The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – Movie Review

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – Movie Review

Director: Harald Zwart
Writers: Jessica Postigo, Cassandra Clare (novel)
Stars: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Jemima West, Lena Headey, Jared Harris, Aiden Turner, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, CCH Pounder, Godfrey Gao
Action/Adventure Fantasy Movie

City of Bones Movie ReviewThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is based on Cassandra Clare’s best selling young adult book of the same name. Clare got her start writing Harry Potter fan fiction, and the strong parallels in the story lines are unmistakable: the main character, Clary, grows up in the mundane world, ignorant of the very existence of an alternate world of good and evil, where Shadowhunters kill demons, where vampires, werewolves, witches, and warlocks live side by side with ordinary mortals.

She is also totally unaware of her status as unique and special–a chosen one with powers no one else has.

The adults in the movie are mostly, well, absent, with Clary and her friends running about pretty much without supervision beyond a hand wave and the occasional phone call. There’s a lot of world-building and background to pack into the film, with one result that some amazing talent is woefully underutilized: Lena Headey as Clary’s mother Jocelyn, Jared Harris as Hodge, the amazing Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine Morganstern, and CCH Pounder as next door neighbor Dorothea.

From what I remember (I read the book when it first came out), this is a good translation to the screen, and the main characters all perform credibly. Unfortunately, it points out the flaws in the source material–it’s a bit angsty, and there’s a lot of predictable relationships and jealously. Everyone is pretty much wearing their hearts on their sleeves, yet the object of their affections just doesn’t notice.

The really interesting parts about how magic works in this world and its rich history, how the Shadowhunters are prepared and trained is all pretty much glossed over in favor of either looking at pretty people looking at each other or more fight scenes. City of Bones just never slows down. It’s got cool effects, cool weapons, and it’s easy to keep score–the in crowd is dressed in black. I would have loved more explanation of what the magic wands did and how.


What glimpses we do get of the world are tantalizing and interesting, including a trip to the titular City of Bones, watched over by the Silent Brothers, under the cemetery, where the bone and ashes of dead Shadowhunters are laid to rest. Those remains hold a certain amount of power, when used properly.

Of course, there’s also got a Twilight-style triangle of some kind between Clary and her best friend forever Simon, and her newest acquaintance Shadowhunter Jace.

This movie is full of interesting characters, and you got invested in some of them pretty quick, wishing they wouldn’t do dumb things, wondering why they did. I’m very curious to see where the story goes from here, and I’d be surprised if I’m the only one. So, City of Bones gets a recommendation on the strength of its worldbuilding and the charisma of its cast, and I’m curious about the sequel based on the amount of tangle they’ve found themselves in at the end of this one.

Reviewed by Elektra Hammond
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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - Movie Review
Article Name
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones - Movie Review
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City of Bones is based on Cassandra Clare’s best selling young adult book of the same name. Clare got her start writing Harry Potter fan fiction, and the strong parallels in the story lines are unmistakable: the main character, Clary, grows up in the mundane world, ignorant of the very existence of an alternate world of good and evil, where Shadowhunters kill demons, where vampires, werewolves, witches, and warlocks live side by side with ordinary mortals.
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Elektra Hammond

Elektra Hammond

Editor & Reviewer
Elektra Hammond emulates her multi-sided idol Buckaroo Banzai by going in several directions at once.

Elektra lives in Delaware with her husband, Mike, and the cat herd of BlueBlaze/Benegesserit catteries. When not freelancing or appearing at science fiction conventions she travels world-wide judging cat shows.
Elektra Hammond
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