Thoughts on “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” movie

Before I try and delve into each of my thought, I should remind you that this is not a review. And that if you haven’t seen it yourself and wish to watch it someday, then you may not want to continue reading. 

Last Sunday I’ve finally watched one of my much awaited films for 2013 (alongside Ironman 3 and Catching Fire) with my dad and sister. As much as I wanted to be the first in line on its opening day last Wednesday, it was storming like crazy the entire week so I had to wait for 4 agonizing days just to see it.

Anyway, I will tell you this: It was well worth the wait.

I started reading the series late last year and wasn’t able to stop since. I will admit, though, that I decided to jump into it when I learned that it was going to be turned into a film (Hello, Harry Potter and Hunger Games?) and that it had an interesting cast (JCB, Kevin Zegers, and Robert Sheehan as the main characters, like wuuut).

And then there’s Lily Collins as Clary Fray.

I have liked Lily since The Blind Side and liked her even more with Mirror, Mirror. I think she’s really pretty with her thick eyebrows and all and that she’s really lucky to have dated Mr. Bower (lol). However, I think Clary, in this first film, lacked emotion on some parts. I am no acting guru or whatever but I expected more on her confrontation with Valentine and when “it” was revealed. She is the heroine of this story after all. Since they used a lot of tight shots, the actors’ eyes and facial expressions are crucial and I didn’t quite feel what I needed to feel from these scenes. Or maybe I’m subconsciously comparing my emotions while reading the scene to while watching it..? I’m not sure. Good news is, Lily is young and there are 5 more books in this series. As far as I’m concerned, she did an average job playing Clary on this first one, and I still love her.

I’m going to be honest here. For the first couple of weeks since the first official trailer was released, I thought it was Jake Abel playing Jace Wayland HAHAHA it was slightly embarrassing because I kept telling it to my sister with pride and dignity every time we came across a movie poster in the mall. What can I say, they look so much alike. I guess I have IMDB to thank for correcting me on that (btw, it’s Jamie Campbell Bower, in case you didn’t know). That being settled, I didn’t really care much about him playing Jace since I didn’t know much about him either. But  after seeing the film, I can safely say that he fits the role perfectly to the point that I will be picturing him while reading TMI from now on. He IS Jace. However, my only struggle while watching was understanding the accent. Heh, it’s sexy, sure. And it’s very true to the book. But one key to appreciating a film is actually understanding the lines. I sure will be watching this again with subtitles in the future just so I can fully understand and appreciate it. And also to be able to explain to my friends who couldn’t.

Moving on.

Alec Lightwood is a very interesting character for me, and to have Kevin Zegers play him is very fun to watch. I’ve been crushing on this underrated actor since It’s a Boy Girl Thing and aside from that and his slight resemblance to Zac Efron, there’s really nothing much to say. Just watch out for Alec because there’s so much more to him than this first film. I hope he gets more screen time too so people can understand what he’s truly all about.

Isabelle “Izzy” Lightwood is probably my least favorite character in the book. Who would have thought I would actually like her on screen? Jemima West really rocked that Shadowhunter fashion and owned those fighting scenes. Respect.

Last but DEFINITELY not the least, Robert Sheehan as Simon Lewis.

I’ve said it a million times before on my Goodreads account and I’ll say it again here: I am so madly in love with Simon freaking Lewis. Like, if he were real today, I will be dating him in a heartbeat. Granted, of course, that he agrees. He’s one major reason why I’m a fan of this whole thing, tbh. (Telling you why requires another blog post so I’ll leave you at that) Robert, without a doubt, played Simon flawlessly. And I’m not being biased here. (Check out Misfits) Remember when I said Jamie IS Jace? Well, Robert IS MORE Simon. On screen, at least. And it truly makes the fan girl in me happy when they cast such amazing actors to play as the characters I’ve learned to love.

Other pleasant surprises were Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine (really, who cares if he isn’t blonde in the movie) and Kevin Durand as Pangborn!! (Kevin D. is such a brilliant villain and a personal favorite too!)

Anyway, let’s get down to the movie.

(Photo source:

Overall, I believe Harald Zwart did a fantastic job on putting everything together – the production and costume designs, the film editing, and the musical scoring. The contrast between the mundanes and Shadowhunters were clearly established; the cuts on the flashback scenes were just enough and carefully placed to relay information to the audience without overdoing it; and the background music – probably the most common thing many filmmakers neglect in my opinion – was there to fill in on some possible dragging parts. And the CGI demons! I liked how inexplicable they appeared since that is how they were frequently described in the book. (Lol, weird is an understatement) Now, I’m not saying that the film couldn’t do better. Maybe a different approach on the cinematography will be more suitable, or that perhaps they should have included more establishing shots of Clary’s mundane life routine just so the transition of her life will seem more drastic. There are a number of things that could be improved, actually.

However, as a fan of the books and Cassandra Clare’s stories, I think the movie is good and is NOT a “big fail Twilight wanna be”. (Buzzfeed’s words, not mine. Jesus, don’t even get me started with Twilight.) So what if it scored 13% on Rotten Tomatoes by “movie critics”? I’ve seen way more horrible films that rated higher. Besides, 74% of the audience seem to like it. Isn’t that what’s supposed to matter? Anyway, I just wish people didn’t dismiss it as just another Young Adult adaptation without even checking it out, because stereotypes are the worst.

Having said that, the thing with these book to film adaptations is that people always tend to compare the two, especially with these Young Adult novels. For the last time, a book is for reading and exercising our own imaginations. If you enjoyed it, then good for you. But you cannot expect to have the same exact experience while watching its film. They are two different things and it is a mortal sin to expect every single detail of the book to be included in a 2-3 hour motion picture. Learn to enjoy a film as it is. And don’t judge what you do not know and understand.

Verdict: Worth watching. 8 / 10

(All movie posters are found from Google)

UPDATE (05.05.2014):

Apparently this post is still being viewed by readers so let me just make some rightful changes now that I’ve seen the film for at least five times.

I believe it’s problem isn’t really with the manner of how the film was made, with the cast, or even with the marketing strategy (just like what I’ve read on some articles regarding the delay on the filming of City of Ashes). I think, and I’m no expert or anything, it’s with the screenplay – because the story did not seem to appeal or make enough impact on the non-readers who watched it. For us who have read the books, it was easy to keep up and understand what was going on and I was personally thrilled to see it all unfold on the big screen. Then I tried to view it from a non-fan’s perspective. Some characters and parts just weren’t clear enough.

I just have a few sentiments that I’d like to get off my chest, too:

  1. The lack of establishment of Jace’s character made his sarcastic lines in the film just… off. Which was kind of disappointing ’cause he totally got me in the book. I mean, I wish they didn’t just randomly pop up. There could also have been more of his funny one-liners and witty banters with Simon.
  2. That greenhouse scene was just too cheesy for my taste, I guess.
  3. Hodge tells Valentine to “lie and tell them they’re siblings”…? This really threw me off track. So the audience already knows it’s a lie from the beginning? Still confused about this.
  4. Weak ending. There’s just no other way to put it.
  5. HOWEVER, I still stand by the Hotel Dumort scene being my favorite part. I think they nailed that.

Whatever happens, I still wish they get on with this series asap. There will be people all over the world watching it anyway. X




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