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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Movie Review

Reviewed by on Aug 21, 2013
Rating: 4 Star Rating

Kidzworld reviews The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the first, fast moving fantasy film made from the popular Cassandra Clare YA novel series.

By: Lynn Barker

Ever get the feeling that your world has been turned upside down? Teen Clary Fray is seeing things: strange beings that don’t quite fit the “human” category. When her mom goes missing and Clary is attacked by an otherworldly “critter”, it’s time for some answers!

Welcome to the Shadow World

Brooklyn, New York, the present: Teen artist Clary Fray (Lily Collins) finds herself continually drawing a weird symbol; a “rune”. When her mom Jocelyn (Lena Headey) sees the drawings, she is freaked. While at a club with “bestie” Simon (Robert Sheehan), Clary witnesses a weird murder but no one else, including Simon seems to see or notice. Three “Shadowhunters” with strange weapons are involved: Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower) and Isabelle and Alec Lightwood (Jemima West and Kevin Zegers).

Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) shows Clary (Lily Collins) Shadowhunter treasuresJace (Jamie Campbell Bower) shows Clary (Lily Collins) Shadowhunter treasures

Mom Disappears

After again seeing Jace when no one else does, Clary, increasingly upset, returns home to find the place trashed, her mom gone and a horrible scary demon after her which Jace helps her kill. Finally Jace explains that Clary is not a “mundane” but a Shadowhunter, an angel-human combo whose mission is to kill demons. Her mom is one too. A demon trashed her place looking for “The Mortal Cup”, one of three Mortal Instruments used to turn humans into Shadowhunters. Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a powerful rogue Shadowhunter, wants the Cup to start his own rebel “hunter” army.  Mom has been abducted in his search.

Jace revs up his powerJace revs up his power

Quest for Mom and the “Cup”   

Clary slowly discovers her powers and uses them to find the Cup. She learns that her memories have been wiped by her mom from an early age to protect her. With her newfound friends, she goes to Grand Warlock Magnus Bane (Godfrey Gao) who magically wiped out those memories, to learn the truth.

Magnus Bane (Godfrey Gao) at his partyMagnus Bane (Godfrey Gao) at his party

When Simon is grabbed by vampires, she and her fellow Shadowhunters must fight them with the aid of a friendly werewolf clan headed by Clary’s mom’s old friend Luke (Aidan Turner). Simon, Clary and the other Shadowhunters go for refuge at The Institute, the local safe headquarters for Shadowhunters under the protection of Hodge Starkweather (Jared Harris).

Clary finds the Cup and, in the process, she and Jace fall in love, breaking Simon’s heart since he has always secretly been in love with her. Alec confesses his secret love for Jace as well thus pitting him against Clary. The relationship plot thickens!

Clary (Lily Collins) and Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) get closerClary (Lily Collins) and Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) get closer

Clary’s mom Jocelyn is found but is in a coma and can’t wake up. To break a curse that keeps him trapped at The Institute, Hodge betrays Clary’s confidence and gives the Mortal Cup to Valentine who reveals a horrible family secret to Clary and Jace. Will he take the Cup with him to the Shadowhunter home country of Idris or will of Clary, Jace, werewolf Luke and fellow good guy Shadowhunters regain it?

Clary and Jace in the City of BonesClary and Jace in the City of Bones

Wrapping Up

Just as the film story had to be tightened and simplified, we’ve given you a more general synopsis above. Fans, for the most part, should be happy with this adaptation of the “City of Bones” novel. Of course incidents are combined and some omitted in order to play the story in two hours but, unlike the recent Beautiful Creatures adaptation to film, for the most part, no very major story points are altered. If you aren’t a fan, you can still be sucked into this fantasy world and feel entertained by and even relate to some of the characters.

Peeking into another worldPeeking into another world

The look of the film is darkly impressive with cool sets and fun costumes that we can predict will be all over your neighborhood next Halloween. The action, once Clary learns her true identity and “mission”, is almost non-stop, making full use of the creative weaponry and fight moves contained in the book. The fast-moving action is probably necessary but might be both good and bad for fans who don’t want to lose too many “quiet” scenes from the novel.

Jace with his glass swordJace with his glass sword

I read the book and was happy with Lily’s portrayal of Clary and, yes, I like Jamie as Jace. He has the snarky wit evident in the book and, although he might not have rippling abs of steel, he is definitely buff and capable in the fight scenes. He and Lily also have the needed chemistry. Robbie Sheehan portrays Simon with the right mix of nerdy angst and competent-in-a-pinch verve. Other actors do very commendable jobs as supporting characters. I especially liked Jared Harris as Hodge, CCH Pounder as weird Madame Dorothea and Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the evil, hot and seductive Valentine.

Isabelle (Jemima West) attacksIsabelle (Jemima West) attacks

Overall, sure, the basic story has plenty of elements you have seen and read about before in fantasy literature and film but The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a very entertaining and fast-moving movie with a pleasing cast, a good “look” and a good set-up for future films in the series. We will go 4 out of 5 stars.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Movie Rating: 4

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is in theaters August 21st, 2013!

The movie posterThe movie poster