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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - Film Review

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by Sam (subscribe)
Freelance writer, author and dreamer.
Published January 15th 2014
☆ - Brilliance in its own absurdity
Cassandra Clare's endless tales revolving around teenagers hunting demons have been among the most popular Young Adult genre novels since the publication of City of Bones in 2007. Clare has been milking the success of her initial trilogy, The Mortal Instruments which has since been expanded to a hexology, with a prequel trilogy, a planned sequel trilogy and space for another predicted prequel trilogy.

But is a film series too far?

Unfortunately for Clare and Harald Zwart (director), it is three years too late for City of Bones to have been adapted into a film. What would have been considered a comfortable fit with an edge of being different and exciting in 2010, instead comes off as tired and overdone in 2013 and beyond.

Official Movie Poster
Official Movie Poster


Relative newcomer at the time of her casting as Clary, Lily Collins is as best a decent actor in City of Bones. She manages to capture a semblance of the emotions a teenager would display in such a film: angst, excitement and attraction, however Collins fails to shine.

Collins comes across as mediocre and underwhelming actor when placed next to Robert Sheehan and Jamie Campell Bower as her two emotional tethers for the majority of the film. Collins fails to achieve any semblance of emotional depth for her character's realisation of the world and danger she is in. Sheehan's depiction of Simon's reluctant, yet excited, acceptance of the world of the Shadowhunters comes off as more realistic whilst Collins' is both rushed and emotionless to allow for the romance to overtake the mystery.

In addition to being paired with Sheehan and Bower as her main co-leads, Collins is also surrounded by a wealth of more experienced actors in the film. Aidan Turner, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Lena Headey and Jared Harris, however, may make an exceptional cast, however they do less to support Collins and more accentuate her unexceptional portrayal of Clary to the audience.

Jace, Isabelle and Alec
Jace, Isabelle and Alec


Collins is also let down by first time screenwriter, Jessica Postigo Paquette, with a sub-par screenplay. The script is daring in places, rearranging the events of the novel and including some from the sequels. Despite the attempts to streamline the story, the amount of action is increased, and as such the story still feels rushed at 130 minutes.

The screenplay is weak, with the film being more information dump than adventure to ensure that both Clary and the audience has an intimate, in depth knowledge of every detail of the world. This is done in such a way to conserve time, eliminating the mystery and wonder.

As such, character interactions come off as forced in nature, overly revealing and the lead up to the finale falls back to the classic villain-twirling-his-moustache-esque monologue by Meyer's Valentine. Paquette's version of the story leaves much to be desired as the emotionality of the original novel is lost and replaced with the fast paced action scenes and the chemistry between Collins and Bower barely sparking.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones should have been a phenomenal film, the supporting cast was fantastic and with a bit more experience, Collins would have been a powerful protagonist. The concept was too late as a film and despite the handful of humorous one-liners, the screenplay not enough to redeem that fact. Serious as it had been made, City of Bones seems like a parody in places and a genuine bad film in others.

This film is past its prime before it even had a chance to grow, and although it fails to wow or even entertain in its current time and form, it has the chance to be brilliant in its absurdity in years to come.

Images sourced from Cassandra Clare's Official Website
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Where: On DVD/Bluray
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