The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)


Dave’s 3-Word Review:
A cluttered mess.

Once, long ago, I attempted to review The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. You see, back in its day, the book everything is based upon was actually pretty popular, and apparently different than your typical young-adult franchise (others’ words, not mine). So I tried, but for whatever reason, I stoped the film because I couldn’t get into it for whatever reason. Recently, I decided instead to read the book (book review), and found some interesting concepts and direction…so I decided to give the film another go ahead. I found the same problems, but now I can actually talk in depth about them.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones stars Lily Collins in the lead as Clary, a young woman over head, as she comes face-to-face with the world of make-believe…or in more seriousness, the world of the paranormal. Witches, werewolves, vampires – you name it. You’ve heard the stories, and their all true. When her mother is kidnapped by one of the biggest, baddest villains of all time, Valentine, Clary and a number of other shadowhunters must work together to find and save her. All the while, they must protect the mortal cup, the very tool that created shadowhunters to begin with.

Alright, so I want to give them the benefit of the doubt first. Before I start bashing its brains in, it’s important to know what they did right. First and foremost, the casting was actually really well done. As I read the books, these were more or less the characters that I saw, the locations I imagined, and the overall feeling I felt while reading. Somehow, they got a lot of that surprisingly spot on, which leads me to believe the film had quite a bit of potential epicness here, but its major downfall comes down to pacing and transitions.

It’s technical and easily avoidable, but because it had such bad pacing, no one watching has any idea what’s going on. When I first saw the film, I stopped it because each scene was nothing but explanation after explanation, reveal after reveal, action scene after action scene…and it became quite overwhelming. This is because – if you have ever seen the actual physical book, it’s very thick. The same things happen in it, but it takes the reader on a really long journey just to get there – like Peter Jackson long. The book takes its time, the movie doesn’t. To make things even more complicated, the transitions were badly timed. You’ll be watching them at the institute one second, and all of a sudden, they’ll be in a cemetery the next and there is absolutely no lead-up. They might explain the scene in the first second of the next scene, but the jump is out of the blue and very – very confusing. The only way you know what’s actually going on and why is if you read the book.

Here’s the kicker. Because I read the book, I know when they take their time and savor the flavor…so to speak. The film actually took those same scenes that should have been slower, and insisted on making them action-packed like everything else – not allowing us to take a breather and digest everything that’s going on. I like creative freedom in film, but I stopped watching the movie on its own the first time I saw it because it was so absolutely complicated that its impossible not to think that even the filmmakers were confused during production. It’s that cluttered.

The Good:

The visionary behind what the film looked and felt like clearly had his mind at the right place. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones had the right casting, the right setting, and ultimately the same feel as the book.

The Bad:

The same trap that The Da Vinci Code fell for during the movie struck The Mortal Instruments as well. The books are full to the brim with really complicated details that only a book can properly present – when thrown into a film, it becomes really cluttered and honestly just a mess that doesn’t make much sense. These are projects that either need to stay in a book, or be made into a television series that allows for more details to naturally surface, rather than being forced.

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