Tonight I saw the movie The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. This is my review. I am going to try and stay away from spoilers. This is not going to be a play-by-play.
First of all, I have to let it be known that I am coming from the perspective of a fan. I have read all five books in this series and I am on the last book in the prequel trilogy. I went into the theater with knowledge of the full story and that makes my review very different from the one someone might write who went into the theater with a total blank slate.
My overall opinion: I liked it. Mostly. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t read the books, though. Why? Because the movie seemed to be made with the assumption that this was their one shot to tell this story. Unfortunately, that meant cramming at least 3 book’s worth of plot into a 2 hour movie. I can’t fault them for that but it made for a VERY stuffed film. It also made the movie confusing for my friend and I (which is very weird because we know the story). As the movie went on we kept seeing things we know for a fact didn’t happen in the first book or didn’t happen the way the movie portrayed them. Now that would be fine if it didn’t make a difference to the overall story. However, things that the book was able to take the time to reveal or explain or build up to where just flung at the audience here. This took the emotional impact out of these scenes. You can’t short-cut that sort of thing ( A prime example would be the recent “Khan!” scene from the latest Star Trek film. The original scene worked because it had The Great Friendship behind it–and the years it took to build that friendship. Another example, for me, would be Lavender’s death in Harry Potter: DH2. In the book it’s shocking and hurts because we’ve “known” this girl for 7 years. In the movie it’s kind of meh because so little of her is shown on the screen and it’s two movies ago). Also, it really messed with the logical narrative. A non-spoilery example: Something happens to one of the main characters in the movie that doesn’t happen until book 3. This is a BIG life-changing something. It is a major plot point for the rest of the series. Here, in the movie, the circumstances are changed, the “thing’ is alluded to…but never explained. It literally serves no purpose to the movie plot whatsoever and makes one wonder why it was included at all. I can only imagine that it WAS meant to have a purpose/be addressed, but then it ended up on the cutting room floor.
And speaking of cutting room floor victims…I was super annoyed to see a scene from the trailer dropped entirely from the final movie. That’s annoying. I hope it’s put back into the DVD because I was really looking forward to that scene.
It’s no secret that I was somewhat disappointed with the casting of certain characters. After seeing the movie some of my fears were eliminated. Sadly, some of them were confirmed. This is not the fault of the actors, for the most part, it’s mainly the fault of a large cast of characters that need to be introduced in a very short time. Everyone get’s short changed here. Some worse than others. Let’s go down the list:
Lily Collins as Clary Fray: Lily definitely won me over. She could definitely become my head canon image of Clary. Lily has made no secret of being a huge fangirl of the series and that she knew that she could be Clary when she read the books. I think that definitely helped her performance. I also appreciated the casting of a non-model looking type to play a character that does not have great beauty as a defining trait.
Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace Wayland: Most of my worries were about Jamie. He is not at ALL what I pictured Jace to look like. Most of the internet agrees with me. Sorry, Jamie.That said, I felt much better about it by the end of the movie. He at least captured some of Jace’s arrogant swagger and penchant for one-liners and clever put-downs.
Robert Sheehan as Simon: Perfection. I loved him. That is all.
Kevin Zegers as Alec Lightwood: Ugh. Not impressed. To be fair, his character is barely sketched out in the first book, so there isn’t too much to work with here. He did capture Alec’s hostility and rigidity fairly well. He is NOT pulling off 18 very well, though.
Jemina West as Isabel Lightwood: Not bad, could have been better. I do like that they toned down some of her attitude from the books. I also loved her clothes.
Lena Headey: I am excited to see her in anything, honestly. She was clearly under-used and that was a damn shame.
Godrey Goa as Magnus Bane: He was fantastic looking. He was sooo wasted, though. Super misleading to portray him in all the publicity stuff as a major part of the movie, like he is in the books, then only use him in TWO scenes in the movie! I was looking forward to his stuff the most. =(
Aiden Turner as Luke: See “Lena Headey” above.
Jonathon Rhys Meyers as Valentine Morgenstern: I think Jonathon Rhys Meyers exists to destroy what I love. Seriously. STAY OUT OF MY MOVIES JRM. He can be a good actor. At times. This is not one of them. I was/am the most upset about his casting. He clearly missed the memo that said his character is, while evil and hateful, also super educated, suave and charming. He took note of the “evil” part and ad-libbed “deranged” and “crazy eyes.” Like, who WAS that supposed to be??
Music: I like the soundtrack despite the horrible use of some of the songs. There was literally a scene where I turned to my companion and said, “that was a little much” and she nodded enthusiastically in agreement. I thought I was in a fanvid for a moment.
Special effects/action: I was really pleased with the fight scenes and choreography. I thought Isabel’s whip looked especially good. I thought the demons looked very much like what I imagined in my head. Same with The Institute set.
I hope the movie does well enough for a sequel. I think it mainly suffers from being too big of a story for the time given. That said, it could have done with a much cleaner screenplay as well. If anything, the movie made me really want to go back and read the books. I hope it does the same for those who watch the movie who haven’t read the books.
Oh, wait. I totally lied. I have one more “final” thought. This kind of blew my mind in a meta way. So. It’s fairly common knowledge that this series is an adaptation of a really well known Harry Potter fan fic (Yes, just like 50 Shades, but much better written and not Twilight fan fic). Jace and Clary are Cassandra Clare’s (the author) Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley. The actor that plays Jace Wayland, Jamie Campbell Bower, was in a long term relationship with Bonnie Wright–who played Ginny Weasley in the Harry Potter films. Woah.
Update! That was quick, I know. According to IMDB, the next movie (City of Ashes) is in pre-production. Also, SIGOURNEY WEAVER is signed on to the cast. ZOMG