The Mortal Instruments – City of Bones – film review

"The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" poster.
“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” poster.
A few months ago, I reviewed the first book of The Mortal Instruments series: City of Bones. I found it an interesting read with some novice author issues. I recently watched The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones to see how it compared to the book and came away with a much more favorable opinion. I haven’t read any other books in the series, but considering some of the changes that were made in the film, I am assuming that elements from the other books made their way into this first installment.

Like in the book, Clary Fray is a cute, spunky girl (played by the adorable Lily Collins) who has suddenly discovered she can see things that other people can’t. Things like invisible people murdering human-looking demons in nightclubs, spooky sigils, and mysterious symbols drawn by her own hand all over her bedroom. When she has an opportunity to confront the nightclub murderer, hunky Jace Wayland, Clary’s world begins to change. Very quickly, her mother is missing, a demon dog is in her home, and her kooky neighborhood fortune teller turns out to be a real witch. It seems that evil is on the move and it wants the Mortal Cup, something Clary’s mother stole and hid a long time ago, but all Clary wants is her mother back.

Clary is a Shadowhunter, something she inherited from her mother. For some reason, her mother had been wiping Clary’s memories since childhood so that Clary never developed her powers. Finding out what her mother’s motivations where, who her real father is, the whereabouts and purpose of the Mortal Cup, where she fits into this new world of hers, and how she can get closer to Jace while fighting demons and rogue Shadowhunters is what fills the rest of the movie.

But is it any good?

What I just described would be enough for a good popcorn movie. I certainly didn’t mind watching it. I’d even watch it again. I was just a bit disappointed with the characters. The writers moved secondary characters around like props instead of people, and although Valentine Morgenstern, the grand evil one, wasn’t quite as hokey as Snidely Whiplash, he wasn’t nuanced either.

The main romance lead, Jamie Campbell Bower, was a dim flame next to the bonfire called Lily Collins. Collins truly held this movie together. She created a sympathetic character that was one part Cinderella, another part Lara Croft. The special effects were also good, bringing many scenes to life in wonderful ways. Unfortunately, there was so much material to cover (including material not in the first book) that the movie was too short in the long run. It needed another 30 minutes.

I’d still recommend seeing The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. It’s a solid three star movie, and I’ll give it an extra half star for Collins and the very creative depictions of magic.

Release Date: March 12, 2012 (USA)
MPAA Rating: PG-13

MySF Rating: Three point five stars
Family Friendliness: 60%


Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (people drinking at a club)
Language: 1 (some mild swearing)
Nudity: 0
Sexuality: 2 (basic romance, kissing, and discussion of same sex attraction)
Violence: 3 (vampires, werewolves, and demons doing their thing with ichor and zeal, lots of swordplay, death)

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