Lit-to-Flick: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013) Movie Review

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Lily Collins as Clary Fray

For those of you who are unfamiliar with The Mortal Instruments, it is a YA book series that was at first a trilogy and then extended to a series of six. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is the movie adaptation of the first novel, City of Bones. I previously wrote a book review of the novel which you can read HERE

The story follows Clary Fray (Lily Collins) who in the search for her kidnapped mother, discovers she is descended from demon hunters also known as Shadowhunters and she is one herself with powers she never even realised she had. After her mother goes missing, Clary enlists the help of her friend Simon (Robert Sheehan) and meets fellow Shadowhunters, Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabel (Jemima West) to find her, all the while attempting to keep the mortal cup, a holy grail like item, that when drunk from has the ability to turn anyone into a Shadowhunter, out of the grasp of rogue Shadowhunter Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers)

Valentine's Weird Hair Thingy

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the movie’s villain, Valentine and his hair :/

Although the movie is far from perfect, I found myself really enjoying it. The acting is good. Good, not bad, but not exactly award winning either. The cast is filled with those usually in supporting roles, including Lily Collins as Clary and Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace, Clary’s love interest. I was surprised by how Collins’ brought Clary to life and she did a fantastic job of portraying a young girl who is put in a difficult situation. I have been a massive fan of Robert Sheehan since his hilarious portrayal of Nathan in Misfits. His injection of humour prevents the movie from becoming too serious and over-the-top. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is the crazed antagonist of the movie, his wide eyed, icy glare made him truly terrifying and really brought to life how deluded Valentine was. What was going on with his hair though?

The main aspect of the movie that I enjoyed is the visuals. I am amazed at how advanced and realistic they look. I feel that they really complement the tone of the movie, surprisingly, considering the small budget of it. I also really enjoyed the action, stunts and the fighting. There’s a lot more of it than there is in the book and the action translates beautifully to the screen.

The movie is also very fast-paced, maybe a little too much at times. It appears to be very plot driven, rather than focusing on developing characters other than Clary and Jace. There’s no time to really mull it over and think about it until the quieter scenes with Jace and Clary which felt a little forced and awkward. The backstory felt rushed and would be confusing for non-book readers, that ultimately ended up being a little convoluted and confusing. In fact, the plot is that rushed, I don’t even know what Valentine’s whole agenda is. Something about purifying bloodlines, raising demons? Sound familiar? Ahem, Lord Voldemort, cough Harry Potter. There are also a lot of loose ends that are left untied, perhaps making way for the sequel yet they just add to the confusion of the plot.

At times, the movie definitely rips off elements from other successful teen franchises. Some part of the storyline and the institute, the set of the home of the Shadowhunters felt it was attempting to replicate the awe and grandeur of Hogwarts from Harry Potter. The “forbidden romance” borrowed from Twilight, the actual stunts and fighting felt like they were copying choreography from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, therefore it does not add anything original to an already overflowing genre of YA fantasy book to movie adaptations.

For those worrying, that it isn’t faithful to the book, it is. Pretty much all the dialogue is word for word. There are a couple of alterations, and Simon’s character was added to a few more scenes, though that’s not something I would complain about as I’ve already mentioned that I welcomed Sheehan’s performance.

This is a movie that is tailored to an already established fan base, so if you enjoyed the book you’ll definitely love the movie. However, it didn’t live up to its potential and welcome new audiences to the series. I feel like there’s something of a stigma attached to the YA genre now, particularly because of the colossal damage that Twilight has left behind. Now, everyone expects them to be terrible. Whilst this movie was short of innovative, it did a hell of a better job of transforming than its predecessors this year which included the terrible Beautiful Creatures and The Host. This is still probably one of the better book-to-movie adaptations this year, for non-book fans however, I doubt this is anyway as exciting or brilliant as it potentially could have been.

Based on: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Screenplay by: Jessica Postigo Paquette

Directed By: Harald Zwart

Starring: Lilly Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Jemima West, Kevin Zegers, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Lena Heady

Rating: 7/10

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