The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Mortal Instruments City of Bones

Considering this blog’s content has turned into a series of mushy TV films with the occasional book review, I figured, lest you readers get tired - and this blog would fall into a puddle, of reading all that’s “darling” in the world of filmmaking, it might be time to shake things up a bit. This brings me to our film review of the day, The Mortal Instruments.

Clary (Lily Collins) is an ordinary girl living with her mother in New York. Or so she thought. Her artistic abilities are intensifying and terrified she’ll remember something her mother (Lena Headey) puts a cap on Clary’s memories and puts off telling Clary the truth of her birth against the better advice of her best friend. All of that changes when Clary along with best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan) sneak into a club and instead of dancing, she witnesses a murder by three young people covered in markings is committed right in front of her – a scene she seems the only witness to. This makes Clary desperate to know the truth of herself – why is she seeing what no one else can? What do her desperate drawings mean that she doesn’t even remembering doing?  

When her mother is kidnapped, she is forced to team up with the man who she saw commit murder, his name is Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower). Jace is a Shadowhunter, a person committed to saving the world from daemons, and Clary suddenly seems to be in the same line when she gets “the sight,” but at what cost is her embracing of her newly found powers going to demand? And what does her mother’s disappearance have to do with a past Clary cannot remember…? 

One of the biggest trends at the box office in recent years is adapting popular novels – particularly in the YA genre. Some work, others don’t. With this young adult novel, there were mixed results. For my part, I found it to be about a dark, depraved world that while, full of great imagery, seemed to be a little too focused on the bad rather than the good. Overlooking all of the themes that are disturbing or go against what Christianity believes, this film is in its own way, exceptional. There was a lot of creative thinking that went into its production and I can never fault something for being “different” – I’m the girl who fell head over heels for the charms of Penelope or Warm Bodies, so sometimes it’s the unusual that gets me most intrigued. That is certainly the mold that fits this adaptation. Prior to the film’s release, the buzz of it inspired me to purchase the book and while I did page through it – reading the synopsis, the various notes or reading on-line articles, I never felt it a pressing matter to actually read the novel, and having seen the film, I don’t really regret never reading the book. What is potentially troubling pales in comparison to some of the themes in the novel and while, it can be a better experience to read the book-to-film order, I trust in the opinions of the people I’ve had this conversation with. 

Some of the things that were interesting about this film were the creative vision behind bringing the story to life. I watched the making-of feature that featured author, Cassandra Clare who seemed a genuine advocate of the filmmaking vision of her story. That alone brooks encouragement and even as someone who hasn’t read the novel, I can appreciate the visionary. First off, the characters were intricately written with not just some cool character traits but also a cool “look.” Everyone had their own style, and were dark and brooding or normal and relatable in equal parts. Where the Shadowhunters proved the former, Clary and Simon were the center, the two people who were a normal the viewers could relate to – particularly Simon whom I absolutely loved. His character is a big reason this film works as well as it does, because he lends much needed realism to the overview.  

A flop at the box office has pushed back production on the sequel and while there were things I liked about this production – all of which I’ve noted already, it’s hard to understand purely from a cinematic standpoint why this one was so… “blah.” It’s got nearly everything there needs to be to be a balm to even the most ardent fangirl’s heart. But then, perhaps that’s why it was such a disappointment – there can be danger in too much mayhem, and if there is one thing this film does well, it’s mayhem. 
Content: the PG13 material in this includes demons and a “sacred” cup that is supposed to transform people into the half-human/half-angel supernatural. There is plenty of violence and scenes of frightening creatures that transform from their human form into werewolves, or other creatures of the night. Vampires play a role as do warlocks. There is some inference of homosexuality; Clary and Jace kiss and are later told they’re siblings. There are some additional innuendoes. H*ll, da*n, etc. are used.)


  1. I haven't seen the movie dvr'd it a few times only to erase it. I always do that not a huge tv person. (however counting down the days till Stalker and Secrets & Lies).

    I've read the series of books and they were good, but I think they would be so hard to transfer to the big screen.

    -snapshots by gidget (instagram)

    1. Lots of people who loved the books didn't seem to like the film, Shannon, so I suspect that if you're a fan perhaps you wouldn't care for the film either - there was a LOT going on in the movie, for sure. Hope if you ever see it, you enjoy the film...

      Yay for fall 2014 TV shows. I cannot wait for several - guess, I'm a bit of a TV junkie. ;)

    2. I'm usually loved the book hate the film with a few exceptions: Divergent, The Book Thief, and I hate to admit it but I like the Twilight movies better than the books. I hope to LOVE If I Stay and The Fault in Our Stars when I see them. Will see If I Stay while it's out, but wait to see TFIOS at home. Don't want to ugly cry in public! :)

    3. Glad to know you liked Divergent. That's one I'll rent when it releases, especially since I saw its leading lady way back when in an American Girl movie and it'd be fun to see her in an "adult" role now. Haven't seen The Book Thief yet though my aunt loved it.

      Oo! I hope you enjoy If I Stay. It does indeed look good, and I recently picked up the book with the expectation of seeing the film - likely on DVD.

      LOL, I like how you said that: "ugly cry in public." I don't blame you - I wouldn't want to either, hence like you, I'll rent TFIOS. Hopefully I'll attempt the book first too. :)

  2. I haven't seen the movie but I enjoyed reading your review. Two years ago, I listened to the audio book of The Mortal Instruments. I had read so many YA supernatural fiction that I was a bit sick of it so I stopped listening to it. I wasn't that impressed with the trailer for the movie so I decided not to see it. However, I want to give the movie a chance because of the uniqueness you described about the film in your review.

    1. Thanks for reading, Carlyn!

      If you do decide to see it, I hope you enjoy it. For me, it was something like I hadn't seen in cinema before so it seemed "unique." Though for people who've seen Divergent, Twilight or other films along that line, they may not think this anything special - I just found it unique to my usual viewing and that's what grabbed my attention. :)

  3. I watched this earlier this year. And surprisingly enjoyed it. I definitely enjoyed it better than the book! I attempted to start this series a couple years ago and skimmed my way through the first three books and then stopped. It just wasn't as good as I'd hoped and I am still not a fan of the whole "he's my brother" storyline, even if it gets resolved. The movie is cute though. But still dark and dabbling in things we should definitely be careful about reading about.

    All in all, I'm glad I watched it. And once in a great while, may be tempted to watch it again. But if you've no interest in reading the books, then I say you're much better off. (Although I may be in the minority in thinking that way.)

    Nice review, Rissi! (As always. :)

    1. I enjoyed it more than I thought, Kara. It was interesting for my normal viewing (I haven't ever seen the Twilight movies or anything like that) and so that's why it seemed interesting, I suspect.

      Thanks for your thoughts on the books. I just am not sure that they'll hold my attention now I've seen the film, which is part of the reason I try to read the book first then see the movie. Plus, like you say, that whole brother/sister plot would probably drive me nuts.

      Thanks for reading. As always, Kara, glad to have you visit. :)

  4. I'm glad you liked this one. I was disappointed. The things I liked about the book series was a lot of the dialogue and in movies they just can't fit that much in. I also didn't like the actor who played Jace. It just didn't work for me. I will say that this series isn't my favorite from Clare. I actually prefer the historical one, The Infernal Devices. That one has so many lines and sections that I just absolutely loved and I loved the characters and that it was cleaner (due to the time period). It is still very violent. I would recommend reading that one. :)

    1. I can see not liking this for fans of the book, because that does seem to be a problem a lot in book-to-screen adaptations. I know one book-to-screen version I loved was Safe Haven. It was great to read the book prior to seeing the movie and while I liked both, I think the movie was a smidgeon better, especially the ending which felt more complete.

      Jamie played Jace very... confident and almost a little arrogant. I'm not sure if that's the book character or not, but that was my impression of Jace.

      Awesome! I always get Clare's series mixed up - the newer vs. the older, so I'll look into those historical books. Especially if you like them better - I'm always looking for YA recommendations. :) Thanks, Tressa.

    2. Jace is really arrogant, so Jamie was right on there. Jace is supposed to be extremely good looking - total bad boy and I didn't feel that edge from Jamie. He was too pretty for me - if you know what I mean. Just for this part. I totally don't have anything against him as an actor. Isn't it funny how we envision characters a certain way and even though I'm almost twice their age, I have these ideals about them? Lol!

    3. Yes he did bring that well; he at least got that right. I did get a big of a "bad boy" vibe (maybe in the club scene), but yeah, I know what you're saying. Casting is sometimes a problem, I think I "deal" more readily, but that doesn't mean I'm not annoyed sometimes - especially if it's a character I am fond of thanks to the book - and I totally understand your feelings about Jace, especially being a fan of the books.

      ...wonder if the sequel will ever be made?

  5. I was pretty curious about this one and almost watched it, but when I saw there were vampires and werewolves in it I couldn't get myself to see it (I'm one of those girls who adamantly refused to watch Twilight even when some of my friends got mad at me lol!). Even though I skipped this one, it looks like Lily Collins did a good job and I hope the book fans liked it!

    1. It's the same for me. I wasn't into the whole Twilight scene and while I adore the wedding pictures of Edward and Bella's I do's, I still haven't seen the movies or read the books; vampires aren't my thing either. That being said, I did watch Warm Bodies (zombies), and loved it as well as Red Riding Hood (werewolves) which is certainly a decent albeit dark film.

      Lily does a great job, though that was part of the reason I saw this since I've liked her acting in whatever I've seen her in. :)


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