I watched this film adoption of ‘City of Bones’ by CassandraClare just after I finished the book. And to be honest, I wasn’t expecting a whole hell of a lot. Believe me when I tell you that the bar for this film was buried six feet under. Especially, after this movie bombed horrendously at the box office when it was initially released in 2013. Yet, for all its faults it turns out that this movie was significantly different from the books, and the way those changes changed the overall story was surprising. However, before I get more into that, I would like to start off as always discussing what I loved about this movie.
What I Loved About The Movie
The first big change from the book was that the screenwriters cut out almost all of the annoying filler. Actually, the movie proved without a doubt that all the useless exposition and filler we got in the books was completely unnecessary. And cutting that out made the plot better and more fast paced.
I also have to give credit to screenwriter Jessica Postigo Paquette who was able to cut out a lot of the problematic issues that were in the book such as the child slavery and the racism and the slut shaming from the movie. You can tell that Paquette did the best she could take the source material and turn it into a movie with a coherent plot.
I also want to point out how Paquette was actually able to give the audience some decent foreshadowing that even surprised me at times. Such as Paquette foreshadowing Clary’s memories coming back to her by having her draw out the Shadowhunter runes over and over again. There is even one scene in where Clary blacks out and wakes up with runes written all over her room. Or how Paquette foreshadowed that Simon was turning into a vampire by writing in scenes in which he reacted adversely to sunlight or by showing the bites on his neck.
I also loved how Paquette actually managed to close up the storylines that Clare didn’t in the books. We actually got an indication that Jocelyn would eventually awaken from her self-induced coma, and Simon even apologized on-screen. Wherein in the book Clare just left Jocelyn in a coma for no logical reason and completely lampshaded Clary and Simon’s fight.
Another prime example the good changes the movie made was the characters personalities themselves. Paquette was able to take the characters from being cardboard cutouts to being somewhat relatable three-dimensional characters. Jace was actually tolerable, and I actually felt some empathy towards Jocelyn and Luke. Admittedly, a good chunk of the credit has to go to the actors themselves who you can tell tried their damnest to portray these characters as best they could.
And speaking of the actors, I’m going to take a minute to gush about them. Seriously, every worthwhile actor from the U.K. that hasn’t yet appeared in a Harry Potter film was in this freaking movie. We had such actors as Lena Headley (Jocelyn Fray), Aiden Turner (Luke Garroway), Robert Sheehan (Simon Lewis), Godfrey Gao who played Magnus (and is a notable exception who is from Taiwan), and Jonathan Rhys Meyer (Valentine) in this movie. I also want to give a nod to another non-UK actress that was in this movie, CCH Pounder who you might recognize from ‘Law and Order’ and portrayed my favorite character from the books, Dorothea.
What I Hated About The Movie
This movie is proof positive that even good actors can’t make a movie good if the source material is horrible. As much as Paquette and the actors tried, it just could not escape how horrible the book was without changing the movie into something completely unrecognizable from the books themselves.
My first big issue with this film was Clary and Jace’s relationship. Just like in the book, in the movie Lily Collins (Clary Fray) and Jame Bower Campbell (Jace Wayland) had little to no onscreen chemistry, which made their romantic interactions onscreen cringeworthy to watch. Also, there is a scene where they are in the greenhouse and Clary trips on a step just like in the book, but then the Director Harald Zwart or Paquette decided that was just not romantic enough. No, they actually had the sprinklers turn on so both Clary and Jace can kiss in the rain.
Another issue I had with this film is how they kept in a little bit of the problematic stuff from the books such as the incest plot twist, and Clary’s slut shaming of Isabelle. Every bit of the incestuous subtext was confirmed in this movie, especially in the very last scene in where Jace and Clary literally ride off into the sunset. There was also a scene between Clary and Valentine where he was practically leering down at her even though he just admitted a few scant moments earlier that he was her father.
I also hated how Paquette tried to explain away Hodge’s curse as just a form of agoraphobia. Valentine basically said if Hodge just tried to leave hard enough that his curse (or his agoraphobia) would be instantly cured. Which is not at all how mental illness actually works and actually perpetuates this dangerous myth that is often perpetuated in society and in mainstream media.
I also hated that the writers did enough to develop Alec and Magnus’s characters arcs. For me, their relationship was just as unbelievable and random as it was in the book. And as much as Godfrey Gao was a magnificent Magnus Bane, he had zero romantic chemistry with Kevin Zegers portrayed Alec Lightwood.
I also want to point out that how a majority of this movie’s cast had U.K. accents. I can understand if a British actor is playing an American character. It happens all the time, I mean Henry Cavill played Superman who was from Kansas. However, despite the movie’s setting being primarily set in New York City, 90% of the cast had U.K. accents. I just don’t understand why the casting director didn’t hire American actors for this movie if they wanted to keep the book’s original setting. It makes zero logical sense and it was a huge point of frustration for me while watching this movie.
And the last thing I want to address is how Paquette and Zwart decided to rip off their ideas from many fandoms as possible. I would expect Cassandra Clare to do that, she has long been a notorious plagiarist. Hell, if you read my recaps I ranted ad nauseum at how she blantatly ripped off ideas from Harry Potter, Star Wars, and Lord of The Rings. But you would think that people with knowledge of Cassandra Clare’s background would try their damnest to make everything look as an original as possible. But no! They decided to add to the list of the fandoms this fandom has ripped off. Stargate SG-1 for one thing, and then at the very last part of the movie was blatantly ripped off from Ghost Busters. And Paquette and Zwart decided to double down on all the stuff that was flagrantly ripped off from Harry Potter. The most obvious were the scene where they revealed the Insititute or Hodge’s pet bird Hugo (who is a raven version of Fawkes). The rip offs was so overt that I was surprised the filmmakers wasn’t slapped with a lawsuit for copyright infringement.