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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/3/2013

All Ratings out of
Movie: 1/2

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/2/2013

Is the Young Adult Novel Movie Adaptation Sweepstakes over? It's difficult to say. The Harry Potter films have grossed nearly $8 billion worldwide, making it the highest grossing film franchise in history. Just recently, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire opened to huge numbers. Yet, for those successes, we get plenty of The Golden Compass, The Spiderwick Chronicles, and City of Ember which do absolutely nothing. So, are audiences sick of these movies, or do they simply pick and choose the ones which will be hits. I don't know if anyone knows the answer to this, as the highly anticipated The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones barely made back half of its budget at the box office. Does this number reflect the quality of the film?

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones introduces us to Clary (Lily Collins), an average young woman who lives with her mother, Jocelyn (Lena Headey), and spends time with her friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan). However, Clary's "average" life has been odd lately. She keeps seeing a strange symbol everywhere she looks. While at a nightclub, she's convinced that she sees a murder, whereas Simon sees nothing. When Clary is confronted by Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), she learns a shocking truth -- her mother is a Shadowhunter, a group who fight monsters. Jocelyn is supposedly in possession of the "Mortal Cup", an ancient chalice which has magical powers. When Jocelyn disappears, Clary and Simon go with Jace to meet with other Shadohunters, Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle (Jemima West). Clary finds herself thrown into a world with vampires, werewolves and turncoat Shadohunters. As those around her prepare for a great battle, Clary begins to realize that she's inherited some of her mother's powers and it's her time to shine.

So, what's wrong with The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones? The first thing which will jump out at most viewers, and the thing which will potentially turn them off, is that this is yet another in a long line of movies where a young person learns about their secret supernatural abilities. Following Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, and Beautiful Creatures, just to name a few, this sort of story has grown very stale indeed. Not only does this plot seem very uninspired at this point, our familiarity with it robs the first half of the film of surprises. Clary's mom hiding the truth? There are monsters in the world? Clary has powers?!

And while I have not read the source novel, I get the feeling that The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones isn't a very good adaptation. Screenwriter Jessica Postigo has been charged with transforming the nearly 500-page novel into a two-hour movie, and she has to shove a lot of content into the script. Not only do we get Clary's story in the present, but we get an overview of Shadowhunter history. This is all inter-mingled with vampires, werewolves, and a host of various Shadowhunters, both good and bad. While this isn't necessarily difficult to follow, it all feels crammed together, and the story has little flow. For the most part, we simply feel as if we are following Clary from chapter to chapter, being introduced to a world which will mean much more in the next novel. Outside of the story itself, the film is further complicated by the fact that all of the various factions look just alike, reinforcing the jumbled together feel.

The movie also suffers from a true lack of emotion. Director Harold Zwart has made several other middle-of-the-road movies, such as The Karate Kid remake, Agent Cody Banks, and The Pink Panther 2. Here he brings us fight scenes which offer little excitement and a love triangle which offers no heat. It's obvious that the film was going for a Twilight feel, as both Jace and Simon are attracted to Clary, but I felt no chemistry between Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower.

The unfortunate thing about all of this is that The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones actually contains some interesting ideas. The first power which Clary discovers is unique and I like how some blurry ethical lines were addressed. But, so much of the movie felt like other movies that it was hard to become fully invested in it. There are four more books in the series, and I wonder where the plans to make a movie franchise have now gone.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones seems to forget about a certain vampire bite on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 25 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing on overt grain and no defects from the source materials. This is a dark movie, but the image is never overly dark and the action is always visible. The colors look very good, most notably reds and blues. The image has a nice amount of detail and is never soft. Likewise, the depth is impressive. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo and surround effects during the action scenes are well-done and some are nicely detailed. The sound moves smoothly from side-to-side and front-to-back and the stereo separation is impressive. The in-film music sounds very good and the subwoofer action works well.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones contains several extras. "Character Lineage" is an interactive piece which gives bio and background info on the characters. The Disc contains six DELETED SCENES which run about 5 minutes. All of these are brief and several of them focus on Simon. "Into the Shadows: From Book to Screen" (9 minutes) contains comments from author Cassandra Clare and gives some info on some of the changes made from the novels. "Bringing Them to Life" (7 minutes) looks at the actors and the characters. This includes comments from the cast. "Deadly Attraction" (4 minutes) again turns to the cast, specifically Clary and Jace. "Descendants of the Cup" (5 minutes) examines the Shadowhunters and their fighting styles, specifically looking at the stunts and choreography. We get a glimpse at the thoughts behind the production design and the looks of the monsters in "Entering the Shadow World" (5 minutes). The final extra is a MUSIC VIDEO for the song "Almost is Never Enough" by Ariana Grande featuring Nathan Sykes.

Review Copyright 2013 by Mike Long