The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Starring: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Robert Sheehan, Jemima West, Lena Headey, Jared Harris, Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Director: Harald Zwart.

Plot: Based on the novel by Cassandra Claire. When her mother disappears, Clary Fray learns that she descends from a line of warriors who protect our world from demons. She joins forces with others like her and heads into the dangerous New York ‘Downworld’.

City of Bones

This movie is right up my street – I’ll watch anything that involves vampires, werewolves, demons, witches etc. etc. It’s always been one of my favourite film genres, and so, I quite enjoyed City of Bones.

Lily Collins is Clary Fray, whose mother gets abducted at the start of the film. On her ‘quest’ to find her mother, Clary learns that she descends from family of Shadowhunters (demon hunters), and is not human (or a Mundane as humans are dubbed here) as she had always, quite reasonably, assumed. There’s lots going on here – back story, pretty decent action, some good effects, the discovery of new powers, a love triangle, some double crossing – teen angst, tied up with a shiny, supernatural bow!  In fact, this pretty much ticks all the boxes for young adults, which is fair enough, since it’s based on teen fiction.

For general information, there are six books in the Mortal Instruments series, five of which have already been released. There are also three prequels, called the Infernal Devices. Plus, apparently there will be a series of sequels called the Dark Artifices from 2015. Therefore, it’s likely that the Mortal Instruments will stick around for a while. Indeed, City of Ashes is already set to hit cinemas in 2014.

It’s got a good cast that doesn’t disappoint. Lily Collins does well as the heroine, and Jamie Campbell Bower is suitably broody and sarcastic. The chemistry between the pair is scorching, and there is a pretty good kiss – MTV Movie Award for Best Kiss at the ready! Robert Sheehan is funny and endearing as Clary’s best friend, and the token ‘normal guy’ of the group. Jonathan Rhys Meyers is terrifying as the main villain, Valentine – creepy, deluded, and insane.

It’s an attractive film. The effects are mostly good, especially the horrifyingly grim demon transformations (ick!). The sets are exquisitely crafted, the ‘City of Bones’ and the Library at the Institute being the most impressive. The building containing as Clary’s apartment is beautiful, too. Fans of the books will appreciate the attention to detail in each character’s weapons and runes.

What’s wrong with it? There’s nothing we haven’t seen before here, except perhaps the tattoo-based magic. There are some really soppy song choices, which I suppose won’t matter if you go in for that sort of thing, but I don’t. Pairing up with the gushy ballads is one of the corniest scenes in film history (though it’s the same as it is in the book so I guess that’s fair enough). Also, there’s one particularly cringe-worthy line at the end of the film, which actually brought an audible groan out of me, and may ruin the entire film for some people. Luckily, I’m well practiced at embracing cheesy – I put it down to years of watching Disney films and musicals. Still, I’m taking off half of a star for sheer over-romanticising.

What’s right with it? It’s not boring – there’s always a lot going on and there’s plenty of action, especially towards the end. It’s well cast (especially when you compare it to other recent films of this genre, like Twilight), it’s well shot, it looks amazing, and quite true to the book. As a fan of the books, I like that it sets up the story for the next film/s pretty well – there are things hinted at here that don’t creep up properly until the second book, but it works well. It’s witty in places, and there are a lot of one-liners. Chiefly, what’s right with it is that it’s perfect for its target audience – I’m sure lots of teenaged girls are going crazy for this film right now.

Finally, I feel it would be almost scandalous to post this review without mentioning eyebrows. Almost the entire cast have absolutely spectacular eyebrows, especially Lily Collins and Robert Sheehan. It’s fascinating, and I’m giving an extra half of a star purely to pay homage to large eyebrows.

I enjoyed this film, but I do wonder whether it would draw in anyone who isn’t already a mortal Instruments fan. Having said that, I went to see it with someone who hasn’t read the books and they seemed to enjoy it well enough. Harald Zwart is lined up to direct City of Ashes as well, so hopefully he’ll be able to inject a tad more originality and depth there. I’ll give 3.5 stars to this one, whilst looking forward to the next one.

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4 thoughts on “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

      • I’ve read Clockwork Angel so know a little bit about the world but nothing about the characters – will be interesting! And good to know Sheehan is good in it

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