FILM REVIEW: ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’

‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’
‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’
‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’

Directed by Harald Zwart

Written by Cassandra Clare (novel) & Jessica Postigo Paquette (screenplay)

Check it out in cinemas world-wide now!

Beware of spoilers!

I first saw the trailer for this movie some time ago and it immediately grabbed my interest as it seemed like a despite being an attempt to cash in on the massive hole left in the world-wide box office in the wake of the ‘Twilight’ saga reaching an end.

I saw the first couple of ‘Twilight’ movies at the cinema, I enjoyed them for what they were. I didn’t buy in to the romance, I’ve never read the books and in the end the lack of a credible villain and strong action meant I gave up and will likely never complete the series.

Like ‘Twilight’ I have never read ‘The Mortal Bones’ series and having seen the film I’m not yet convinced that I will start.

NB: I have read all The Hunger Games and I love them so roll on ‘Catching Fire’ please!

The trailer to ‘City of Bones’ does perhaps mislead the viewer in to thinking that this film will be relatively all-action but that’s not to say that it isn’t still more of an action film than some of the other offerings to come from the recently emerged ‘dark romance’ genre.

There is a romance story bubbling under the surface of this move and yes sadly there is a love-triangle of sorts within that but thankfully it does not overshadow the main storyline.

The story is fairly generic and it borrows elements from many other pop-culture successes of recent years. It would be easy to watch this film and note where each element has been done before and in many cases done better. There’s a lot to deal with in the space of 130 minutes: portals, runes, vampires, werewolves, demons, witches and so forth.

It actually all comes together nicely and the universe that Clare has created from the source material knits all these theories and elements together really well. It would be hard to fault the attention to detail that makes up the ‘Mortal Bones’ mythos.

Where this film suffers most is in the tone. During the big action set pieces, the Hotel Dumort scene in particular, there is a suspense to the film that I often felt was lacking in the ‘Twilight’ saga and it elevates this film towards acceptable status as a summer action movie. The flip-side is that during some of the smaller character moments the dialogue becomes clunky and derivative. At times it becomes hard to follow conversations as no character seems to reply directly to another.

The problem doesn’t exist throughout the film but for future sequels I would like to see some more confidence in the characters to inhabit their universe rather than a reliance on the fantasy elements. This is the kind of franchise which would heavily benefit from looking at the balance of sci-fi vs. character that worked for Joss Whedon on ‘Buffy’ – judging by the poster above baring the slogan ‘chosen’ they’re on their way to this realisation but haven’t quite made the leap of faith to run with it.

The cast of this film is rather a who’s who of British sci-fi/fantasy actors with Lena Headey (‘Game of Thrones’), Aidan Turner (BBC’s ‘Being Human’), Jared Harris (‘Fringe’), Robert Sheehan (‘Misfits’) to name but some of the recognisable faces.

There might not be too much weight to the script itself but the ensemble bringing it to life do so pretty well. Some of the teens leave a little to be desired but that’s more than made up for by having Cersei Lannister be childhood pals with Mitchell the Box Tunnel killer.

Lilly Collins holds the film well as the lead, she has much more emotion than Bella in ‘Twilight’ but has faced less adversity than Katniss from ‘The Hunger Games’ so despite many critics looking to compare the franchises aside from the fact that all three leads are film there’s not a lot to compare amongst them.

Clary is a likeable character throughout which helps. I find it tough to connect with a film is the leads are unlikeable for the bulk of their screen time. Clary’s transformation from ‘mundane’ – I’m not touching on that term, it’s bugged me ever since the first time I saw the trailer – to ‘shadowhunter’ is a little on the speedy side but with so much to pack in this film already feels a little long.

The special effects are pretty top notch. There a few blatant CGI moments but on the whole the effects mix well with the live action and it’s all reasonably convincing. There’s a fair amount of money in the budget of this film and most of it is visible on screen which is nice to see.

The score is par for the course. Composed by Atli Orvarsson it matches the emotions of the film well and at times it does elevate the film above par.

This film was never going to set the box office alight but if you’re looking for a couple of hours of harmless fantasy fun on a dull late-summer evening then it’s worth a watch.


By Neil Vagg

Neil is the GYCO Editorial Chief. He has a BA in Film & TV and an MA in Scriptwriting; he currently works 9-5 as an office manager and 5-9 as a reviewer/web designer. He has been subscribing to comics for around nine years but has been reading them as long as he can remember. Favourite comics: Batman; Nightwing, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and All New X-Men Favourite films: Batman (any apart from & Robin); Star Trek Generations, Underworld, Beetlejuice Favourite TV shows: Fringe; Buffy, Arrow, TBBT, Being Human UK and Star Trek TNG