When I reviewed Pacific Rim a few weeks ago, I talked about how it was a very good example of the kind of movie it wanted to be. It was the best possible movie about giant monsters and robots that fight each other.
The Mortal Instruments both the book series and now this movie, are kind of like that. It is a ridiculous concept about an order of half angels who fight demons and an absurdly complicated love story between two beautiful but mostly idiotic demon hunter children. One of them is the greatest demon hunter in several generations (the only person better than him was his great great grandpa…it’s a long story), the other one has magical drawing powers. For two books in this six book series, they think that they’re brother and sister.
It’s all pretty stupid. It’s a stupid teenage paranormal romance. But it’s so very good. And the movie did an amazing job adapting it.
Like so many adaptations, it comes down to picking the right people to fill the characters shoes, something that City of Bones was aces on. Let’s start with Lilly Collins as Clary Fray. Clary, like most heroines of these kinds of stories is a bit of an every woman. You know, pretty but not conventionally so, and completely unaware of it. But Clary does distinguish herself by being aware that she’s deeply talented and homicidally brave. Collins hits Clary on the head. She’s bright, funny, engaging and struggling, but willing to accept the new magical world blooming around her.
I had my doubts about Jamie Campell Blower as Jace Wayland, the boy Clary loves. (Not actually her brother. Though she thinks he is for a while.) Basically, Aless and I both were not sure if he was pretty enough. Jace is supposed to be the most beautiful boy in the world. Blower, isn’t really, thoughhe is gorgeous. But he was incredible, after his physical looks, Jace’s defining characteristic is his razor sharp wit and his deep, deep sarcasm. The script gets Jace’s attitude right and the one liners that define him. When he delivers the line, “I like to reject myself occasionally, just to keep it interesting.” This to me sums up Jace perfectly, and Blower delivered it perfectly.
Robert Sheehan played Clary’s best friend Simon Lewis. Simon is one of my favorite characters ever, and we did get a hint at his future as a vampire here. The seeds are sown, Clary saw that he was bitten. He doesn’t turn until Book 2, so I’m looking forward to getting a sequel and seeing how they show it. Sheehan gets Simon’s sense of humor, his whole hearted love for Clary and of course his pop culture sensibilities. If Jace’s self rejection defines his character, Simon is defined when Jace introduces himself. “Jace Wayland, demon hunter.” “Simon Lewis, I’m the keymaster.” Any boy who’s first instinct when meeting an actual demon hunter is to quote Ghostbusters at him, is a winner.
Kevin Zegers, Jemima West and Godfrey Gao round out our young cast as Alec and Isabelle Lightwood and Magnus Bane. City of Bones really only touches on these three, so I didn’t mind that they were downgraded, but I really hope their stories don’t get bypassed. Zegers is intense and broody and self loathing as Alec, a character I’ve never really loved. But Zegers does a good job, showing Alec’s unrequited crush on Jace, and his hostility towards Clary because of it. Gao captures Magnus’s easy sex appeal and again sense of humor. Humor is crucial to Mortal Instruments, it’s really what separates it from other work in this genre.
Jemima West gets her own paragraph because she was that good. Isabelle is one of those feminist victories that I love. She’s beautiful, confident, feminine and a stone cold bad ass. We didn’t get into her inappropriate dating life. (Isabelle has a thing for downworlders and mundanes, mostly to try to piss off her parents.) But we do see her single handedly defend the institute from a demon attack. West was clear and focused and gorgeous and Aless and I have decided that we’re backing her to play Wonder Woman. (Our opinion is obviously the most important.)
The adults in Mortal Instruments are great too. Lena Headey plays Jocelyn, Clary’s mother, who to be fair, is unconscious for most of the movie. And the entire second book. But she’s good, Headey is such a phenomenally talented actress. Our main villain, Valentine, is played by Jonathan Reese Meyers, and his few scenes, scowling and snarling his way through them are good. I thought he played him a bit too violently. In the books I saw Valentine as more calculating, a mad scientist who’s less mad and more scientist. Aidan Turner played Luke Garroway, and again, fit the role perfectly. And finally Jared Harris as Hodge Starkweather, the Lightwood and Jace’s tutor, who betrays them all to Valentine.
Plot wise, things stayed true to the book with a few necessary twists. The main one being Clary and Jace. While the movie does end with them believing they’re siblings, we as the audience know that they are not. (Not just because I’ve read the books and know, but because Hodge and Valentine say that they’re going to lie to them to break Clary’s spirit.) This is a decent way to fix a problem that Aless and I couldn’t figure out. It’s one thing in a cult teenage book to have a hefty portion dedicated to your two main characters fighting off incestual attraction. It’s a whole other ball game when it’s a mainstream movie.
Of course when Lena Headey is playing the mom, you could just solve it by her saying, “Eh, it’s totally OK to be with your brother. Just watch out for that first born son.”
Seriously, just watch out.
Romeo and Juliet! Ed Westwick as Tybalt. I literally DO NOT CARE ABOUT ANYTHING ELSE IN THIS MOVIE! ED WESTWICK AS TYBALT!
The Book Theif Right in the feels. God, that book was amazing and I hope the movie is.
Carrie. Not really my thing, but Julianne Moore and Chloe Grace Moretz are both so good, I’m sure that this movie will be too.
1. Pacific Rim
2. The Great Gatsby
3. Kick Ass 2
4. The Butler
5. Man of Steel
6. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
7. The Wolverine
8. Iron Man 3
9. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters
10. Despicable Me 2
11. Star Trek Into Darkness
12. Monster’s University
13. After Earth