Popcorn and a Book (29): City of Bones


The Book: 2007

The Mortal Instruments Book 1: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Published by Margaret K. McElderry)

The Film: 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones directed by Harald Zwart (Don Carmody Productions and Unique Features)

WARNING: This post does contain plot spoilers.

When I read City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, I was coming down off a Twilight high. It was the middle of exams in university and I had a few days before my next one. Tired of studying I decided to take a break and read a few chapters of City of Bones… Big mistake! I think I read all three over the next week. I just devoured them.

City of Bones had a lot of action and its supernatural storyline of humans with angel blood was something I hadn’t encountered before in my reading. Also, the main love interest, Jace, was hot, hot, hot and I absolutely adored Clary’s best-friend-who-wants-more, Simon. But what I also appreciated about this book was that Clary was a much stronger and less self-deprecating heroine than Bella.

As fascinating as this book was for me, I couldn’t stand the fact that the reader is made to believe Clary and Jace are siblings. Ick! They’ve got all this sexual chemistry and then… Wait, they’re related? *vomit* That’s one of the reasons I flew through the rest of the series: because I needed to know what I knew in my heart was true—that they aren’t siblings. Still, the fact that Clary and Jace believe they are related but are still attracted to one another leaves me feeling queasy.

Which brings me to the book’s movie adaptation… Let’s just say, my favourite part was the new Catching Fire trailer at the beginning. I had low expectations going into this one. It wasn’t like some of the other book-to-film movies I’ve gone to where I get all squee-y just buying my ticket. This movie needed to knock it of the park, to prove that my snap judgments based on the previews were wrong. It didn’t. When I left the theatre, there really weren’t any scenes that had me thinking, “Wow. That part was awesome!”

This movie felt far too convoluted. They tried to squeeze as much of the book as they possibly could into the movie and it didn’t pay off. It resulted in a lot of exposition and too many jokes that, while they worked in the book, felt forced in this rushed movie. I liked that there were details that set up for the sequel, like the vampire bite on Simon’s shoulder. However, it felt like this movie was more of a “We need to get in as many details as possible to make the second film” movie, than it was a “Let’s make this great by itself” movie. Because it really wasn’t great.

For the most part, the special effects were well done (except for the greenhouse with the clearly digitized plants) and the weapons were cool, but the acting left a lot to be desired. I liked Clary’s mom, and I generally liked Simon. Everybody else… meh. I was really hoping that Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ Valentine would redeem this movie, but no. And what was with his weird little braided ponytail things? Based on looks, I wasn’t expecting to like Jamie Campbell Bower’s skeletal Jace—he couldn’t compete with the ethereal being in my mind—but I ended up liking him better than Lily Collins’ Clary. Sure, she is pretty and she tears up nicely, but she was breathy. All. The. Time! I’m sorry, but breathiness does not equal tension.

The only thing that keeps this movie above water for me is that they made it clear to the viewer that Clary and Jace are not siblings, that the incest is a plot of Valentine and Hodge’s invention. That little detail puts the mind a bit more at ease about their relationship.

After seeing the movie, my advice is this: take the money you would have spent on this movie and go buy a book instead. I won’t be going to see City of Ashes.

“Popcorn and a Book” is a monthly feature where I compare a book with its adapted film. If you would like to participate in this feature, please visit the “Popcorn and a Book” main page for details.

3 thoughts on “Popcorn and a Book (29): City of Bones

  1. Pingback: Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Would Be Great Movies/TV Shows | Bookish Notions

  2. I can understand your frustration with this movie. I actually liked it though but maybe it’s because I was not hugely invested in the series. And I do think that, for the casual moviegoer, knowing that the incest is not real is better. Readers might go along with it into the next book but for a movie I think it was the smart choice. And I did not notice if Clary was breathy all the time. I’ll probably notice it if I watch it again now that you have mentioned it. All in all I thought it was a fun summer flick. Nothing amazing but certainly entertaining.

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