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.
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.