Rejoining our teenage monster-hunters for the first movie review on BookmarkedOne!
Catch up on the first part of the book review here, or just pretend you did and keep reading at your own risk of mild spoilers.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is PG-13 for mild language, fantasy action/violence, and suggestive content. Personally, I thought it was pretty mild for a PG-13, but that’s my humble opinion.
I’m not going to lie. I saw the trailer for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones before I knew much about the book series, and the little voice in my head that keeps me alive by feeding me snippets of fantasy and adventure ideas like Cheerios to a three-year-old during a long and boring conversation started screaming This is awesome! And for once, I agreed.
Besides. It’s a Lily Collins movie. Who doesn’t like Lily Collins? And Aiden Turner plays Luke, so you know, just Edith Tolkien and Kili the Dwarf out to save the world.
I over-nerd myself. Back to topic at hand.
Sharpen your pitchforks, Literary Defenders. I liked the movie better than the book.
First off? Movie version Mrs. Fray is so awesome. She’s not some lovestruck teenager or overprotective mom, she is amazing. She practically killed a man with her refrigerator.
I love her. A lot.
And let’s not forget that in addition to getting the action with her that’s only alluded to in the book, we see an almost identical fight scene with Clary. I was totally geeking out over the similarities between the characters and how it connected them.
Speaking of Clary, she’s more likeable in the movie. I know, she’s not a 5′ ginger with freckles anymore, but she also doesn’t swear the other characters out. She still sasses her mom more than she deserves, but there’s a reason behind it. So she’s freaked out and confused when she lashes out rather than just obnoxious.
Jace isn’t a total jerk. Like he actually says “Nice to meet you,” to Clary’s friends instead of insulting them instantly.
Well, frankly he does that too, but some sass gets a free pass with me if it’s clever. Particularly if the character minds his manners the rest of the time.
But actually, most of the characters aren’t total jerks like they were in the book. Isabelle actually tries to protect Simon rather than being the “I told you so” person. Alec no longer has his “No thanks, love interest, I’m racist,” line, although we don’t solve the awkward age gap as someone hits on a minor…creep.
And while we’re on the subject of characters…
I sort of wanted to sit down in Dorothea’s parlor, have her read my fortune and give her a hug (Is that weird? That I want to adopt the “witch?”). She seemed more like “I’m just minding my own witchy business, please leave me alone” than in the book. And that’s something I can really, really relate to.
All the lengthy soliloquies of “Let me sing you the sad song of the Shadowhunters” that Jace & Co. did in the middle of fight scenes are gone. Stuff just happens and we run with it. Usually it’s annoying because screenwriters cut out all the gooey goodness in books…this one it improved. There is such a thing as too much exposition.
Everyone is a little less of a useless flirt. Don’t misunderstand. They’re still flirts. There are still (multiple) obligatory “Men-Who-Lost-Their-Shirts” scenes…and one man lacking pants. And the “oops I fell on top of my crush” (someone please, please kill this trope for me). But we’ve cut down on how much Clary and the others look at each other only in romantic terms, something that frankly drives me nuts in YA girl-narrated books.
I mean, it could happen with guy-narrated books too. I’m getting off topic.
The point is, you are more than what you look like. And when characters can’t describe or engage with each other without pointing out whether they’re “attractive” or not, it’s unhealthy. People are not objects.
Fight me on this. I’ll go down with it.
But there’s also a lot less overtly sexual language in the movie, and…actually, there’s very little foul language in the movie in general, which is a refreshing change.
Some of us just come for the murder.
The monsters…are about all I can take. I don’t know why, but I hate the gloopy latex monster thing. Star Wars was a living nightmare for me when I watched it as a kid. I saw the monsters in the iconic cantina scene and kind of started screaming. If I’d met the Ravener demon in Clary’s house…I’d probably have torched the whole building. Yikes.
Of course, after the Orc birthing in Peter Jackson’s version of Orthanc…I was somewhat prepared.
Didn’t mean I liked it.
A few other great things about the movie? I’m going through these on speed so I don’t get distracted again.
- The witty lines are still there. And sometimes better! It was late when I watched it, so I laughed far too much at “They weren’t real cops.”
- “A war that can never be won, but must always be fought.” Yes, please.
- Cue me freaking out because Magnus Bane has a Hobbit door. I know, I know, I know–Asian culture uses moon bridges and round architecture because they have better taste than the rest of the world…but it’s still a Hobbit door.
- The addition of one single line that makes the accidental incest-y romance subplot somewhat more resolved…and less weird.
- And look what idiots figured out to take your whole crew with you to raid a vampire nest because…duh???
- And now you’re thinking with portals!
- Did I mention Bach makes a cameo appearance (screams in little violinist girl delight)? Because “You could run out of garlic, you can’t really run out of music.”
- Or werewolves driving an abandoned school bus?
- Or Isabelle getting a flamethrower? That’s my girl!
But speaking of Isabelle,
There is no awkward love quadrangle involving her. Frankly, it’s a relief. She has more freedom to be her own character that way, rather than as competition for Clary or whatever. Instead she just sort of adopts Simon as a pet. It’s kind of cute.
And there are a few brilliant things that weren’t in the book and really only work in film as an art itself. Like the swords to summon demons that appear as a pentangle only from directly above.
Clever. Very clever.
And we have to mention the iconic opening scene in Pandemonium, right? It’s visually delightful. Especially without Jace’s history lesson in the middle. And Clary freaks out, the way anyone would respond to seeing something like that in real life.
Okay, so I don’t get completely derailed analyzing all the little details of the actors’ performances…
A few negatives the film couldn’t fix:
There’s a lot the movie dodges. Like we don’t deal with Hodge…or the blatant racism of the Lightwood family. I know, two hour matinee, you can’t solve all the problems in the world, you’re not The Two Towers…but it bothers me a little. On the one hand, just don’t include it. It’s fine. But you should never ignore an ugly truth. I feel like that was one of the book’s greatest strengths, Clary coming face to face with what she’s taught and making up her mind for herself about what she knows is right.
And my biggest issue with both book and movie?
“All the stories are true.”
I’m probably going to devote an entire blog post on why this bothers me. It’s one of those lines that sounds great and really isn’t. Especially since it touches on real-world religions in a way that’s not…ideal.
Long story short. If all the stories are true, if anything you say is true, then nothing is. Because if nothing’s false, nothing’s true. Conflicts aren’t resolved when both opposing answers are right and nothing means anything anymore.
It’s kind of a big deal.
Of course, by now you might have caught my bluff. If I hated the book so much, why did I proceed to the movie? Why am I Googling Shadowhunter runes and contemplating whether or not I can struggle my way through more of their teenage quibbling to finish the story? Why bother?
Because I lied. Maybe even to myself.
There’s so much about this story that I do like. So much about it that’s beautiful.
So. Volume 1 of Shadowhunters, everyone. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go curl up in denial about whether I’m reading the rest of the series and ask Google if you really can use a refrigerator to shield an explosion. Because these are clearly the most important questions in life.