Review - The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013), PG-13, 130 minutes - The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is based on the young adult fantasy novel of the same name written by Cassandra Clare. It follows teenager Clary Fray as she is exposed to a world of Shadowhunters and Demons, a world that she has much stronger ties to than even she realizes.

Clary (Lily Collins), like her mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey) is an artist. One day she doodles a symbol while talking on the phone. She then starts seeing the same symbol out around town, leading to her talking her way into a club along with her friend Simon (Robert Sheehan).  While in the club, Clary witnesses a murder that no one else sees. She's mortified that she was the only one to see what happened and wonders if she's going crazy. She's even more anxious the next morning when she wakes to a room full of drawings of the symbol that she continued to unconsciously draw over night. She tries to make sense of things with Simon when she has a second confrontation with the killer from the night before.  He's trying to figure out how a 'mundane' (a normal human with no powers) can see a Shadowhunter like him.  He has been using an invisibility rune and should be completely unseen by the mundane population.  Through a somewhat heated conversation Clary learns that the killer's name is Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) and that he's a Shadowhunter, a virtually immortal being that hunts demons and other unsavory paranormal beings. The killing wasn't a murder as it appeared to be, but the vanquishing of a demon.  Clary was able to see the events because she has a yet-to-be-determined connection to the Shadowhunter world.  As the film progresses, Clary discovers her heritage as well as her connection to one the three Mortal Instruments while joining Jace and his crew (brother/sister combo Alec and Isabelle) in their fight against Valentine (an exiled former Shadowhunter) and his demon forces.

The cast is primarily comprised of young 'up and comers' led by Collins and Bower but supported well by Sheehan and Kevin Zegers (Alec) and Jemima West (Isabelle). Veteran experience is added by a trio of well regarded actors/actresses: the aforementioned Headey, Jared Harris (Hodge), and Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Valentine). All three turn in performances that you would expect from them, which is a good thing.

The film clocks in at just over two hours, which probably could have been trimmed down a little without losing much. The story is entertaining and the characters' interactions are often amusing but I felt that a couple of romantically themed scenes midway through the film were a little heavy handed.  I know that the target audience for a film like this skews younger (it is based on a young adult novel after all), but that doesn't mean that story points couldn't be treated a bit more subtly.  Despite those couple of scenes, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones isn't nearly as lovey dovey or sappy as other films adapted from the young adult/supernatural/fantasy genre.  That being said, overall I enjoyed the movie. I wouldn't go out of my way to see it in theaters unless you're a big fan of the books, but I'd say that it would probably be worth a rental if you tend to like flicks of the fantasy/sci-fi ilk.


- I was intrigued about the story enough to go out and buy the book. I will be curious to see how true the movie stayed to the source material.

- I absolutely loved the Ghostbusters reference when Simon meets Jace for the first time. Actually, most of their interactions prior to the beat-you-over-the-head-just-to-make-sure-you-get-it romantic scenes were very entertaining if not simple and repetitive ("they weren't real cops").

- The Shadowcasters carry a wand-like accessory very reminiscent of Doctor Who's Sonic Screwdriver. It allows them to cast spells by burning runes into their skin.

- Having not read any of the books yet, I can only assume that Simon's being bit by a vampire comes back later on in the story.

- The adaptation of the second book in The Mortal Instruments series (City of Ashes) had been in pre-production, but there was an announcement the other day that the film was going to be delayed so that they would have time to better improve the script (which, according to author Cassandra Clare, had strayed from the book).

- Jame Campbell Bower looked familiar.  It took me a few minutes to realize that I had seen him previously on the tv mini-series Camelot.  He's been in other things, but that's what I could place him from.


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