The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

Young adults book adaptation seems like an on-going trend in Hollywood, a phenomenon happening from the success of Harry Potter and (ew) Twilight franchise.This year alone we already got Beautiful Creatures, The Host, the sequel of Percy Jackson. Soon we can add Catching Fire (sequel of The Hunger Games) and the much awaited Ender’s Game. The trend won’t let up soon, it seems, because there’s already 60 upcoming YA adaptations projects currently in various stages of planning and development. God save us all. Now, another YA adaptation coming from a series of fiction by former fanfiction writer Cassandra Clare, a hugely successful series, but if i learned anything from GoodReads rating: do not judge a book by its rating. SPOILER ALERT read at your own risk.

Clary Fray (Lily Collins) world collapse around her when her mother went missing and learns that she’s a descendant of a line of warriors called shadowhunters who protect the mundane (this franchise terminology for saying muggle) world from the threats of demons. With the help from her bestfriend-with-benefits-sort-of Simon (Robert Sheehan), another shadowhunters: Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), Alec (Kevin Zegers), Isabelle (Jemima West), she embarks on a journey to rediscover her past that her mother (Lena Headey) wanted to keep hidden.

First of all let’s take a few moments of silence in mourning the weirdness of Robert Sheehan in this film, hoping he’ll return in roles like he did in Misfits and get better acting jobs. Now let me get back to the film. Within the 130 minutes of its run time, you can expect being bombarded by 20 different plot points derived out of 20 different books/films/reference previously released in similar genre. That was my initial impression throughout the movie. I could not help but groan everytime i hear something that supposed to be a twist but just come across as weird and would work better if the film works as  parody of its own genre, kinda like Scary Movie parodied the whole horror genre, or Vampire Suck blatantly parodying Twilight. I dearly wished Mortal Instruments should be written as a parody of tween supernatural fantasy comedy films… Because to me the story would work better like that.

Let us begin with the title. I think a title must have somekind of significant thread to the content of the film. Mortal Instruments should not be captioned with ‘City of Bones’ as the title, instead ‘The Mortal Cup’ probably more apropos. Because the entire film they are looking for this illusive Mortal Cup that supposedly possessed great power and become the source of debacle until Clary’s mom decided to steal and hid it. Of course the title ‘The Mortal Instruments: The Mortal Cup’ or it alternatives probably does not have the same mysterious ring and sounded redundant. But the said ‘City of Bones’ was a small scene in the film, that did not leave too much impression on me, beside thinking that how well cast Harry Potter franchises were (please do not ask how my train of thoughts could go there, because it’d took another 200 words or so). Just like its predecessor in similar tween supernatural movie, the world of Mortal Instruments is filled with several different creatures: vampires, shadow hunters, witch and warlocks, demons, werewolves, mundanes, but not zombies because ‘they don’t exist, silly’. Demons can be part alien part ashen creatures that can possess another bodies. Werewolves are not sexy native american with washboard abs and olive skin, but bears-type mean with bushy beard and huge-ass motorbikes. The sexiest creatures are shadow hunters, with marker-ed skins, black goth/punk look, skin-tight leathers and 6-inch studded heels they ran in.

There are a lot of element happening almost at once in Mortal Instruments. The film is literally jam-packed with plots, probably borrowed from different pop-cultural references (because i felt that it has been done before). Let’s have a count: mother-daughter issue, missing dad, father issue, mother issue, love triangle, gay love (badly done i might add), incestuous love (there i said it), one-way love, loyalty, looking for hidden artifact, hidden past, mysterious power, awakening mysterious power, memory block, lost father, lost brother, self discovery, traitorous leader, backstabber, help to fight against common enemy, friendship, etc, etc.. Just to name a few. At one point of the movie you can literally get thrown a new twist every 5 minutes or so. It’s just so bizarre if not downright ridiculous. You can count from ‘if you want me to take my shirt off you should just ask’ line to the kissing with sprinkler suddenly going off thing and add to the gag factor.

Okay, I love Lily Collins despite i know her acting capabilities so far has been quite mediocre. Her acting here is not bad, i think i wanted to contribute the blame towards the writing or the original source material. Clary Fray is a weird girl, i mean Bella Swan was passive aggressive, but at least we know we can define her like that, Katniss Everdeen is a tough chick, Hermione Granger is smart and secure,  but what kind of girl is Clary? She has issue with her mother, she seemed strong, yet confused, yet weak, she’s does not show any special traits but having this hidden power within her that seemed lock up under her hidden memories, yet everybody thinks that she’s so special. Jamie Campbell Bower in his blonde locks (natural, based on his character line from the movie), prominent cheekbones, and english accent made an okay lead actor. Lena Headey deliver a solid performance in her short screen time, Robert Sheehan despite the unfortunate hair is still quite entertaining (though you can only hear ghosts of his adorable accent there). Kevin Zegers, as Alec with the homosexual arc are not believable for me, and felt forced and thrown upon if anything. I have to wonder about the state of wardrobe of this film, everyone is in leather and black hoods, the tattoo that look drawn upon complete the looks of the young Shadowhunters.While these tattoos does not look like prison tats, they still look drawn on by black sharpie, i wonder if it’s intended to be viewed like that. I have to question why for one of the scene, Godfrey Gao must appear in boxer briefs while he wore jackets and make up, was that intentional or did he literally forgot to wear his pants? Thank god when he re-appeared in all black, leather hoodie and all, totally redeem the confusing boxer-briefs, jacket, shirt, and shoes oddball wardrobe combination.

Every flaws in Mortal Instruments made me actually miss watching Twilight even with its banality. I tend to scoff at the absurdity of the film and smirks at its ideas. I think Hunger Games become some kind of a golden standard of adaptation for me, granted it probably has a better and more interesting idea as well as better group of talents and fall to the hand of a great director. The overstuffed premise of Mortal Instruments failed to engage me as an audience, maybe i have outgrow these type of films but maybe i just don’t think of it as enjoyable as it could be…

These opinons  rants are based on the film alone, it did not represents how i view the book, heck, because I never read the book and probably would never intend to (not after this mess of a film).


GENRE Adventure, Fantasy
DIRECTOR Harald Zwart | PRODUCER Don Carmody, Robert Kulzer | WRITER Jessica Postigo Paquette | MUSIC Atli Örvarsson | CINEMATOGRAPHER Geir Hartly Andreassen | EDITOR Michael Kahn | STUDIO Constantin Film | DISTRIBUTOR Screen Gems (US), Entertainment One (UK) | COUNTRY United States, Germany | RELEASE August 28, 2013 | RUNNING TIME 130 minutes | BUDGET $60 million | RATING PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action, some suggestive content
STARRING Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Lena Headey, Kevin Durand, Aidan Turner, Jemima West, Godfrey Gao, Jared Harris, Jeremy Rhys Meyers

All Pictures taken from IMDb |  Official Website

Not even Godfrey Gao in boxer briefs can distract me from this mess.


12 thoughts on “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

  1. Great review! I found myself laughing while watching this (although probably I shouldn’t be, but it was laughable) It tries to be many things, and it does present something familiar (already seen with the other franchises). However, it was the Twilight factor that seemed to be predominant in the whole movie, and it tried to be that. (It failed).

    And 60 more YA adaptations? Maybe some of them will succeed, like The Hunger Games. Looking forward for Ender’s Game though, it looks flashy based on the trailer.

    • You are not alone! i feel so bad for scoffing so much especially on the 2nd half. It just reach a new level of badness!! hahaha! The person next to me seemed like a fan so i felt bad for her >_< but yeah it does tries too much and too hard, doesnt it?

      Apparently so.. i'm scared at how many bad ones probably came out of those number. But yeah here's hoping for gems like Hunger Games! I'm excited for Ender's Game too! It does look good :D

    • Hahahaha I guess it really was that bad wasn’t it?! I did not exactly review sih it’s more like letting out my annoyance and frustration through writing it down :)

      • I think I’d need that let-out too :p
        for some fanboy or fangirl, it seems okay. For me, who had never once read the book, it’s completely spoof. The question is, isn’t the book ‘that special’?

      • I have never read the book either, and after seeing this film I definitely don’t intend to.. XD yes you should write those frustrations out xD

      • And after this we still have: Ender’s Game, How I Live Now, The Maze Runner, sequel of The Hunger Games (and perhaps sequels of Eragon, Percy Jackson, etc).
        Hopefully, I won’t waste my time argy-bargy with the adaptation things.

      • I have high hopes for Ender’s Game and Catching Fire is my favorite HG books so I am nervous for the adaptation. I hope How I Live Now and MazeRunner would be good too! I don’t think Eragon franchise will be revived tho…. It is sad that there are so many franchise went under despite the good source material. Percy Jackson’s third film is already in development. And the bad news is, so is the sequel for Mortal Instruments… Ugh

  2. Maybe you all sould read the book before judging, not that I don’t mind you expressing yourselves but maybe if you would of read the book you would understand the film abit more. Instead you all just slate it, seems abit harsh don’t you think??

    • Hi :) i’m sorry if you are offended by my rants about the film. I think a book and film are different mediums that should be judge separately, i don’t think i have to read the book version first to be able to enjoy to whatever film adaptated the story.
      Eg: I loved The Hunger Games without even reading the book. I read the book afterwards and i did not enjoy the last one and think the first film was more coherent than the book. I read Harry Potter books and enjoyed it immensely (#potterhead forever!) but i found most of the film and some of the actors are rather weak. :)
      I hope you understand what i’m trying to say here.

  3. Pingback: Monthly Digest: 2013 August | kinema kinema to karamel

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