Title: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Released: 2013

Source Material
Title: City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments #1)
Author: Cassandra Clare
Published: 2007
Series: The Mortal Instruments

Fellow colleagues–did any of you see The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones this weekend? If so, step into the FYA lab and join me for an academic discussion of Hollywood’s latest attempt to recapture that Twilight box office magic. (Spoiler alert: EPIC FAIL.)

In the spirit of honest research, I have to admit something to you before we begin our analysis. I’m not a fan of The Mortal Instruments books. The premise is intriguing, to be sure, but I didn’t enjoy Cassandra Clare’s writing style, and the whole potential incest thing was so ridiculous, it was like the Renesmee of the series.

But hey, I didn’t like the Twilight books either, and I enjoyed the shizz out of those (admittedly terrible) movies. So at the onset of this experiment, I had low expectations, but I also had an open mind, which is essential for scientific inquiry.

I’ve organized this analysis into a few key sections so that we may thoroughly dissect the film. Let’s begin with:

The Cast

Lily Collins as Clary

Lily Collins is SO PRETTY YOU GUYS. Years ago, I cast her as Frankie Landau-Banks, which is pretty much the highest compliment I could give to an actress. She’s turned out to be even more beautiful than I hoped BUT not nearly as charming. The good news is that Clary doesn’t need to be anything but pretty and good at drawing runes, and Collins is a master at both. She’s also able to act without running her fingers through her hair or biting her lip, so overall, I consider her performance to be solid.

Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace

Jamie Campbell Bower has what I like to call a Cillian Murphy Face. His features seem otherworldly, almost alien, and he’s beautiful but in kind of a creepy way. He’s like one of those optical illusions where the picture could be two faces or a glass of wine. In certain scenes, I’d look at him and see hotness, but other times, I’d look at his face and see something freaky and decidedly unattractive.

Let’s engage in a quick experiment. Look at these photos and try to deduce whether or not JCB is actually hot.



GOD NO. (But please take a moment, in the name of science, to note Simon’s six-pack.)

Aside from his shifting attractiveness, JCB is not a terrible actor. I mean, he’s a hell of a lot better than RPatz, although I realize that’s not saying much. I think his main downfall in this film is his inability to be funny. Dude tries really hard to pull off a dry sense of humor and it just… doesn’t work. He’s too serious for Jace’s swagger, and as a result, his character is kind of a bore.

Robert Sheehan as Simon

I seem to recall liking Simon when I read the books, so perhaps I’m biased, but I thought Robert Sheehan was a good choice. He’s cute, but it’s easy to understand why Clary only sees him as a friend, and unlike JCB, Robert Sheehan can actually tell a joke.

Jemima West as Isabelle

Holy shizz, y’all, Jemima West is FIERCE!!!!!! I mean, do you see those biceps? Sure, her character didn’t have any depth, but who needs depth when you’ve got a gun show? Her screen time during the fight scenes was abysmally low, but it was enough to prove to me that she would totally win The Hunger Games. I smell crossover potential…

As for the rest of the cast:

Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine: Okay, what was up with his hair? When did evil Shadowhunters become Jedis? Anyway, Meyers chewed the crap out of the scenery, and for this film, that was definitely the right acting choice. Also, the idea that he could be the father of a teenager is just wrong.

Godfrey Gao as Magnus Bane: I’m guessing the director cast Godfrey Gao for his looks because it certainly wasn’t for his acting ability.

Cersei Lannister Lena Headey as Jocelyn: She mostly just lies still in this movie, but it was nice to see Lena Heady NOT playing a mega bitch.

Jared Harris as Hodge: Jared Harris, how did you end up here?! Well, with apologies to your acting career, I want to thank you for classing up this joint.

Adaptation of the Book

It’s been a while since I read these books, so I have no idea what was omitted or changed in the translation to film. Nor do I care.

But, just like with Twilight, the more ridiculous elements of the novel felt even more ridiculous when amplified on the silver screen. Like, I cringed throughout the entirety of the “Bach was a Shadowhunter” explanation. Seriously, WTF. And that roof garden scene with the flowers blooming at midnight and the cheesy-ass song playing made me sink into my seat like I was watching movie sex with my parents. 1-800-AWKWARD.

Moreover, there were some aspects of the plot that the film didn’t successfully develop or explain. The whole Hodge curse thing confused me, and I kept wondering what the hell happened to Isabelle and Alec’s parents and did they know Jace as a kid and if so, how could they not realize that Valentine isn’t his dad and blah blah blah. Then I remembered that I don’t care.

Oh, and fellow scientists, remind me–in the books, you don’t know for sure that Jace and Clary aren’t brother and sister until the end, right? I mean, obviously, you know, because it’s such a lame plot device, but in the movie, they make it clear from the onset that it’s all a lie. Which is a smart move, actually, because otherwise, this film would be even more uncomfortable to watch.

Throwing a Bone to Husbands of Mundie Moms

The filmmakers obviously knew that lots of women would be hauling their reluctant husbands to this movie, and thankfully, they tossed in some elements for the dudes*. The fight scenes are actually pretty freaking awesome, and the demons are absolutely DISGUSTING in the best way possible. When it comes to action, City of Bones far surpasses Twilight (minus that last battle scene in Breaking Dawn Part 2, obvs).

*And by dudes, I mean the majority of the world’s population.

On a scale of the first Twilight to The Hunger Games, how enjoyable was this movie?

To me, this movie was felt like one big hot mess. The pacing was off, the acting was sub-par, and the romantic lead kept shifting from an Instrument of Hotness to an Instrument of Creepy. Overall, it was better than the first Twilight movie, but it still took itself way too seriously for a film of such low quality. If Mortal Instruments had embraced the camp, it could have been a fun, fantastical escape, but instead, it tried to support too much weight and ended up sinking as a result.

So, fellow scientists, what was your intellectual conclusion? Please leave your lab work in the comments for further scientific discussion.

Sarah lives in Austin, and believes there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure, which is part of why she started FYA in 2009. Growing up, she thought she was a Mary Anne, but she's finally starting to accept the fact that she's actually a Kristy.