Review – The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Movie Adaptation
  • Posted:
  • August 27, 2013


I saw The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones film this week. It’s flawed, but I enjoyed seeing the book I have loved so much come to life on-screen. So, without any preamble, here are some observations I had while watching the film.

– Casting –

(Jace) There was a big to-do about casting leading up to the film’s release, particularly with Jamie Campbell Bower playing Jace. Here was my original thoughts on the matter two years ago. Having seen the movie I still stand by the thought that he was the proper choice. JCB played Jace well and he had the look that I had always imagined for Jace down. It was good to see my thoughts confirmed.

What I didn’t like about Jace were things that he didn’t have much control over – his dialogue. Jace is snarky and cutting and that’s why we love him. In the movie the screenplay was lackluster for him. As a friend of mine pointed out they pulled out of context one-liner phrases of his and threw them in randomly. As such it made him seem less sharp than the character is… but again, I blame the writing not JCB.

Also… on a purely superficial note I was distracted by his over-gelled hair. If anyone has that much product in their hair it had better be in a mohawk… otherwise, don’t bother. Beyond those two things I had absolutely no issue with Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace and wouldn’t mind watching him portray him again in the future.

(Clary) Lily Collins was perfect as Clary Fray. Originally when I read the books I pictured a young Lauren Ambrose as Clary. However, she is my age and far too old to play a 16-17 year old at this point in time.

One a side note – the overall ages of the group was off… since all of the actors are in their mid-twenties. However, no one threw it off more so for me then Kevin Zegers, who played Alec. He looks every bit of 30 (he’s almost 29). As such I found it distracting. Isabelle was perfectly cast.

(Simon) I’m sort of in the middle of how I feel about Simon. I didn’t love or hate him, so there’s that. He’s not how I pictured him and I am having trouble letting that image go.

(Valentine) Perfectly cast for Jonathan Rhys Meyers though not perfectly played. I love JRM but his over-the-topness was too over-the-top. Of course I am remembering him as Steerpike in Gormenghast and I’m afraid it’s suffering from comparison. When you once played the perfect book villain so well it’s hard to do it again and make it different. I kept flashbacking to him as Steerpike and that’s a problem.

That said, I love Meyers as Valentine and I still think he’s a great casting choice.

(Magnus) Godfrey Gao certainly had the look of Magnus. However, I think he did not play up Magnus’s flamboyant personality very well. There was a huge disconnect with him as the character. He’s another one who has scintillating dialogue and lots of banter… and we had him for all of five minutes on-screen. There was no witty banter. There was nothing to indicate the Magnus we have all come to know in love except for the look of his make-up and his silly hot pants… which makes no sense to the audience unless you know that Magnus would wear hot pants (“Of course he’s in hot pants!” said I to myself the first time that Gao appeared on-screen). So, I think they missed the mark… but I blame that on something else that annoyed me…

– Character Development –

I missed this detail very much in the film adaptation. I realize with a book-to-screen adaptation this is where the transition might not transfer very well… but I felt this very keenly in this film in particular. All of the side characters outside of the three main principles were muted. They felt like they were having cameo appearances for the book fans and no other reason (Magnus was a perfect example). I missed the people who I have come to know and love so much.

– World-Building –

This is another detail that went away for this adaptation. There were many unexplained things that left the non-book-reader audience in the dark – the Runes and Iratzes, the Parabatai relationship between Jace and Alec, the Clave… etc. A slight explanation of any of these things would have gone a long way in fleshing out Cassandra Clare’s gorgeous world.

And this brings me to my last… gripe… I guess.

– Following the plot/Too much action –

All of these things could have been handled better had the director and writers pulled back on following the plot so rigidly, particularly with the action sequences. Now, admittedly, it has been 5 years since I read the first book City of Bones, and I have read several hundred other books since then so my memory may be a touch unreliable. It seemed (again, to me) that the movie followed the book plot pretty well. Almost too well… and there was an intense focus on bringing all of the action sequences to life. I feel if they would have pulled back on these sequences a touch and added to the world-building/character development end then they would have really knocked one out the park. As it was it’s too much action and not enough substance.

Also, worse first kiss song/scene ever. Gyah, it was cringe worthy.

But I am VERY relieved that the motorcycle did not fly in the end. So there is that.

Thoughts? Has anyone else seen it yet?

– BP

– Follow the Reader –





Library Thing




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2013-08-29 09:18:24 Reply

I’ve seen it 4 times by now (once at the premiere in LA) and overall I know they can’t do everything perfectly, and was pretty happy with it. Still probably the best book adaptation I’ve seen.

I do agree on all of what you said about the cast,except Robert Sheehan. I LOVE robbie, and think he was perfectly cast and definitely one of my faves in the movie. Also about Kevin Zegers, i think he looks like 21 ish. Though you do know they uped the ages of everyone to 18-20 right?

And as much as I think JRM did a great job, how Valentine was portrayed was not how I pictured him. He legit looks like a psychopath…and the thing is, he IS a psychopath, but he doesnt look it on the outside or through most of his mannerisms. He appears charming and charismatic….if i hadnt read the book I wouldnt have understood why people wouldve believed in him and followed him.

I think it could’ve definitely used more backstory of characters and had things explained more, hoping that will happen in the second movie.

And yes, oh god that kissing scene! It wold have been great if they didnt have that damn demi lovato song playing! It just made it so cheesy and not seem real or romantic…and then the sprinklers went off and I was just like -_- really? Was your goal to make no one take that seriously and laugh at it? cuz thats what happened.

Overall i think the choices they made that differed from the book were good and made sense with the feel and overall plots of the book, I really loved it! Perfect cast,well acted beautifully shot, and pretty faithful to the book.

And thanks again for the books! Was very excited to see that arc in there too! 😀 I’ll send you a review when I read them both!