I might take some heat for saying this, but I didn’t think The Mortal Instruments was that bad of a movie. No, the cast wasn’t exactly the best with a few roles needing re-casting, but the story was at least half-coherent, if not sloppy, and Lily Collins for her part seemed to have carried the main role fairly well.
Sony | PG13 – 130 min. – $40.99 | December 3, 2013
Directed by: Harold Zwart
Writer(s): Cassandra Clare (book); Jessica Postigo Paquette (screenplay)
Cast: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Lena Headey, Kevin Durand, Adam Turner, Jemma West, Godfrey Gao, CCH Pounder, Jared Harris, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Theatrical Release Date: August 21, 2013
Features: Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Music Video, Lineage Tracker, DVD Copy, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 36.1 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
Note: This review does contain spoilers, so readers beware.
Thanks in part to the Twilight books-turned-movie adaptations, Hollywood can’t get enough of the tween-focused novels to adapt for the masses, this includes The Hunger Games which, admittedly, aren’t that bad actually. However, THG is the exception not the rule and the latest that slipped under the radar and failed miserably at the box office, and amongst critics and fans, is The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the first in a series of six books that I’m sure Sony, under their Screen Gems label, hoped would be a cash cow.
However, given it made a mere $31.1 million domestically (and a total of $80 million worldwide), I don’t think we’ll be seeing any more of these. And although I actually didn’t think it was a terrible film, it is pretty much amateur hour for some involved, least of which the screenwriters who seemed to try to jam as much as possible of the mythos in 130-minutes leading to a muddled story.
City of Bones centers on teen girl Clary (LILY COLLINS) who begins to randomly draw a strange symbol all over the place which concerns her mother (LENA HEADEY), not that something is wrong with her daughter but that Clary is beginning to receive some kind of power her mother had been repressing since birth… or something along those lines. Really, it doesn’t matter and as for Lena Headey, unfortunately she’s out of the picture until towards the end.
In any case, one night she and best friend Simon (ROBERT SHEEHAN) go out on the town to celebrate her 16th birthday where some weird sh*t goes down, first when she goes into a club where she sees the symbol she had been drawing on the sign, though Simon can’t see it, and inside, witnesses a man get pulverized, though again nobody else sees it, though the guy doing the pulverizing, Jace (JAMIE CAMPBELL BOWER), notices her. The following day Jace confronts her about her ability and eventually clues her in that she’s a descendent from a line of protectors known as Shadowhunters whose duty is to protect our world from the likes of demons and other other-worldlies including warlocks, vampires and werewolves, though some are down with the cause.
Being infatuated with her, Jace invites her, along with tagalong Simon, into his world, introducing Clary to Alec (KEVIN ZEGERS), who none-too-appreciates their presence, and Isabelle (JEMIMA WEST) who is more cautious; the leader of this house is a recluse named Hodge (JARED HARRIS). Together they attempt to track down Clary’s mother while giving her the grand tour of the history of Shadowhunters and all their secrets including a portal that can take a person to wherever they want.
That’s actually a lot of information crammed in one movie and that doesn’t even include the movie’s ultimate baddie, a man named Valentine (JONATHAN RHYS-MEYERS). He wants to get rid of “Downworlders” (vamps, wolves, etc.) using allies he leads within The Circle. I think that’s the gist of it though there’s a bit of a Star Wars element going on too; I’ll leave it there in case anyone wants the stupid twist.
First things first, I didn’t hate The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. No, it’s not the most well acted movie especially from pretty-boy Jamie Campbell Bower who wasn’t exactly impressive in the short-lived (i.e. one season) Showtime series, “Camelot”. Beyond his looks, it’s apparent he was also cast hoping Twihards would follow him from his Caius part in three Twilight movies (he also had small roles in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Parts 1 & 2).
For her part, Lily Collins isn’t bad and I think she can be a decent actress when the material is there, which it really isn’t (the book was adapted by Jessica Postigo, making her feature writing debut), but she does a decent job with what she was given. Though her filmography isn’t anything noteworthy, this includes more than one turkey like Priest and Abduction.
In regards to the rest of the cast, they’re all interchangeable from Robert Sheehan playing the friend who wants-to-be-more-than-friends-with-Clary-but-she-is-so-blind-that-she-doesn’t-realize-it, Jemima West is a fresh talent who isn’t bad but her character is woefully underwritten (no doubt to make room for the overstuffed plot), and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is clearly only there for a quick paycheck with a bland and uninteresting performance as the film’s primary antagonist; see him in NBC’s “Dracula” where he seems to give a damn.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was helmed by Harald Zwart, a name you’re perhaps unfamiliar with but you’ve probably seen a few of his previous works which have been more miss than hit including The Karate Kid remake, Agent Cody Banks and The Pink Panther 2. So looking at that, Zwart certainly was an interesting choice to direct a fantasy-drama and although his direction, alongside Geir Hartly Andreassen’s camera, I can’t place that much blame even if it is pedestrian and forgettable. Still, with a stuffed script, there’s only so much one can do…
All in all, City of Bones isn’t a terrible movie, not by a long stretch, HOWEVER, I can only speak to the movie having never read the book let alone having ever heard of it, so take that for what you will. There are some things that work and the foundation, even if slightly crumbled, has been built though thanks to a weak box office, I highly doubt we’ll get subsequent sequels unless some production studio decides to take on the challenge.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
This release comes with a thin slip cover susceptible to damage. Inside are an UltraViolet Digital Copy code and retail DVD Copy.
Character Lineage is an interactive feature where viewers can look at the history of the various characters and view a gallery of production and still photos. Yawn. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Deleted Scenes (4:44; HD) – There are six scenes included which were cut down or completely excised. Nothing special about these and no doubt removed due to pacing or repetitiveness.
Into the Shadows: From Book to Screen (8:35; HD) chronicles taking the large novel and putting it on the big screen. We get some interviews with the cast and crew (including the author) as they talk about the story and characters. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Bringing Them to Life (6:39; HD) looks at adapting the characters from novel to movie and the cast/crew discuss each one. It’s a pretty basic featurette and doesn’t offer much info.
Deadly Attraction (4:24; HD) has stars Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower talking about their roles. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Descendants of the Cup (4:36; HD) – This is about the stunt work and fights featured in the movie.
Entering the Shadow World (4:49; HD) is about the other worldly creatures and the designs and VFX done for the film. ** Blu-ray Exclusive **
Music Video (3:44; HD) for “Almost Is Never Enough” by Ariana Grande ft. Nathan Sykes
Previews – One Direction: This Is Us, After Earth, Austenland
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Mortal Instruments summons itself on Blu-ray presented with a 1080p high-definition transfer (MPEG-4 AVC codec). The picture, shown in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio, not surprisingly looks quite good in HD: detail levels are sharp and despite seemingly 80% of the movie taking place at night or in dark locations, there aren’t any substantial cases of artifacting or pixilation. Colors are good popping off the screen relatively well.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
Although the video was impressive, the included 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track was even more exciting between a striking score, clear dialogue levels and robust sound effects which help show off the track to near reference levels, albeit still slightly below others in this category.
OVERALL – 3.5/5
Overall, I might take some heat for saying this, but I didn’t think The Mortal Instruments was that bad of a movie. No, the cast wasn’t exactly the best with a few roles needing re-casting, but the story was at least half-coherent, if not sloppy, and Lily Collins for her part seemed to have carried the main role fairly well. The Blu-ray released by Sony offers an OK selection of bonus material and the audio/video transfers are both well done.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.