My Review of Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (the movie)

Cast

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.

The casting:

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.

Final thoughts:

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

4 People, 4 Acts of Faith Based Courage

In the past two days I have met four remarkable people. I met them in two very different religious settings. One was a mosque, one was my UU church. All of these people awed me with their courage and bravery. As I was thinking about them today, I realized that not many people associate faith with courage. At least not most people I know/see. Faith and religion are often seen as a “weakness” and a lack of strength. The misconception is that someone is letting some imaginary “sky daddy” dictate morality for them and refusing to face reality (or something0. I’m sure we are all familiar with the idea of religion being the “opiate of the masses.” But the truth is that while this can be true for some, for others faith takes a tremendous amount of courage. To trust, to believe, to put your faith into something Other and More is *hard*. Harder than most know if they haven’t tried it. It also takes tremendous courage to walk away from the only faith you’ve ever known. Or to choose something different. Especially when you are doing it alone.

The first two people I met were at a local mosque I visited last night. I was invited to an “Iftar” (the breaking the fast service/dinner) during Ramadan) hosted by the women’s auxiliary group. This particular mosque is mostly Pakistani. What’s really interesting is that this sect of Islam is persecuted and seen as not legit by some due to the fact that they believe the Messiah/messenger has come. So many of the people there had fled their home countries when their interpretation of Islam was declared to be illegal.. Like I said, most of the people there were Pakistani, but I met two women that aren’t. One was an older black woman and the other was a middle-aged white woman. Both were converts. They greatly stood out from everyone else. I sat next to the older woman and found her to be like  may of the older black women I’ve known: forthright, funny, sassy and earthy. I asked her at one point if any of her family were going to be joining us. She told me “no” and said that she was the only Muslim in her family. I thought of how hard this must have been for her. And what courage it took to fully embrace a new faith.

The black community is overwhelmingly Christian. Our culture is strongly rooted in Christianity. The faith of our oppressors turned out to be one of our greatest tools of survival. The black community is also very much communal. Church is definitely a family/group affair.I knew exactly what converting must have meant to her.

It’s worth mentioning that converting to Islam is NOT like converting to Christianity. If you are an American, even a non-believing one, there’s a very good chance that you are so steeped in Judea-Christian culture that you would have not much trouble learning the ropes’, as it were, of Christian church life. The Holy Book is familiar as are the holidays, the language and the rituals. None of this is true for most Americans and Islam. I think converts to Judaism also undertake a very similar ordeal. Compared to becoming  a Christian, becoming a Muslim or a Jew is like the Iron Man (competition) of faith.

As for the other woman, I imagine she had a similar struggle. She mentioned that she was married and that her husband was not a Muslim. She converted after many years of marriage. She said that it was a struggle, but that it felt so “right” to her and was totally worth it. She was so at peace with herself.

I wondered how it felt for these women to be a part of a community where they are very much ethnic and racial minorities. A sad fact of our society is that our houses of worship are just as racially segregated as many of our neighborhoods, clubs and so on. Not uniformly, but overwhelmingly so. My church has around 125 members. I am one of about 4 black members. My faith is overwhelmingly white. Of my family that is religious, all of them attend black churches. My Latino friends attend mostly Latino churches. And so on. I recall being pleasantly surprised at how much a part of the community these women were. I also recall being immediately shamed by that thought. I mean, why wouldn’t they be? But, again, this is the world we live in. People not being jerks is still something that surprises.

Today at church I met two young adults. A man and a woman. Both were ex-Mormons. The first I had personally ever met. I went to high school in an area with a large Mormon population, but all the Mormons I knew/know are currently Mormon, so I was eager to speak with these two about led to them our UU church. Both of these individuals really moved me with their stories and bravery.

The man is an academic currently writing his dissertation for his PhD at the local UC. He left the church because he’s gay. He told me that there is only so much anti “you” stuff that one can listen to every Sunday. That eventually it gets to you and starts to break you down. So he left. But that meant leaving everything. His whole family is Mormon. He is the oldest of 9 siblings. His sister is getting married next month and he can’t even attend. Non-Mormons are not allowed into such ceremonies. He’ll go to the party afterward, but it’s not the same. Both of these people found thriving Mormon communities online for “rebels” like themselves. They spoke of them like lifelines.

The woman is a young therapist. She left the church over her burgeoning feminist identity. She spoke passionately of her “awakening” to the patriarchy of the Mormon church. Particularly, she gradually realized that women don’t have much of a presence or a voice in the Church. They are not allowed official positions of power or authority. Everything is from a man’s point of view. She spoke of being flooded by things she had always just accepted, but never questioned. At one point she exclaimed, “I couldn’t be a party to my own oppression anymore!” For me, that was a “woah” moment. Watching a baby feminist take flight is exhilarating. That said, she was also being torn in two. Her husband is still a Mormon. In fact, he and her young child were attending services while she was at our church. We asked how that was working out for them and she said it was, “Hard.” I could hear how much so in her voice. She told us how she had to sit her husband down and tell him that she wanted to not only pursue higher education but that she wanted to use it. As she said, “I was already not using one degree, I wasn’t going to get another and do the same.” Such a badass.

I admit to thinking that both of my new friends were absolutely adorable. Mr. Academic told me how his nieces and nephews think he’s totally the cool uncle because he isn’t married, doesn’t have kids, left the Church and…now drinks coffee. His parents think he is negatively influencing his siblings with such scandalous behavior. Both of them were like every other Mormon I have ever known: Polite, earnest and kind. Clearly with backbones of steel, though. In our church we always make sure visitors know that we know how much courage it took for them to walk though our doors. I told my new friends that they were in good company here. Our church is full of incredibly strong people who took a literal leap of faith. Our service today was on finding Eden in the here and now. I think faith warriors, like the folks I met, will lead us there.