Mortal Instruments: City of Bones…the Movie is Not the Book


This weekend my nephew and I spent our time watching movies and playing video games…it was pretty awesome. No, I’m not talking about who did better at the video games. (Hint: Not me!) We kicked things off with lunch before doing a little shopping for his birthday and heading over to see The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Now, this is a book that I absolutely adored, and I was pretty excited to see the movie.

The characters are well cast, and they do an excellent job of portraying Clary, Jace, Isabelle, Alec and Simon. They didn’t ring any false notes at any point in the film. Although, if I hadn’t read the books, I would have needed a bit more depth to everyone but Clary and Jace. This isn’t due to the actors in any way shape or form. Having read the novels, you were spot on! They didn’t get left out, they just didn’t get as much attention as they needed. Did your scenes get left on the cutting room floor? I mentioned in my review of the book that the story felt a little flat in the beginning, and that didn’t come across that way at all in the movie. They were engaging and did a fantastic job of pulling the viewer into the story. I kept feeling like it was rushed though, like it needed more build up, development, and explanation for anyone who didn’t read the book. It would be easy to get lost without it, and without the internal monologues…you have to spell it out.

Visually, I was really happy with the way they portrayed The Institute and The Silent Brothers. It was just the way I imagined it from the book, and as I mentioned, casting was excellent. There weren’t any discordant notes between the depictions of the characters and locations in the book and what I saw on the big screen.

This was my big experiment (I feel kind of like Sherlock…not really, but I did an experiment!) After much friendly debate, I’d been convinced to try reading the book before watching the movie….Ummm…this is not for me. The entire movie I kept thinking, but that doesn’t happen in that order. This doesn’t happen in the book. Why’d they change that? This was all plot focused and not character focused.

The Mortal Instruments Book #1

The plot takes a huge detour from the book, and it isn’t just little things that are easy to ignore. The ending is completely different. To the point that I don’t know how they’re going to do the rest of it, because this is a major freaking plot point they changed! This directly impacts the storyline from here on out. I may have been okay if it was just the one…okay, that’s a lie, but I would probably have gotten over it.

There was this big secret that gets revealed in the novels. Jace only spent the next two books making sure that information didn’t get into the wrong hands. In the movie, Isabelle and Luke play witness. Isabelle, who doesn’t have great relationship with Clary in the books, and it doesn’t look much better in the movie. Isabelle and Luke now have this enormously important piece of information that Clary doesn’t even realize is important until the end of the third book. Jace spends two books plus keeping this secret to protect Clary when she doesn’t even know it could be dangerous, and now….

We’re ignoring the fact that the scene is set in the wrong place, and all the rest. I could actually understand condensing the setting to The Institute instead of all over the place. It makes sense from a movie making budget standpoint. Really, I was fine with that. I even get revealing that there’s a lie being told to Clary and Jace. That whole time…you know, like a book and a half…where I didn’t know for sure it was a lie was a bit off-putting. However, I’d been pretty sure this tidbit wasn’t true. The not knowing for sure kept me engaged. I needed proof I was right. (wow, I just realized how that must make me sound, true though it may be.) Well, it’s out now. Oh hey, and that character who doesn’t redeem himself until the third book? He starts on it …. a bit early….kind of.

I’m not a purist when it comes to movie adaptations of my favorite books. I get that you have to cram a lot of character, plot, and world building into a couple of hours. Stuff has to get cut. Things need to be changed. It’s a new medium. My lunch conversation with a colleague revolved around her sister’s despair at reading The Lord of the Rings and discovering that the time period between Bilbo’s birthday and the time in which Frodo set off on his own adventure was 50 years instead of what was portrayed in the movie. She can’t read any farther. That’s a purist. Yeah, didn’t bother me in the least, and those are some of my favorite stories of all time. I read those books first too, but the movie stays so true to the vision and heart of the story (although understandably not exactly. Do you need nine movies for The Lord of the Rings? Okay, yes, but that’s not the point.) I didn’t have issues with the exemptions and changes there. Not to mention, none of those changes were major plot points. I mean, it wasn’t like Aragorn was suddenly carrying the ring.

These changes to Ms. Clare’s work were much much bigger than those in The Lord of the Rings. Did she get to retain any control over the script? Are they even planning on a sequel? I really can’t tell. Some stuff felt resolved, but not so much with the rest of it….I have no idea. Big conflict thing gets resolved (which wasn’t supposed to) the personal conflict is just beginning, and even that is resolved for the viewer just not for the characters. My nephew left the movie a bit confused, because not a lot of explanation happening either. Another reviewer mentioned that she got the feeling this was a fan film, and I can completely see that. They already knew the story and the characters and didn’t realize how much a new viewer would need in the way of development. I still just don’t see how changing so many major plot points makes sense for a book series as popular as this one. Could it be that I watched the movie too close to when I read the book? Maybe? However, the plot took such a huge detour from the book I don’t think I would ever forget enough to buy into that.

Overall, I felt they rushed through without enough character or plot development for the uninitiated. Then they went and changed too many major plot points for those of us who have read and loved the novels by Cassandra Clare. They didn’t even manage to leave us with a cliffhanger at the end, well kind of? (Were you afraid it was going to flop and you wouldn’t get to make the next one? Hmmm?) All that and overall, I didn’t hate it…I would actually recommend this for a rental…and give yourself a long time between reading the books and watching the movie.

Do you have issues with adaptations? What’s your favorite movie adaptation? Can you recommend a good movie to wash the taste of this one out of my mind?

‘Til next time,


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4 thoughts on “Mortal Instruments: City of Bones…the Movie is Not the Book

  1. I can forgive many things in the movie due to time constraints and such but the major plot point at the end bugs me more than anything else. I have no idea how they are going to fix that and make it work for the sequel but I think it will take some serious backtracking. I also was kind of peeved about Jace not believing Valentine. Jace was the one who had to convince Clary about them both being Valentine’s kids from what Jace had been told so for him to be like “I don’t believe it” just didn’t ring true to me. There definitely was some things I would have liked to see differently but all in all, I do like this movie a lot.

    1. I’m glad you liked it! I’m hoping that if I watch it again after the book as faded a little that I’ll like it more. One great thing did come out of it, my 13 year old nephew now believes me that the movies he likes began life as a book! The kid got a tablet and has been a reading fiend ever since.

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