Tuesday, September 17, 2013


The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is based on the first book of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments Series.  The story follows Clary Fray who, upon her mother’s disappearance, discovers that she is a shadowhunter – a demon slayer, if you will.  The story follows Clary’s introduction into the shadowhunter world and her quest to rescue her mother.

Visually the film is beautifully done, and it is a joy to behold.  It truly is a thing of beauty and scenes from the book are wonderfully brought to life.  Overall though, the movie doesn’t pack as much punch as I had hoped.

Lily Collins (Clary), Robert Sheenan (Simon), Jamie Campbell Bower (Jace), Kevin Zegers (Alec), Jemima West (Isabelle)

Unfortunately the acting is not up to par.  The chemistry between Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower is really good, but even their acting falls a little short.  Bower doesn't fully capture Jace’s attitude.  Jace, in the book, is very intense, very sarcastic and comes across as a tortured soul.  Bower only manages to make Jace seem aloof.  As for Clary, Collins does a pretty good job, but again, fails to completely bring her character to life.  Book Clary is innocent but fierce, a force to be reckoned with, and I’m not convinced Collins brings Clary’s tough side out prominently enough; there is just something missing.  

Jace and Clary

Bower and Collins are, however, very convincing as two people falling in love – possibly because they truly fell in love while filming (... or did they? I'm never 100% convinced when co-stars 'fall in love' - is it real, or is it for publicity? Anyhoo...)

Aiden Turner (Luke), Lena Headey (Jocelyn), Jonathyn Rhys Meyers (Valentine)

The best of the lot is probably Lena Headey (Jocelyn), and she has very limited screen time – in total, probably ten minutes max.  Jonathan Rhys Meyers fails to deliver as Valentine; I love Meyers as an actor, I just could not take him seriously as this villain.  He comes across very theatrical; he made me want to laugh more than cower in fear, and that's just unacceptable for an antagonist.  Aiden Turner delivers a fairly good portrayal of Luke, but also has precious little screen time.

Jace fighting vampires

Kevin Zegers portrays Alec perfectly.  He packs just the right amount of intensity and resentment, manages to convey a lot without saying much and comes across all the more threatening for it.  I was more frightened of him in the scene where he attacks Clary than I ever was of Valentine.  His character, though, is not as prominent in the movie as he is in the book; both he and Isabelle are more in the background than anything else. 


Speaking of Isabelle, it’s hard to critique Jemima West as, again, her character has very little screen time.  Overall, I have no major complaints regarding her acting. Character-wise, though, Isabelle is not nearly mean enough.  In the book she makes Clary’s life really difficult , she’s very bitchy and she even openly flirts with Simon – all of these character traits were omitted from the film.  You would never know from watching the film that Isabelle can't stand Clary.  

Isabelle being much too nice to Clary

Robert Sheehan was the perfect choice to play Simon, and he
pretty much nails all things Simon.  True to the book character, Sheehan’s performance stands out as very authentic.  Overall, though, I can't help but wonder if the movie might not have been a bigger success if a stronger cast had been attached to it. Too many movies nowadays aim to involve lesser-known actors.  I am positive that bigger names would have not only delivered stronger performances, but would also have drawn larger audiences, and the sequels would not have been in danger; but more about this later.

Clary and Simon

Apart from visually perfecting the look of the film, there are also at least two major improvements from the book - the film version elected not to turn Simon into a rat, and the vampires do not have flying motorcycles.  These are the only two things about the book that really annoyed me, taking away from an otherwise quite realistic storyline, and I am happy that the film altered these storylines to be more realistic.

As for the ending – the film took major liberties!  I would say that the last 30 minutes of the film differs remarkably from the book.  The basic premise remains, but everything is changed quite significantly – including the issue surrounding the burning question readers were left with – are Clary and Jace truly related?  Where book readers have to wait until book 3, City of Glass, to discover the truth, the movie may have dropped a major spoiler in this regard.  That annoys me more than anything – it’s completely alright to torture the readers, but let’s not keep the movie-goers wondering.  The fan base of the books is what made a movie possible in the first place, and to me this was a huge slap in the face to a loyal fandom who made this movie possible (and by all accounts are the only people to have spent money on seeing the movie, too).  

Clary instinctively using a rune the other shadowhunters had never even seen before

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is considered a box office flop.  City of Bones cost $60 million make, but after three weeks in theatres, the movie had only earned $37 million world-wide.  Consequently production on its sequel, based on the second book in the series, City of Ashes, has been halted indefinitely.  According to an official statement, Constantin Films wishes to "analyze the results to date and reposition the franchise in order to maximize results for future instalments" According to Martin Moszkowicz:

Pushing back the start of production of City of Ashes was a decision we did not take lightly. But after speaking with all of our partners on the creative and distribution side, it was clear that it will be beneficial to have more time to reposition the film in the current marketplace. The Mortal Instruments series has an incredibly loyal and ardent fan base and is a best-selling book series. While taking Cassandra Claire’s vision to the screen we want to make sure to draw on the full potential of the franchise.

Constantin Films has not said that it is cancelling the franchise, but realistically speaking, under the circumstances the chances of a sequel actually being filmed are slim.

Overall I enjoyed the film and it is by no means a major disappointment.  There is, however, no denying that it could have been more... 

just more.

Related post:
Book review: TMI: City of Bones ~ Cassandra Clare

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