Sunday, 20 October 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

I was massively let down by this film. I really wanted to enjoy it, and to be honest I wasn't expecting great things, which normally makes it much easier to be pleasantly surprised. Not so here. 
The movie is based on the bestselling books by Cassandra Clare, a young adult urban fantasy series dealing with all manner of supernatural beings, and in particular the race of demon-killing shadowhunters.

I really enjoyed the books, the super snarky character dialogue, and the way the characters are snappy and clever without it being too much. I have a real soft-spot for sarcastic, faux-arrogance being used to hide a characters weakness (early season Dean Winchester for example) and book Jace pulls this off brilliantly.
Sadly this is a review of the movie rather than the book, and in the movie it just didn't work. 
The script seemed clunky, there were attempts to shoe-horn in some of Jace's gems from the book but it just seemed weird and out of place, the odd misplaced line that didn't mesh with the rest of the dialogue,. This was a shame, and a missed opportunity, because his ego-centric commentary is a huge part of the characters personality and is part of what makes him interesting. Watching this movie felt very much like a paint by numbers young adult adaptation, like it was just going through the motions and a series of tick boxes - something I blame on the script rather than the actors. 

When it comes to design there were two aspects I had issues real with. The runes; I hate how oversized and inelegant they are. I always imagined fine silvery scars being left behind, only visible when the light hits them just right. The active runes, those in black, I imagined as more spidery and subtle, frankly a hell of a lot cooler. The ones in the movie just look like really bad tattoos, and are just plain ugly.
I'm also not a fan of the costume design, it's a bit too goth/emo for my liking, the nu-rock style boots in particular. Also the music choices were pretty hammy and made me cringe, particularly the awful 'soulful' song played when Jace and Clary finally kiss, and the trance soundtrack for the vampire fight, reminiscent of the Matrix soundtrack but terribly done.
Coming back to characters, Jace wasn't the only one missing personality and soul. Another huge missing part for me was Magnus Bane, the high warlock of Brooklyn, who is about as eccentric as it gets. Yet here he had two scenes, both bland, and the only eccentric thing about him was his guy-liner. Another missed opportunity to create a truly memorable character, he felt very much sanitised and pared down. Again a writing issue rather than an actor fault. 

Other issues, Jonathan Rhys Meyers looked way too young to have two kids of 16 and 17, and whilst I realise age wise it's possible I couldn't believe it. His styling was off, he looked like a reject from an '80s punk rock video, and his hair, short and white blond in the book, became a strange kind of plaited mullet. And why the hell isn't he wearing a shirt?
Also his two henchmen, Blackwell and Pangborn, scary ruthless thugs in the book fell victim to that Hollywood trope of idiotic and inept comic relief villains; one particularly pointless dialogue snippet comes to mind where one of them redundantly informs the other he dislikes the basement. I don't know if this was a joke I missed the punchline of, or what the hell was going on, but it left me scratching my head. 
Also the massive twist at the end of the book (that actually stopped me reading the rest of he series for a good few years) was given away in a revealing comment from Hodge, another example of Hollywood sanitising the plot. 

I was pleasantly surprised with Robert Sheehan, I'd been a bit scared I'd only be able to see Nathan from Misfits (fantastic series, highly recommended), but he pulled off Simon really well. Having said that in the book Simon bores the life out of me, so many I simply wasn't as attached. 
Whilst I understand it is impossible to fully convert a book into a film without it being ridiculously long and expensive, the most successful adaptations of book to film maintain the soul of the original, and in this case I feel that was missed entirely. I can't say I hated the film because I simply didn't care enough about it to feel that strongly. I feel it was completely sanitised for a new audience, so busy trying to be the next big teen franchise that it became generic and uninspiring as a result. I can barely bring myself to generate the interest to look for photos, usually my favourite part of a post.
Maybe I'd enjoy it more on a second viewing, I've hated other movies and then enjoyed them immensely a second time around but I doubt that'll happen here.

A disappointed three shadowhunters out of ten. 

No comments:

Post a Comment