Synopsis: Set in contemporary New York City, a seemingly ordinary teenager, Clary Fray (Lily Collins), discovers she is the descendant of a line of Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of young half-angel warriors locked in an ancient battle to protect our world from demons. After the disappearance of her mother (Lena Headey), Clary must join forces with a group of shadowhunters, who introduce her to a dangerous alternate New York called Downworld, filled with demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves and other deadly creatures.
Release Date: August 21, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance
Each and every YA novel adapted for the screen is now compared to The Twilight Saga movies, whether we like to admit this fact or not. The unfortunateness can actually work to the benefit of a movie, The Hunger Games is a prime example, as the bar has shifted low for the sub-genre, regardless of what parent genre it hails. The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones (“City Of Bones“) is yet another YA best-selling novel adaptation to hit movie screens. The good news is that the movie exceeds being decent; some may go so far as to say its fairly well-done.
What makes City Of Bones work is the fact that it does not exceed its expectations. The story is neat and simple, but has enough intriguing qualities that you become fully engaged in the characters and the mythology created behind shadowhunters and the Clave they represent. Clary (Lily Collins), the main character, is a mundane (human), or she thought she was one until the fateful day the plot of City Of Bones begins. Clary keeps doodling a mysterious symbol, and her mother Jocelyn (Lena Headley from Dredd) and family friend Luke (Aidan Turner) are keeping a secret from her as to what the symbol means. Like any good teenager, Clary does not tell her mother how serious the doodling has gotten until its too late and her mother is kidnapped by those she escaped years before, a rogue branch of the Clave led by a Dr. Frankenstein-like character, Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers of From Paris With Love). Clary’s journey to save her mother is set in motion and her reality turned upside down when she learns the truth about her mother’s past, the existence of the Clave and shadowhunters, people who are half-human half-angel and fight dark forces, and her own complicated lineage. City Of Bones is a coming-of-age tale for a strong-minded female character mixed up in elements of fantasy and horror. There’s also romance, with a love triangle between Clary (Lily Collins), the shadowhunter Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), and Clary’s best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan). But if you think you know how the love triangle will end you’re wrong. City Of Bones has a dirty little twist at the end which works wonders for the future of the storyline–and there will be more movies as there are plenty of novels to keep adapting.
With City Of Bones you get romance, action, mystery, and a new mythology to grasp onto with a group of young adults who are undoubtedly mature for their age–it is very refreshing to watch. The movie is also full of plenty of humor, some tongue-in-cheek and other parts purely organic, grown out of sarcasm. City Of Bones succeeds because it is undemanding, well-written, and directed with the viewer in mind. Each plot point, be it the romance, discovering Clary’s lineage, learning about the Clave, etc., are presented with the least amount of pretense and dramatics. Some might say its far too flavorless and it needed more depth–they would be wrong. City Of Bones has everything it needs to be an entertaining fantasy, adding any more complications or melodrama would have only caused disengagement from a viewer. The movie stands as a swiftly paced fantasy-adventure full of humor, romance, enough thrills and action, and best of all a cast of characters who have actors that are not painful to watch on screen. City Of Bones is a YA novel adaptation I can actually recommend, and I’m still in shock over my reaction, and ultimate decision to embrace the movie and find myself willing to watch it again.
Upon first view of a trailer for The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones it would not shock anyone if you rolled your eyes and expected very little in terms of the screenplay. Surprisingly enough, screenwriter Jessica Postigo has achieved a very difficult thing adapting the novel for the screen: she made it fast-paced, with strong characters who have personality, and created a mythology that is easy to grasp but not so generic its boring. Postigo has done what needs to be done with YA sub-genre movies that border fantasy and romance, she wrote one that is pleasurable to watch.
Much of the good fortune in the script for City Of Bones is due to the main character Clary (Lily Collins from Stuck In Love). Instead of her being a helpless female character who feigns stupidity as her world changes in an instant and suddenly everything she ever knew to be real has become a lie, in one manner or another, and depends on a man to protect and save her, Clary is a strong female protagonist. She embraces the new challenges put upon her, while also managing to have romance sweep her away while testing her loyalties to others. Clary is not without her limitations, she is just learning about the new Shadowhunter world and that all of the scary stories about witches, vampires, werewolves, and demons are in fact true. Its a great deal to handle, but Postigo manages to keep Clary’s insecurities while also forging strength from them to make her more than a helpless female. A great deal of the credit should also be given to the fact that Lily Collins actually has talent as an actress and can carry a line, evoke emotion, and project strength and vulnerability.
There are the supporting characters to consider as well, and Postigo writes each one of them with enough nuances and arcs necessary to make each interesting, even if their screen time is limited. There are areas where improvement could have been made; for example, the backstory of Clary’s mother as part of the Clave could have used more detail. As could the Jace-Alec-Isabelle connection as friends, pseudo-family, and shadowhunters. Those who have read the book will undoubted see the lack of information given to this part of the story, but a great deal has been changed in City Of Bones from the novel so it is just one more concession to make. As for the adaptation itself, I dare say I believe the movie is better than the novel in a great many ways. That analysis will have to wait for another day as it deserves far more detail and a movie can only be critiqued based on what it offers, and not its fictional source material in a review.
While City Of Bones is fast-paced and engaging throughout the action element of the story is mild. There are plenty of moments where demons are killed, vampires and shadowhunters attack one another, and a variety of other action-packed scenes. The action is not a key element of the story, it is merely a backdrop for revealing Clary’s role in the future of the Clave and her rise as a shadowhunter. City Of Bones does not disappoint when the fighting takes place, except for the lack of werewolves changing but we’ve seen enough of that in movies such as Underworld and The Twilight Saga, so its no big loss. There is enough action to sustain City Of Bones as a fantasy-action-adventure movie, one just can’t expect to be given an onslaught of it at every plot point. There are quite a few fancy weapons being used, though, and that is always a treat.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Harald Zwart
- Screenwriter(s): Jessica Postigo
- Cast: Lily Collins (Clary)Jamie Campbell Bower (Jace)Kevin Zegers (Alec) Jemima West (Isabelle)Robert Sheehan (Simon)Robert Maillet (Blackwell)Kevin Durand (Pangborn)Godfrey Gao (Magnus Bane)Lena Headley (Jocelyn)Jared Harris (Hodge)Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Valentine)Aidan Turner (Luke)
- Editor(s): Joel Negron
- Cinematographer: Geir Hartly Andreassen
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Atli Orvarsson
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA