Spoiler-Free Review: ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ is the best book-to-movie adaptation ever and more

Shadowhunters! I was lucky to attend an advance screening of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones on Thursday and I have so much I want to share. I won’t be talking spoilers until the film’s released, but here is my spoiler-free general reaction review of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

TMI still

Being a Mortal Instruments fan site and all it’s easy to believe I’m a little biased when I say that The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was the best book-to-film adaptation ever. But it’s the truth. There are going to be changes with any adaptation – and there were changes with City of Bones – but the changes didn’t take away from Cassandra Clare’s story. They actually worked. As a fan of the book, I understand that fans want everything to be exactly as it is in the book. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But with every book-to-movie adaptation, change is inevitable. You just have to embrace it. It’s hard to cram a 400+ page book into a two-hour movie. But Constantin Film pulled it off.

One of the changes that fans may or may not be familiar with is the fact that they aged the characters up from 15-16 to 18-19 years old. It’s one of those things that book purists might point to when saying the studio took liberties, but it actually worked to the film’s advantage. The movie was able to take on a darker, more seductive tone. The book was dark, but the film was even darker. I believe that it worked to its advantage.

The strongest aspect of this film was by far the acting. The entire cast nailed their characters from Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace to CCH Pounder as Madame Dorothea to Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine to Lily Collins as Clary to Robert Sheehan as Simon and so much more. It was A+ acting all around.

Lily embodied everything that Clary Fray is. As she’s getting thrown twists and turns every five minutes, Lily is believable and she’s never the victim. She’s always fighting for answers and never gets distracted from her true goal: finding her mother. She’s a strong female character and truly impresses in his movie. Lily was brilliant.

But the one actor that will have you bowing down to him by film’s end is Jamie Campbell Bower. Jamie embodied everything that is Jace Wayland and more. After visiting the film set last September, talking to him and seeing footage from the film, I was already confident. But after the movie I left in absolute awe. Everything from his mannerisms to his delivery was spot-on and really commanded attention. His banter with Robert Sheehan’s Simon was a constant throughout the film that was really something special. I know in the beginning a lot of people wanted a different actor to play the role, but honestly no one else could have played Jace the way Jamie did. Jamie is Jace. And you’ll walk out of the theater believing it, if you don’t already.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers flat out scared me as Valentine in the best possible way imaginable. One of the things that myself, along with fans, were a little iffy about was the hair. Not only was it not white, but they gave Valentine dreds, which made it kind of hard to take him seriously. But when Jonathan comes on screen he commands attention and his portrayal of Valentine was downright brilliant and terrifying.

Robert Sheehan as Simon was the most adorable thing ever. Seriously. Robbie got Simon down to a tee and his comedic timing was sheer brilliance. Robbie was also able to capture Simon’s vulnerability perfectly. His scenes with Lily and Jamie were truly special. His scenes with Lily’s Clary were both beautiful and heartbreaking, as we see Simon go from the best friend to the guy in the background and the aftereffects. My favorite thing was his banter with Jamie’s Jace and it’s one thing that fans will really appreciate and will still be laughing hysterically over when they leave the theater.

Kevin Zegers and Jemima West as Alec and Isabelle Lightwood were perfection. Alec is such a beloved and complex character, like all of Cassie’s characters, and Kevin really played that to its fullest. He didn’t make Alec all about his sexuality. He made Alec about the values that believed in and what he fights for. It wasn’t just when he was in the forefront, it was when he was in the background behind Jace or Clary that he shone. Those looks and reactions were genius. He really portrayed Alec’s frustration well. Jemima was everything I wanted and didn’t realize I’d wanted in Isabelle. She was badass, vulnerable, mysterious and every time she was on screen it was something special. She went from being such a sweetheart in real life to being a complete badass as Izzy.

The rest of the supporting cast (because this could literally stretch on forever if I go actor-by-actor): Godfrey Gao, Lena Headey, Aidan Turner, Jared Harris, CCH Pounder. They were brilliant. Magnus is such a beloved character and I think Godfrey Gao did him justice. There isn’t much Magnus in the first book, but there is an extra scene in the movie with Magnus that you didn’t get to see in the book. Lena Headey in the short time she had as Jocelyn was such a badass it blew me away. Aidan Turner was truly something special as Luke. He had such charisma, seriousness and vulnerability in the role, which made me love him so much more. Jared Harris was truly astonishing as Hodge. He was able to portray Hodge’s inner turmoil with such grace and dignity. CCH Pounder was amazing as Madame Dorothea. She was so great to watch and it was an honor being scared by her.

One of the concerns that I’ve heard from numerous fans is about the humor. Did Cassie’s genius humor make the cut? I’m here to assure you that it did. A lot of fans voiced their concern because of the serious tone of the trailers. Aside from the “Have a little faith,” line from Jamie, people said it was too serious. But you have to understand that in the trailers they’re trying to convey the message of this epic good versus evil battle. That’s the storyline they’re pitching to audiences. The humor is important and definitely grounds the film. I will tease you in saying that there are some lines from City of Bones that make it into the film. So be on the lookout for those!

The sets on this movie were absolutely breathtaking. I remember touring the set last year and being in absolute awe of these sets. And seeing them on screen with all of these pivotal moments happening in them was amazing.

The music in the film was beautiful. I know fans were worried about the soundtrack, but it’s the score that makes-or-breaks a film. And this score was gorgeous. It flowed really well with the film. There were a couple of songs from the soundtrack in the movie, but it blended nicely with the score.

After the film had ended and I watched the credits roll, I sat there taking it all in. I’ve been waiting years for this movie and to see it on screen in all of its perfection was truly surreal. I left the theater wanting more, but also wanting to get back inside and watch the movie again. I want to thank everyone involved with the making of the film for such an amazing product. This movie was epic, mind-blowing, action-packed, thrilling and had me on the edge of my seat. It was everything I was hoping for and so much more.

Stay tuned for my spoilery review of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones on August 21.

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72 thoughts on “Spoiler-Free Review: ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ is the best book-to-movie adaptation ever and more

  1. Im so glad they did keep some lines from the book! I never had any doubt with Jamie or the movie being horrid. I cannot wait to see it! Ive gathered all me friends and we are pumped for August 21st! :D Thanks for the review!

  2. Alyssa, thanks for your really excellent coverage of all things TMI. This review has brought my level of excitement to a nearly un-manageable level.

  3. Thank you so much for this review! Knowing that someone who loves the books as much as I do found the film to be true to the story really gave me the reassurance I needed going into the single digits of the countdown. Your amazing Alyssa, thank you!!

  4. Hellooo thank you for much for this, I admit I was very nervous about the movie even though everytime I seem the trailer I scream and my heart rate raises. However seem reading the movie companion seeing pictures of the amazing sets I can’t wait for the 21st 5.30pm my movie showing starts. :D

    Ooh and I love JCB and Robert!!!!

  5. Pingback: Lightwoods Brasil | Jemima West, Kevin Zegers e Os Instrumentos Mortais. » Arquivo » TMI Source comenta sobre Kevin e Jemima.

  6. This review really eased my mind a lot! I know the cast is amazing, but still I was worried… now I’m just worried about what to wear when I go see it XD

  7. I didn’t know how truly scared I was about this film before I read this. I can tell you that I’m not anymore though. Thank you so much for sharing this and everything else you do for the fans. :)

  8. Through the small changes I new this was going to be a phenomenon. From this awesome review I know city of bones is going to blow everyone’s minds!!!!!

  9. That was just the little push I needed to make me go from super-excited-but-still-kinda-doubtful to ASDFGHJIKL I CANT IM SO EXCITED.
    So thank you :D

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  11. Thank you so much for this review I am so ridiculously excited for this movie it is not even funny so I didn’t think it would be possible to get even more excited…. but yes apparently, it is!! I have spent the last few months trying to write a thesis and was trying to keep up the news in between so right now I’m playing catch-up with all the clips and interviews I’ve missed. I am so happy that they did the books and the amazing Cassie justice. I want to see the movie now!!!!!

  12. alyssa, thank you so much for your amazing review! you have further validated that i among many others will love this film!

  13. Ok everyone I’m about to jump out the window bc I’m so excited more than ever in fact I’m going to go bouncing off the walls and then jump off the roof

  14. I can’t wait for 29 August (the release date in my country). I was sure the movie would be brilliant and awesome in all levels but now I want to see it even more!!!!

  15. Oh god I surely won’t wait until October to watch the movie in my country! I hope I’ll find it online before! besides, It will be better to watch it in original version, I so love Jamie’s voice, between others ^^
    Thansk for this amazing review! I know the movie will be perfect.

  16. Thank you Alyssa for this fabulous review. I never had any doubt that this movie would be epic!. I knew Jamie would be fantastic – he always is!!! He is the most talented human being on this planet!!!! I love Jamie!!! <3

  17. As always Alyssa, I respect and appreciate your opinion on all things TMI so very much! With this awesome and very informative review you have truly eased my anxiety and cemented my faith to the point where the wait to see this movie no longer feels like agony. I am now excited and ready and for that – a huge Thank You! I’m also extremely grateful that you addressed most of the concerns that I, as a fan of the books had, and by doing that you gave me the reassurance I needed. Can’t wait to read your full review after the 22nd – when City of Bones premiers in Australia – so we can gush and fangirl about it together! :)

  18. As an Aidan Turner fan I’ve been looking forward to this movie, but am worried that he will not have a very large role. He is a superb actor and I’m dying to see him as Luke because I know from Being Human that he has a tremendous range and is excellent at playing a concerned protective character. I just hope we get to see more of him in the film than we have in the promotional materials.

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  20. Question: When they changed their ages from 15-16 to 18-19, then does it mean they also changed the “you need to be over 18 to be shadowhunter adult” to 19+ ? Because Alec always talks about him being the oldest a lot…I would be sad if they removed that

    • Probably to 20 ages. It’s a common thing they do on films to reach a wider audience, I don’t think it’ll represent a too radical change.

  21. Great to hear from you guys! I’m waiting on the verge of my seat to 13/09 (premiere in Venezuela), but really wanna know about the impressions of the hard core fans. Thanks!

  22. Best review I’ve read in my life and I’ve read a lot of them! i don’t know how you managed doing a review that good without revealing anything about the movie! thank you so much for blogging and thank you for the FANTASTIC review! :)

  23. I’m so glad they made the characters older cause I’m 19 and when I say I want to see these movies so badly everyone makes fun of me and says it’s for 15 year olds! Now I have a good reason to back me up: the characters are the same age as me! :D Officially can.not.wait any longer.

  24. I’m on the verge of tears. This review is just beautiful and I absolutely love how you focus on every aspect from the characters to the score and everything that might have had the fandom worrying. Also, THANK YOU for addressing Jamie and how the people who doubted him won’t once they walk out of the theater! :) This review just supports my feelings that this will be a spectacular movie and more! :D Thank you so much for this review! Can’t wait for the 21st!

  25. I heard that they didn’t include the part where its revealed that Jace and Clary are siblings, I hope its not true though.

    • No of course they added it! Since Lily is like a huge fan of the books, she wouldn’t let their be any huge changes.. and if they didn’t add that, it would change the whole series. ( of movies :)

      • I really hope you’re right. I would be very disappointed and depressed it they didn’t added it. Plus, it would be hilarious to see the reaction of people who haven’t read the book yet.

  26. Anybody going to the toronto premiere? Just wondering if you can camp out, and get in if you haven’t won tickets? Super excited!

  27. Pingback: ‘THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES’ hits theaters in ONE WEEK! | TMI Source

  28. Great! Great! Great! Can’t wait to see it! I’ve been saying it’s gonna be the best book adaptation almost since the beginning due to that amazing cast =)

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  31. I am SO excited. I already know the “extra scene” with Magnus because I’ve been watching legit all of the interviews xD and he mentions it in one c; so that’ll probably be one of my favorite scenes.. I cannot WAIT for this movie. So excited.

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  33. I was also lucky enough to see an advanced screening today and it was amazing the first hour or so really blows me away in terms of getting to know the characters and then the action is great to watch later on. The only thing which I think will divide some fans is demi lovatos song being played in the greenhouse scene because it still would have been powerful with a score. Overall its a fantastic watch :)

    • From the kiss until Simon leaves is probably the only part of the film which is a bit like the book… The kiss was awesome!! Even though it wasn’t Clary’s birthday. And they didn’t have a picnic. And Simon didn’t fall asleep in Clary’s room. And they don’t even mention Idris…. It’s also the first time you hear about a greenhouse in the Institute…

  34. When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now
    each time a comment is added I get four e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Thanks!

  35. …. Am I seriously the only one who thinks they took the MI universe, characters and some random events and funny lines and made another story?? I don’t agree at all with you, after watching the film I had the same bitter feeling like when I watched Eragon: Hollywood destroyed one of my favourite books.
    ***here start the spoilers***
    Let me talk about some of the biggest issues. For example, Simon was kidnapped by evil vampires who wanted the cup. Wasn’t he a rat they took because they thought he was a vampire? And where are the flying motorbikes?
    Where is Luke’s past, the true story of Jace’s dad, the portals??? Why is the ‘final battle’ in the Institute and not at Valentines? Why did they change Clary’s birthday?
    And Dorothea? Where is my badass demon coming through the portal? And what the hell is wrong with Bach???? And don’t let me talk about the Cup amd Hodge… Or I won’t ever end!
    I’m sorry, but this might have been the worse book-to-movie adaptation ever made. As for the effects… They were too lazy to do the rat, super demon or motorbikes. And the Insttute is always blurry and brilliant. They were awful!
    This was just a way of making money by taking advantage of the name of The Mortal Instruments. That, or the books I read were another books from the same author and wih the same name.

    • Do you SERIOUSY think that making the rat scene on the movie would be a good idea? Trust me, that would be ridiculous! And the flying motor bikes? Ugh. Think about it: you’re not a fan. You haven’t read the books. You go to see a movie. And then, one of the characters turns into a rat, for no reason (because the vampires or the main characters aren’t going to explain you they thougth Simon was a vampire). And then they fly in demon powered motorbikes. I’m happy they deleted those scenes, they would seem ridiculous. You can’t put every scene of a book in a two hour movie. You can’t put every single scene because not every scene is necesary. When you write a book, you have to fill 400 pages (more or less hahahaha) with information. But you can’t explain every single detail on a movie. Too many information in two hours.
      Fans can’t be so harsh over adaptations. They’re adaptations. Of course, the books will always be better. But you can’t say a movie’s awful just because it isn’t an exact copy of the book. You can think the effects were bad, ok, that’s a good reason to hate a movie. But you’re seeing the storyline as a fan, not a person who hasn’t read the books.

      Sorry for my bad english :)

      PD. I have to agree with you: the Bach scene was just… ah. No words.

      • I’m not saying the movie should be exactly like the film, I know it can’t be. Those were just examples of what was wrong. But it’s not that the film is not EXACTLY like the book. It’s that it has nothing to do with it!!!!
        They took random events (Clary’s birthday, the cup, the Institute, Simon being kidnapped, Valentine, the kiss in the greenhouse, etc) and made a whole new story! Was it really that hard to make Clary’s birthday the day of the kiss, and say she usually went to the Pandemonium instead of making it her first time? Or the portals in the right locations? Hodge taking the cup? Valentine taking the cup???? That detail changes the whole story if they’re making a second film!
        Or the final battle, why is it in the Institute and not in Renwick? And why didn’t they even MENTION Idris – which is one of the biggest parts of the psyche of the Shadowhunters characters -, but they added the whole Bach story?
        Of course the film can’t be like the movie 100%, for example I’m ok with the Harry Potter movies, or The Hunger Games. But here, they changed the whole storyline. It’s just not ok.
        PS: As for the rat and the motorbikes, they wouldn’t have been ridiculous. Like in the book, a random vampire could say he thought it was a transformed vampire, and why would the motorbikes be weird? I don’t get it. It’s a part of the story! And vital to their escape…

  36. Omg went an saw it on 1st screenin it was a-mazing i am obsessed with the books and cant wait 4 the cohf 2 com out but the film was better than i thought it would be!!!!! Jamie and lily are awesome 2gether

  37. i loved it also I sore it once and went back with my mundane friend.. shes thinking bout reading the book…
    I really want to see what others are;
    Shadowhunter?
    Warlock?
    Vampire?
    Werewolf?
    Or just a mundane?
    I am SO a warlock…

  38. thanks for saving the spoilers i hate it when people give it out , it feels like that one just ruined a good movie, when a book turn into a movie ,they usually change into something a bit different , something to pamper movie lovers , this sounds like a cool movie can’t wait to watching it

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