins) finds her home ransacked and her mother Jocelyn  (Lena Headey) missing she meets Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower) a Shadowhunter who excels in hunting and killing demons.  Clary reluctantly accepts Jace’s help to find her mother and discovers that her family history contains some very dark secrets.  END PLOT
The City of Bones isn’t original and the teen romance, werewolf and vampire themes are familiar but having said that the books are a very good read.  I had always said that the books were begging to be made into a film and I believe that due to the way they were written this was Cassandra Clare’s ultimate goal.
The plot moves along at breakneck speed and despite a running time of 2hours 10mins the film is rushed and lacked subtle little moments such as Alec’s glances at Jace which would have given the characters more depth.  A deeper understanding of the angels vs. demons mythology would also have been welcome.
There were quite a few changes from the book – some worked and others did not.
The decision to omit "Simon the rat" was correct.  The idea works on paper but it would not have transferred well to the big screen.  It also meant that we got to see more of Simon (Robert Sheehan) and this is not a bad thing.
Shadowhunters having an English accent did throw me slightly but it didn't take longer than the two minute the trailer for me to accept this.  It separated the Shadowhunters from Clary and Simon and drummed home the point that Clary was not one of them. 
The biggest mistake was to ruin one of the most important plot threads.  The twist that Clary and Jace are brother and sister is one of the main storylines.  I suppose, in an attempt to simplify the story for non-readers, I can understand why we were made aware that this is a lie straight away.  Jace Wayland goes by four different surnames during the series so his story arc does get messy! 
The problem was the execution.  Hodge suggesting the idea to Valentine diminishes Valentine’s cleverness.  Valentine is intelligent (albeit in a very misguided way) but that one line by Hodge weakened the character.  If this deviation from the book was necessary Valentine should have been the one to instigate it.
I didn't mind that the final section took place inside the Institute – this is probably the biggest geographical difference from the book.  The film had a relatively small budget so I can see why they kept their sets to a minimum.
The sets were gorgeous and both the Institute and the City of Bones looked great.  I always imagined the Silent Brothers to be short so it was weird to see them being portrayed as tall. 
On a budget of $60million the effects were basic but decent.  The CGI was better than an episode of Supernatural so the special effects get the benefit of the doubt.
The best effect was the flower opening scene in the roof garden however a very sweet little moment between Clary and Jace was ruined when I was slapped in the face by a very loud and cheesy love ballad.
The set pieces were fine with the battle in Hotel Dumort and the fight between Jace and Valentine being surprisingly well choreographed.  The action department can consider this a job well done.
The casting of Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower did not bother me in the slightest and the two young actors were excellent as Clary and Jace. 
Robert Sheehan (Simon) was perfectly cast although I would have liked to have seen some witty tee-shirts.  Jemima West (Izzy) got more screen time than expected however Kevin Zegers (Alec) was short changed.  Alec didn’t have much to do in the book but he was almost completely ignored in the film.  Alec needed more interaction with Jace but the Parabatai concept was dropped and this ruined their bond.
Lena Headey was spot on as Jocelyn Fray and managed to look like a bitch while sleeping.  I think I love her.
I always thought the casting of Aidan Turner was slightly odd purely because he is too young to play Luke.  The makeup department died his hair slightly grey and I got over it.    Godfrey Gao as Magnus Bane looked the part but he is not a good actor.  I love Magnus so hopefully Gao can grow into the role.
The major misstep was Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Valentine).  Aside from being a poor actor he is physically too small to capture Valentine's intimidating persona.  I imagined Valentine as being a cross between Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Disney’s Hades so I was always going to be disappointed.
(any excuse I know)
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is by no means perfect and I worry that the film is not good enough to create a fan base of its own. 
It will be interesting to see how well City of Bones performs at the Box Office.  As Sigourney Weaver has already been cast as the Inquisitor (I read it as Helen Mirren) it bodes well for the franchise continuing but money talks – it needs to perform well for a second film to be made. 
As a fan of the book I have mixed feelings.  The cast (for the most part) and the sets were spot on however there were some dud moments.  The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones gets a generous 6.5/10. The film could easily have been better.

The potential is there but it cannot be squandered in City of Ashes because quite frankly I am more interested in seeing City of Glass.


  1. This is one of those trailers that has been run into the ground here, hence I was pretty disinterested in it even though the concept sound interesting.

    As for the movie, it sound like it could have benefited from a better director behind the lens.

    1. I was lucky. The trailer was around but it wasn't played to death. When you were watching this trailer I was watching the trailer for the Lone Ranger!

      The film is decent but I almost want you to read the books before catching the film on dvd just so you are aware that the film screwed a lot of things up.

      There was potential!!!!

      My rating is probably generous but I like the books and the characters are much better on paper than they come across in the film.

      K :-)

  2. As I already mentioned on FB, I'm mildly excited for this, mainly because the trailer looked pretty cool. I'll report back =)

    1. Dude, promise me you will keep your expectations low! The story is a bit disjointed in parts

      If you have time read the book before hand!

      Good luck

      K :-)

    2. Ok, finally seen it and didn't like it. Reminded of something like "Night Watch" or "Underworld", but for teens ;-)

  3. One of my friends loves the books and the other hates them, so I am unsure if this is something I would be interested in watching. Maybe I should rent the movie.


    1. I really like the book so I was pretty kind to the film. There are some really bad moments but overall it is decent

      Maybe it is a rental?!

      K :-)