Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is based on a teen paranormal book called City of Bones, which is the first in a very popular six-book series by Cassandra Clare. I have not read the books, so I cannot make any judgments about how faithful the adaptation is. Clearly something was lost, though, since the titular city has very little significance in the movie.

This is a very pretty movie, with unexpectedly artistic flair. The special effects are generally excellent. Unfortunately, uneven pacing and mediocre script prevent this from being a great movie.

The plot is a fairly standard magical princess formula. The heroine, Clary, leads a normal life until she suddenly discovers that there is another world out there, and she is vital to its fate. The details are different enough from others of its type not to feel repetitive, though. Lily Collins does a fine acting job in the lead, blending ignorance and fear with bravery and determination.

The obligatory love triangle storyline was a bit forced. A lot forced, actually. I hope there was more nuance in the the book. Neither of the boys has a lot of depth. Jace's backstory is explored to some extent, and he is definitely the more interesting of the two. Alec's part in the plot moves from predictable cliche to inexplicable, and then when it seems like his life might get more interesting, no one mentions that arc again.

The supernatural critters that aren't part of the main plotline are generally badly handled. The vampires and werewolves both are treated like mooks/red shirts/disposable henchmen. It feels like they are there because they were an important part of the plot and setting in the book, but the movie didn't have enough time to do them justice. In fact, most of the problems I have with the movie could be explained by a sub-par job of adapting the book for the movie format. The uneven pacing, the sudden tone shifts, the loss of plot points, the inadequate introduction of plot points, all of these are symptoms of a writing team who tried to do the book justice and didn't quite get there.

Still, this is an entertaining movie. If you're willing to gloss over its flaws it's really quite good. The cinematographer gets special credit for using shakycam correctly - just enough shake to convey motion and confusion without nauseating the audience - with a couple exceptions. It's good enough to warrant sequels, which is good since the second movie is already in the works. Possibly the best compliment I can give it is that it looks like a movie that cost far, far more than the $60 million that was spent on it.

1. Much Ado About Nothing
2. Now You See Me
3. The World's End
4. Despicable Me 2
5. Star Trek: Into Darkness
6. Oblivion
7. Iron Man 3
8. Pacific Rim
9. Kick Ass 2
10. Man of Steel
11. Jack the Giant Slayer
12. Beautiful Creatures
13. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
14. RIPD
15. Oz the Great and Powerful
16. Epic
17. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
18. The Wolverine
19. Elysium
20. Monsters University
21. Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters
22. The Great Gatsby
23. The Lone Ranger
24. This is the End

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