Film Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

I went to see this film today with mixed expectations. I’d heard that it was flopping at the Box Office and all the critics hated it, but most of the fans of the book that I know on the internet thought it was good and had been to see it multiple times.

So which group do I agree with?

We’ll come onto that later. For those who don’t know, this is a bit more about the books and the film:

The Mortal Instruments is a YA series of (currently) five books that follows Clary, a girl who finds out that she’s not a human (Mundane) but a Shadowhunter. With her new Shadowhunter friends and her best friend Simon, she attempts to defeat Valentine and the monsters under the bed that she never believed to be real. TMI series has a spin-off trilogy, The Infernal Devices, and also a collection of short stories, The Bane Chronicles, attached to it. It is a best-selling book.

So why isn’t the film best-selling? You are hopefully asking. After all, it still has Clary as the main character; Jace is still her love-interest; Simon is still the idiot best friend with a crush on her; Alec still hates her; Isabelle is still a badass; Luke is still a werewolf. It’s based on the novel, which is well loved, so why isn’t the film?

Because the film is absolutely rubbish, that’s why. I say this with sadness in my heart and anger flowing through my veins, because the books are brilliant. I love the books — I’m not crazy, read-a-hundred-times in love with the books, I have to admit, but they’re a very enjoyable, interesting read with enough angst for my emo-teen heart to enjoy. The point I’m trying to make is that I’m not saying this because I’m biased. I’m not saying I hate it because I think, for example, that Jamie Campbell Bower was the wrong choice for Jace — in the past few months of seeing clips of him as himself and Jace, he has become Jace to me, and I have no qualms or problems with any of the actors chosen to play parts. I have no reason to hate City of Bones.

Except that it was terrible.

I understand that when you adapt a book into a film you have to cut things, change things, shorten things, etc, and fans of the books might not like it. And I understand that City of Bones was jam-packed with things happening; as the film continued I could see how much stuff had been packed into a book that wasn’t necessarily large enough for it, if how long and how many fight scenes there were in the film were any indication. But for some reason the film company kept all the fighting and chaos in the film and chucked out anything else. Absolutely anything else that they didn’t need to tell the story or to make clear everyone’s feelings.

Which basically comprises the biggest problems I had with the film. There was too much action — it was almost continuous action which was a very difiicult watch. The scenes were switched around and changed, as far as I could tell, for no reason — but perhaps it was so that there was no need for any of the sit-around scenes where Clary found out what on earth was happening to her or what had happened to her mother, etc, because it could be explained on the go by Madame Dorothea or Jace. The amount of action and fighting scenes meant that there was no character development at all — Jace and Clary went from aqquaintances who like each other well enough to snooging each others’ faces off within a heatbeat, and Jace was more than happy to blurt about his abusive childhhood to a near-stranger. Magnus was simply a way to carry on the plot (which is ridiculous since he is the very best part of the series) and Isabelle and Alec weren’t even formally introduced. I disliked Jace’s character — he wasn’t peaceful often enough for his sarky, hurt-gave-me-a-heart-of-stone-except-for-with-you-Clary-you’re-hot sense of humour to come through. Hodge wasn’t given enough chance to become the person everyone loved and trusted and Valentine was an idiot.

An idiot. Those of you who have read the book will understand how wrong it is that Valentine was just some crazy guy that wanted the Mortal Cup for a reason that might be making more Shadowhunters or might be cleansing the blood-line or something and killing the Clave but really who knows. Valentine of the books plotted and planned years in advance.


Valentine of the books raised Jace as his own and then faked his own death because he knew he’d need him one day; Valentine of the film took Hodge’s advice and changed Jace’s memories to make him believe that he was his father to upset him and Clary. And Jace didn’t even really believe him.


I didn’t like that they changed where the final battle was, either. In fact, the only thing in the whole film that I liked was the CGI.

No really, that was it.

I’m not saying that the film isn’t watchable — nobody walked out of the cinema, and my Mum didn’t either love it or hate it. But from this fan and writer’s point of view, at least, it was weak. Therefore, it gets:

One Relatively Curious Question Mark

One Relatively Curious Question Mark


2 thoughts on “Film Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

  1. I really liked the movie, but I totally agree with you that Valentine, in all his hilarious dreadlocked glory, came off more like an idiot than anything else. I don’t think there was enough build-up to emphasise how evil he is, or enough introduction of the actor. A shame, because I really like JR-M, but he looked silly and he didn’t really get a chance to DO much at all.

    I also agree that it was super disappointing that they told the audience right from the start that Clary and Jace AREN’T brother and sister. That’s one of the key points of tension in the whole series!


    • Indeed. I found it strange that they didn’t build Valentine up, too — after all, it wouldn’t be strange to assume that Clary or Jace wouldn’t know who he was as soon as they saw him, so it would have been easy to give JR-M a quick villain’s monologue or something.


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