Bibliomantic Book Club: “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones”

The Mortal Instruments: City of BonesThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Release Date
: August 21, 2013
Genre
: Fiction, young adult, fantasy, magic, angels, demons

Summary: Clary is just your ordinary girl, until she learns that she’s part of a race called the Shadowhunters who are tasked with killing demons and keeping humanity in the dark about their constant impending doom. Enter Jace, her love-interest who seems to think fixing your hair is the same as acting and his team of leather-clad teens. And also Alec. When Clary’s mom is kidnapped, she is stuck in the middle of a plot that becomes unnecessarily convoluted and is tasked (for some reason) with protecting the Mortal Cup from Valentine, a diabolical villain with the worst hair of all time who picked up all his tricks from the web-series Acting With James Franco.

Let’s talk about The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

We know, we don’t want to either because our hearts still hurt, but it must be done. For the good of humanity. For all the people who loved the book series and wanted to see it hit the big screen but haven’t yet subjected their feelings to this monstrosity playing on screens around the world. And more importantly, for every person who will never read The Mortal Instruments because of this film.

WARNING: City of Glass spoilers that are super duper spoiled by this movie anyway ahead.

CASSIE-WA’S THOUGHTS

3 things that could have improved (but probably not have saved) the City of Bones movie.

1) Better Music

The film opens with a few sweeping aerial shots of New York City while a cheap knock-off of the Harry Potter main theme tinkles in the background. I knew pretty much right then we were in trouble, and my expectations were not disappointed by the next 2+ hours of canned orchestral laziness.

Imagine if instead the movie had opened with Sleigh Bells, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear, or anything by any Brooklyn native. (Jay-Z??) Maybe then the film would have had the heartbeat it was seriously lacking.

I honestly think if they re-released this movie with some real music instead of the tired soundtrack stuff, ratings would improve considerably.

2) Less explaining, more banter.

I’ve seen other reviewers complaining about the film’s “dense” and “complex” mythology. I would like to review that mythology for you now:

Demons and monsters exist. A secret society of super-powered hot people fight them.

Need to go over it again?

And yet the film manages to make this simple premise EXTREMELY COMPLICATED. The secret-magical-world-with-good-guys-and-bad-guys thing is so recognizable as a concept, they could have gotten away with explaining almost NONE of it and letting our own imaginations and preconceptions fill in the blanks. And then we’d have the time to focus on what this story is actually supposed to be about: the characters, and more importantly, their sassy conversations.

Where was ANY of the book’s fun and sassy dialogue in this movie? No one loves the sound of his own voice more than Jace, and how many lines did he have? 10?

I can’t understand how a book like City of Bones could get translated to screen with endless minutes of exposition, or worse, the endless moments of awkward silence, slowing the film to a crashing halt at least once per scene. Come on, people! Watch an episode of “Gilmore Girls” or, I dunno, “BUFFY.”

Honestly the best (and only with-not-at) laughs in the film belong to dialogue written by Cassie Clare. Stick to your source material next time, y’all.

3) Why in the god damn fucking hell would you reveal that Clary and Jace aren’t actually siblings??

So, uh, spoilers: in City of Bones (the book) Clary and Jace have a whirlwind passionate crush-mance that gets firmly squashed when Valentine reveals that he is THEIR DAD, and they are BROTHER AND SISTER. (Omg, and they kissed! Shock and horror!)

They spend the majority of City of Ashes and City of Glass being horribly, delightfully awkward around each other, rippled with moments of tense temptation. And it’s fantastic. It’s like the Star Wars thing, but instead of them losing all interest in each other romantically, they’re still totally hot for each other and it makes for excellent drama.

Then we have the City of Bones movie, in which Hodge very deliberately instructs Valentine: “Lie to them. Make them believe they’re both your children. It’ll break their hearts.” (But to what end? It was really unclear.)

Not that they’re actually going to make sequels to this film, but if they did, can you imagine sitting through four hours of Jace and Clary being even MORE sad and awkward than they were in the first film when you have been explicitly told it’s for NO REASON? Please, please, please don’t make me do it.

It would have been better if instead Hodge had said, “You know, even we don’t know what we’re talking about anymore.” End of movie.

Closing note: Major props to Robert Sheehan for infusing a few bright moments of sincerity into what is ultimately just another casualty in Hollywood’s war against our beloved franchises.

STEPHANIE’S THOUGHTS

City of Bones left us quite nearly speechless. Having read several bad reviews earlier in the day, I went into the movie theater crossing my fingers. I really wanted this to succeed and be a thing – Cassie Clare is such a kind, nice, rose from nothing into book superstardom author and it just would be so cool to see The Mortal Instruments really become “a thing.”  But what can I say? I wanted so much to like it, but it was just awful in every possible way.

I’m confused how this movie could have gone so badly astray – Cassie’s books practically do read like ready made movies – very dialogue heavy, full of action, fast paced – so one would think that movie making people could take that, make some cuts, maybe alter a couple things to fit any time constraints and get it up there. BUT NO I GUESS NOT AT ALL.

Before we get into the whole thing, one of the absolute worst things about the movie was the music. It was absolutely awful, over the top cheesy, and SO melodramatic. Cassie-wa wonders, and I agree, why they didn’t put together a cool soundtrack of like hip Brooklyn Indie bands or something! That would have improved things so vastly.

The other main issue was just that the entire thing was so SERIOUS. As much as critics are delighting in the comparison, The Mortal Instruments is NOT Twilight. One of the most important inspirations for the books is “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Meaning that Cassie Clare has created a cast of fun, smart, and SNARKY characters. Yes, they are faced with insane challenges and danger while fighting the forces of evil, but they keep their sense of humor and always have time to stop for a bit of sassing no matter what. Everyone is the movie was SO SERIOUS. There were a couple funny lines (taken directly from the book), but the actors could not grasp how they should be delivered so they fell flat.

Obviously the character who this affects the most is Jace. Jace loves himself, he loves to hear himself talk, and he KNOWS that he is HILARIOUS. The amount of sass and snark that comes out of Jace’s mouth in the books is what makes him awesome. He ISN’T just a mysterious demon fighter who you can’t help but fall for because he’s so handsome and rescues damsels in distress. He has a personality and he’s kind of a dick, but he’s hilarious even though the others don’t always want to encourage his ego by telling him that. He and Clary can SNARK together which brings so much chemistry and an actual substance to their natural physical attraction that they also feel. Any chemistry or feeling between the two of them at all is entirely missing from the movie.

The other huge victim of the lack of fun in the movie is our dearest Magnus Bane. Movie Magnus LOOKED absolutely fantastic – the no pants, the eyeliner, the earrings, the glitter…. It was a beautiful sight to behold. But instead of Magnus, what we got was basically a random character who showed up to drone some exposition. What a disappointment.

There was a lot more that just fell so flat – the fact that vampires were not established as actual characters, but just weird rat people who attack for no reason, the stupid portal floating bubble nonsense, the fact that they wouldn’t allow the Clary/Jace brother/sister thing to be a mystery. And then there were the things that were just flat out disturbing and nightmare inducing, namely – VALENTINE’S PONYTAIL OF BRAIDS. Like at one point do you read about a silver haired, evil villain who acts so suave and appealing to attract followers and translate that into a drooling, raving psychopath with no shirt and A WEIRD PONYTAIL FULL OF BRAIDS. The last half hour of the film with Valentine was basically incomprehensible. The plot just ran for it, kind of like how I wanted to make a run for it right out of the theater. Ugh ugh ugh.

I’ll go ahead and declare that the worst moment was Clary and Jace’s kiss in the greenhouse. THE MUSIC was UNBEARABLE, the sprinklers came on…I couldn’t take it. So bad.

In conclusion, WHY SO MUCH PONYTAIL AND SO LITTLE FUN?!?!? But still a HUGE congrats to Cassie Clare who has showed us that you can write a Harry Potter fanfiction where Draco shares a story about Lucius killing his pet falcon and someday that story can be told in a major motion picture. I wish it had turned out better for everyone involved and for us, the fans.

KELLY’S THOUGHTS

We were all ROOTING SO HARD FOR THIS MOVIE. (Also, any Australians who are reading this, not THAT kind of rooting)

The trailers looked FUN! The actors were people we LIKE. I got to paint runes on children at the library and get PAID for it. And we wanted the absolute best for the complex and wonderful world created by Cassie Clare. But…but…but…. it was just a poorly executed movie.

It was all exposition but still managed to be confusing! How does one cram a two hour film with all this information but still have a plotexplosion of crazy for the last 45 minutes?? It was a weird time paradox where things moved slowly but too frantically fast at the same time. It felt like some Moffat-esque timey-wimey nonsense going on.

SO much time was spent explaining exactly what was going on in every scene that it became a SparkNotes version of itself. There was no time for the characters to breathe and come to life. Like Magnus Bane – they got the guyliner, the no pants, the amazingly attractive thing down pat. And then he was not used for anything except more EXPOSITION. Pure tragedy! Maybe Jace and Clary have really great chemistry, but it never was allowed to blossom. They would stare intensely at each other and THEN CUT AWAY TO MOAR THINGS. It didn’t feel anything like the crazy intense attraction from the books. Not that the movie has to be like the books – change stuff, cut extraneous plotlines, etc. Please! It’s your job as the filmmakers to do so. But they failed to create an interesting and logical narrative. Considering the hilarious, fast-paced, and easy to understand source material makes this seem even worse.

And don’t even get me started on Dave Navarro AKA Valentine. Because nothing says evil psychopath like multiple rattails.

CASSIE-LA’S THOUGHTS

Phew, I am really glad they didn’t make City of Bones into a movie. That would have been terrible. Oh, wait.

I didn’t expect the best thing ever from this movie, but I also didn’t expect the worst thing ever. Suffice it to say I was more entertained during Breaking Dawn parts one and two which were at least so bad they were funny as opposed to so bad they made my heart hurt at what they did to the entire Shadowhunter universe.

I’m sorry Cassie Clare, I feel for you, I really do. They took your amazing world building, fully fleshed-out, likeable characters and turned them into 2-dimensional versions of themselves, complete with magical bubble portals and sprinkler systems that interrupt cheesy make-out sessions. If you want, I will avenge this injustice. You have my stele.

City of Bones missed the mark on a lot. So much so that they should have renamed it to City of Oh Dear God WHY!?!, not to be confused with the other books in the series: City of Blue Balls, City of Invent a Birth Control Rune Already, City of That One Was Actually Your Brother, and City of No One Cares About Jace and Clary Anymore.

Although I personally recommend the prequel series, Will Herondale and That Time it Was Demon Pox. AKA The Infernal Devices. Which I never want to be touched by whoever made this nonsense.

In addition to the plot changes there was a whole bunch of awkward pacing. Do we really need a three minute scene of Jace (who looks like a young Don Knotts) and Clary standing around not speaking? How long does it take to stare slowly around a library like you’re in fucking Rivendell? Is a two-minute shot devoted to a door closing too much time spent on a door?

And for that matter, what’s the deal Valentine? Was he in the middle of a gig impersonating Jack Sparrow at Disney World when he was summoned to enter the story? Is that why he was shirtless and sporting a head of braided ponytails? Did someone think that in the world of Shadowhunters braided ponytails strike fear in the hearts of angel-men? Who saw this man and promised to follow his crazy theories of cleansing? Besides Shovelface Minion and Other Shovelface Minion who saw those Jonathan Rhys Meyers crazy eyes and was like, “That dude seems totally sane and rational. I’m gonna devote my life to him.”

Answer: no one. Go home City of Bones, you’re drunk.

Saddest of all they destroyed Magnus Bane and as a group of people who are totally Team Magnus Bane that was a huge blow to us all. Yes, he was attractive, pants-less and glitter covered but all the makeup in the world couldn’t have made up for the wooden performance he gave. I certainly didn’t go in hoping for Team Captain Backstory. And don’t even get me started on the complete lack of chemistry between anyone in this movie, least of all 56-year-old Alec and the demon love of his life.

Thankfully Robert Sheehan (Simon) was there to provide a little life into the story, which was probably the film’s only redeeming feature. Simon, who actually made you care about things like the fate of his poor, abused heart and the fact that everyone knows he’s doomed to be friend-zoned. Seriously, not even sleeping Lena Headey and Aidan Turner’s sexy-librarian glasses could make up for this nonsense.

Do yourself a favor and go watch “Misfits” instead. You’ll thank me.

WHAT WE LIKED MOST:
-Simon, Simon and only Simon (Robert Sheehan, call us)

WHAT WE LIKED LEAST:
-Valentine’s leather pants and braided rat-tail combo
-The snooze-inducing soundtrack
-The complete and utter flop of Magnus Bane
-The complete and utter flop of this entire movie
-Lack of humor, fun, and basically all that is good and holy

Join us the next time we feel like doing a Bibliomantic Book Club post again. Whenever that is! Screw you schedule!

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14 thoughts on “Bibliomantic Book Club: “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones”

  1. I feel really bad for Cassandra Clare, for what they did to her book. . . but this article had me laughing my head off! I don’t usually go for these types of books, but you did say “snarky” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”, so that makes me want to read these books.

    • It’s a great series! But we especially love the prequel series, “The Infernal Devices” which is comprised of “The Clockwork Angel,” “The Clockwork Prince” and “The Clockwork Princess.” Snarky and well-written.

  2. Okay, has everyone else noticed all the positive comments fans have been giving this movie?? Did we miss a memo instructing everyone to pretend to like it for the sake of the franchise?

    More angry thoughts:

    I’m still just so, so mad about the tone of the movie, which was partially set by the music, and partially set by (as Cassie-la pointed out) staring slowly around the Institute like it’s Rivendell, or Hogwarts, or WHATEVER.

    The Institute is where the gang lives – they walk around barefoot or in jammies, they cook terrible food in the kitchen (or order Chinese food), they have a cat (Where was Church??) that Jace “argues” with… The Institute is big and old and has magical stuff in it, but since we had to spend 90% of the movie there I wish it could have been been portrayed as less wondrous and a bit more as it is: a big, weird place where people live.

    And speaking of spending too much time there – was there a reason we could only spend 2 minutes at Magnus Bane’s party? Or that we couldn’t go to that downworlder diner? Or anywhere cool and fun with interesting people to look at and talk to?? (Including all of New York in that statement, really.)

    The movie is just so painfully derivative in all respects. They were afraid to use anything that made the books fun and different because then their movie would be different. So instead they made it like everything else, but really, really unsuccessfully.

  3. ALSO, what exactly was the reason for Jace not just recognizing Valentine as his father!?!?! The SHOCK-REVEAL is that Jace sees Valentine for the first time and it’s his dad, who raised him, and who he thought got murdered.

    But Jace didn’t recognize him (apparently because Valentine wore a hood to partially hide his face throughout Jace’s entire childhood – right), so the only person’s word we have on Jace and Clary’s sibling-hood is Valentine’s. And as the movie has already established – HE IS A CRAZY PERSON!!

    I just don’t understand changing something like that!! Most of the time when movies make changes from their source material it’s to make things simpler. But instead of making up a scene where maybe Jace sees Valentine for the first time and says “*gasp* FATHER!?” which would have INSTANTLY revealed everything in a dramatic fashion, we have Valentine making the revelation through 10 minutes of confusing and poorly written exposition.

    So movie, did Valentine actually raise Jace or not? Has he ever even MET Jace before? WHO KNOWS???

    Hatred. I’m filled with it.

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