Novel Flicks: City of Bones (2013)

Posted July 11, 2020 by Amanda in Features / 0 Comments

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)
Directed By: Harald Zwart
Starring: Jamie Campbell Bower, Lily Collins, Robert Sheehan
Adapted from: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

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 a dangerous alternate New York called the Shadow World.

I picked a pretty controversial Novel Flick this time. If you’re a fan of the Shadowhunters universe, you probably have some big feels about this book series and this movie. (If you’re anything like me, you don’t care to even mention the TV show. Let’s just not EVEN go there, mmkay?) Some of us can’t stand Clace, some of us ship BIG TIME.I am in the “ship” party – I loved them from the start! When I first saw this movie released I was anxious to see it, especially after having read it, despite low to middling reviews. Urban fantasy isn’t something everyone “gets” so I was prepared for it to have lower ratings. 

I think my favorite thing about this movie is the casting. I don’t think they put a single foot wrong here. I love LOVE Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace – to the point that whenever I read the books he is who I picture for Jace (and Will Herondale, but that’s a different story 😉 ). Same for Simon, Hodge, Jocelyn, Luke ( I LOVE me some Aidan Turner), and Magnus. Jonathan Rhys Meyers would have made a perfect Valentine had he been in his immaculate suit with his white blonde hair, as he was in the books.

The movie begins pretty close to the book – you get to see Java Jones and The Pandemonium Club and you hear Eric’s unfortunate poetry. You also pick up on the tension between Clary and Jocelyn. I do feel like the chemistry between Clary and Jace is a little over-acted, at least in the beginning. A little subtlety would have gone a long way. The only other thing that’s even close to the book is Magnus’s party and Hotel Du Mort – which I appreciate. I know that the book is full of places that can’t possibly fit into the movie. I completely understand that – it’s just hard to watch such a clumsy treatment.  

Once we finally get to the Institute, things really start to deviate from the book. The portal is in the library of the Institute instead of Madame Dorothea’s, and there’s a whole made-up history of the Institute being built around it, which I don’t understand. Since they go to Madame Dorothea’s, I’m not sure why they made the choice to put the portal in the Institute instead of Mme Dorothea’s. They added a weird thing about musical frequencies and demons that isn’t in the book either, leaving out the Shadowhunters’ use of scanners. Once we add Valentine to the movie the plot completely unravels. It just gets dumber and dumber. Demons in the Institute? Somehow Jocelyn was in the Institute basement the whole time (and you could *plainly* see the platform she was suspended on rocking in the air)? Somehow they failed to communicate that Luke/Lucian was a Shadowhunter? Valentine has some weird braids and no shirt? Why was Pangborn such an idiot? How did they get away from Hotel Du Mort? I just don’t really have words for how frustrating the writing was for someone who adores the books.

Some of the settings were well-done, though. I LOVED the library at the Institute (apart from the portal), the green house, Clary’s house, and Magus’s house. The actual City of Bones was properly creepy, too. I never, EVER want to be near a Silent Brother and those were perfectly rendered for the scene in the Bone City. The lighting was beautiful as well, throughout the movie. 

Overall I can only give this treatment 2 stars. I wish I could like it more than I do. I adored the casting and some of the settings – but the writing spoils this one for me. I am still hopeful that someone, somewhere will give this world its own anime series or at least actually do Cassandra Clare’s writing some real justice. She’s crafted this universe so carefully and artfully that it would be LOVELY to see it represented visually as well as accurately. 


Are you a fan of the Shadowhunter universe? Who is your favorite character? What are your thoughts of the adaptation? Share below

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