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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones: Lack of character development, lack of plot

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mortal_instruments_city_of_bonesDirector: Harald Zwart
Screenplay: Jessica Postigo
Release Date: August 21, medical 2013
Actors: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell-Bower, Robert Sheehan, Lena Heady, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Based on the book of the same name by Cassandra Clare

The Mortal Instruments City of Bones is based on the book of the same name by Cassandra Clare, author of The Mortal Instrument series. It follows a young teenage girl by the name of Clary (Lily Collins), who is thrust into a world filled with vampires, demons, warlocks, werewolves, and demon hunters. Her mom Jocelyn, who tried to protect Clary from the truth ends up being taken and goes missing. Clary, with the help of her best friend Simon and her new demon hunter (called Shadowhunters) “friends” (Jace, Isabelle and Alec), tries to find her mom and the Mortal Cup that everyone in their race covets, especially Valentine, her father whom her mom tried to hide away and run from.

Let’s get this out of the way first – I loved reading The Mortal Instruments series. Clary herself, not so much. So this review will be written in the point of view of someone who has read the books and make direct comparisons with what parts worked and why some (or most) parts I felt, failed.

What worked:

1. The acting. Jamie Campbell Bower especially impressed me in his portrayal of Jace, as did Robert Sheehan who brought Simon literally to life. It’s too bad the script was fairly weak which didn’t give the actors much to work with, but what they were given they accomplished well.

2. The jabs that Jace and Simon give each work perfectly. The chemistry between Robert Sheehan and Jamie Campbell Bower was funny and they worked well with one another, but I felt at some times when there could have been an opportunity for a remark thrown by Jace or Simon, they are left with nothing to do, especially Simon.

What didn’t work:

1. The music: Distracting, forced. For some reason this element jumps to the forefront of problems of the film. Instead of letting the actors carry the film or using imagery to evoke an emotion out of the audience, music was used instead. Creepy scene? Cue the creepy music. The scene with the Silent Brothers was supposed to jar us. But lay over really creepy music that doesn’t fit the scene just made it seem cheesy. Show us through the actors, through the set and the mood, but don’t overpower us with the music. Love scene? Cue the horrible pop music. The love scene in the greenhouse was awful with the pop music. This doesn’t help with the Twilight image that this series already has. A score would have been fine. The whole set up leading to the kiss felt, for lack of better words, choreographed. This film will feel less dated had they stuck with a score instead of deciding on inserting a current pop song in the middle.

2. Lack of chemistry or tension build up. I understand that Lily Collins is an attractive girl and Jamie Campbell Bower is extremely good looking, but for them to fall completely in love with one another so quickly (especially Jace to Clary) was not very believable.

3. Rushed storyline with a lack of character development (editing): It seemed as though the film focused on moving from one point to another, without actually taking the time to allow the audience to invest in the characters. Why should we care about Clary and what happens to her mother? Why should we care about Jace and his family? We don’t get a good idea of who these people are, and what would make them endearing to us. They slow down at parts that aren’t important (read, the romantic scenes – and not even done very well) and then speed up at parts which are critical in which people miss certain important explanations.

4. Valentine: As much as I enjoy Jonathan Rhys Meyers I was extremely disappointed with the costume and his whole portrayal of the antagonist of the entire series. Instead of what I had pictured in my head – a Hitler of sorts who believed in his ideals who was manipulative and cunning, we got a raving lunatic for the Mortal Cup. Think the Emperor from Star Wars. There was no real explanation as to his actions and it bothered me as to why he was forcing Clary to drink from the Cup. It took me out of the film completely. Even someone who followed the film should be confused as well. Clary is already a shadow hunter. What would the Cup really do? And Valentine doesn’t experiment from drinking from the cup before he disappeared. The focus on the cup, though important, should have not been the end all. Also, Valentine does have a connection with Jace and Clary, and in the film, they honestly could have been strangers to him. Instead of the audience being scared of him, Valentine just ends up looking crazy. The film really messed up in terms of the character which I’m not sure how they’re going to fix in City of Ashes.

5. Cheesy scenes that are or aren’t supposed to be cheesy? Possible Spoilers ahead: When Clary visits her neighbour for the second time along with Jace, Isabelle, Alec and Simon, the whole scene felt cheesy. Using music as a way to goad a demon out just seemed well, funny. In the book, it was a lot more scary than they made it to me. They could have taken the opportunity in making the film feel darker, giving the audience feel there is more at stake than making this a light scene. The humor should come from the characters, but not the demons. Which brings me to the next point…

6. Tone: Young adults watching the film should be able to enjoy the film adaptation, though adults may desire something more dark in tone.

In general, the film jumps from scene to scene without ever explaining itself, and we’re just supposed to accept them the way they are. The Silent Brothers are never explained and voila! Here we are in front at the entrance to City of Bones. The introduction of Magnus Bane almost seems ridiculous. The vampires kidnapping Simon because “they want Clary” instead. That makes sense how? Not only that, they say it and it’s never explained why. We are not introduced to Raphael, who has a more important role in the next film. The audience is just led to believe that Valentine is the big bad with no real reason at all. What is the purpose of having the portal within the Institution? I haven’t heard of such a bad idea. Doesn’t that just mean Valentine could have appeared there at any time? The Institute is supposed to be a safe place. Hodge was actually a bad character too, but you don’t get any sense of that at all.

I’d like to request a re-do if possible, but we’re not going to get another The Mortal Instruments. Shame. I think series like these lend themselves better to a 12 episode television mini-series. The audience would actually get a chance to know the characters better without jumping directly into the action/plot and also get a better idea of the world they are being asked to accept. Instead, we got an extremely rushed film with strange pacing and little character development. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones might have been much better under a more experienced director and an experienced screenplay writer.

Skip this one I say. If you love the books, you will be like me and probably see the film due to your love of the source. This film could have been much better, but I say this from the perspective of someone who read the books. Other people who I went with actually loved it a great deal who have not read the books, or thought it was okay. So, keep in that mind. If you really want to see it, wait until rental. 2 runes / 5 runes

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