Book-to-Movie: City of Bones

August 29, 2013 at 9:07 pm (Book to Movie) (, , , )

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones came out about a week ago in theaters. I’ve now seen it twice.

For all their flaws, I love the Mortal Instruments book series. And with any book that you love, there’s this DREAD when you hear it’s been officially greenlit for production. Options are one thing- so many books are optioned but never made. But actually going into production? That’s when it becomes real, and suddenly you’re looking at pictures of actors and hearing names of directors and designers and screenwriters and producers and OH MY GOD WHAT IF IT’S AWFUL AND YOU HATE IT AND THEY RUIN IT AND THEY TOTALLY RUN ANYONE OFF FROM DISCOVERING THE BOOKS BECAUSE THE MOVIE IS SO BAD…

Okay, so some of us (me included) can get a bit worked up about it.

But it’s a side effect of being invested in the books- if we love the book, we get passionate about it. We want to see it done right, we want whatever comes out of it to do it justice. In order to keep some semblance of sanity, I try not to look at pictures leading up to the release. I very frequently skip trailers where possible. I spend most of the time leading up to the release by studiously convincing myself that I don’t know a book exists. It’s the best way I can look at a movie adaptation as completely its own thing.

So there was anticipation and more than a little fear when my brother suggested seeing it last weekend. To be fair, he didn’t care what movie we saw, because he was showing off the luxury theater with the cushy leather recliners.

I can say, with total honesty, I loved this movie. Not just as an adaptation, but also just as a movie. Did I have some technical quibbles with it? Absolutely. But I thought this was, without reservation, an excellent production.

Spoilers abound.

Some quibbles:
-There were some consistency issues. I’m not talking about translating from the book, I’m talking about purely within the movie itself. When Clary and Valentine go through the portal or interact directly with the surface tension, they come away soaking wet. Yet both times we see Jace put an arm through the portal, he’s completely dry, as is his clothing.
-Also, during the scenes at the Hotel Dumort, daylight becomes a tricky tricky thing. Bright daylight is shining down on Simon, but it’s pure night when the wolves break through, but then it’s shifting dawn when they burst out onto the roof. Little goofs like sweat sheens or degrees of wet hair kept shifting between parts of scenes, as well.
-some of the funniest moments in this movie happened in moments where nothing was being said. But. Those funny moments tended to fade out because they were held for a beat and a half too long. It’s a matter of seconds, but because it’s a consistent fault, it tends to bring notice to it.

And one tiny quibble about it AS AN ADAPTATION:
-Izzy’s red stone necklace? The one that warms to warn her of demons in the vicinity? It’s only in one scene. The Izzy in the book is never without it. It was a small bother, but a bother nonetheless, especially because it’s such an easy thing.

But seriously, a two hour movie and those are my only quibbles?

The casting was brilliant. The sense of connection between the characters, the small expressions, the casting director did a phenomenal job. Other than a few too many sweeping vistas of the city, the sense of New York was woven very well into the film, and oh my God the Institute. It was gorgeous! The costuming was a lot of fun, even if the runes weren’t quite as I’d anticipated (and why are Izzy’s runes so much more delicate than the boys’?), and Magnus?

Oh my God, Magnus. Our first view of him is phenomenal. I can’t even…

The pacing, aside from the extra beats, was great. It made for a tight story and a continuing sense of action, even in the quieter moments.

And I actually really loved most of the changes they made. Part of the challenge in translating a book to film is in keeping things tight. Readers have the luxury of flipping back and forth to remind themselves of when something was first brought up. Viewers have to be able to follow a cohesive timeline. So shifting the final action to the Institute, rather than introducing a new location, made a lot of sense. Shaving things off for the sake of clarity is a necessity, and I liked the choices they made in that regard. The soundtrack was fun, at times very well woven through it, and when the vampire fight starts, the shift in music was brilliant.

Also, I thought it was incredibly smart move to pack the previews with YA-adaptation trailers. Vampire Academy, The Book Thief, and Catching Fire, and they perfectly hit their target audience.

All in all, this was a fantastic movie, and a solid adaptation that gives me SO MUCH FAITH in the slew of translations coming out over the rest of this year and next.

Until next time~

Permalink 2 Comments

Book Rec: Of Beast and Beauty, by Stacey Jay

August 10, 2013 at 11:50 am (Book Reviews) (, , , , )

I’ve finally reached the point in the move that never ends where what I have left to do is minimal enough that I can actually relax a little bit in the evenings. I can sit down on my new-to-me couch with a wine glass of soda (because I’m just that classy) and after two months of reading nothing but fanfiction because I didn’t have enough brain cells not dedicated to moving to make sense of anything else. My bookshelves are up, and while my trade books are still in stacks on the floor, my YA and younger books are up on their shelves in the living room.

Most of my life is still in boxes, but that room feels like home.

There are books there that I have been wanting to read for MONTHS, but they’ve either been in storage or my brain has been thoroughly absent. The other night I went to the wall of books to choose one to read, and I hit that moment that every bibliophile hates: THERE ARE SO MANY BOOKS I WANT TO READ AND I CAN’T PICK.

But the cover of Of Beast and Beauty by Stacey Jay kept jumping out at me.

Of Beast and Beauty

Something about the rose against that pale skin, with the city beneath it. And it’s a jump-off from Beauty and the Beast, which is a story I absolutely love.


The world-building is gorgeous, distinct and strong, and while it’s been thousands of years since the settlers arrived on this new world, we still get pieces of the pure shock as a scientific culture suddenly finds itself face to face with magic. Forced into change on a physical and genetic level by the planet’s native magic, the population split- the Smooth-Skins, those left relatively unaffected by the mutations, who live in domed cities away from the ravages of a harsh environment, and those they call Monsters, those who lives out in the wilds by grace of the mutations the Smooth-Skins fear. The cities have a covenant with part of the planet’s magic force, a pledge of sacrifice to keep the cities thriving, but it isn’t enough to keep the children from being born missing some piece- sometimes a voice, or sight, or hearing, sometimes extremities or limbs, but every child born within the cities has something missing. Mutations can also be found within the city, and those Banished, as they’re called, are cast to the very outer edges of society. Those the Smooth-Skins call the Monsters eke out a meager existence, scraping by on harvests that diminish with each passing season.

The narration passes back and forth between two characters, for the most part, with occasional interjections from a third. Isra, the princess of the domed city of Yuan, has been blind since she was five years old, after a terrible fire that led to her mother’s death. She has been sequestered in a tower since that point, interacting only with her father, her father’s chief advisor, and her mute maid, Needle. She escapes the tower from time to time, going out to the royal gardens where the roses have their own magic to help her ‘see’. Gem is from a tribe across the desert, a reluctant warrior sent on a dangerous mission as the last hope for his people- and his infant son. Bo, a soldier and the son of Yuan’s chief advisor, fills in some of the elements we would otherwise miss. The language is distinct between the three, Isra sharp and longing and defiant, Gem with a storytelling soul and the deep desire for home and family, Bo formal and uncomfortable.

One of my favorite things about this book is Isra’s personal journey. She is so sheltered and naive, but her arc isn’t as easy as shrugging off her innocence. She has responsibilities to her people, to her city, and she’s willing to make incredibly difficult and self-sacrificing choices. But there are constant setbacks to her growing knowledge. She gains understanding in jagged bits and pieces, and she frequently forms a resolution to do the best thing based off incomplete knowledge- which can lead to that resolution being the wrong choice. Her growth, painful and shocking and genuine, was riveting. The relationship that grows between her and Gem, based on deceit and hope and a very fragile future, slowly becomes something real, shocking the hell out of both of them.

I love the darkness in this story, something so much more than the literal darkness of Isra’s blindness. The roses are creepy and haunting and lovely, kind of like a botanical version of the Weeping Angels. Needle’s faithfulness and ingenuity, Bo’s desperate need to make his father proud, the dark and disturbing history of the city, and the staggering deprivation of the tribes…there are points where this story becomes genuinely heart-breaking. Seriously, there was one part where I had to close the book and fight the urge to swear at Stacey Jay, because holy hell, my poor heart! But there’s so much beauty to it as well, not the beautiful or a person or a landscape, but the kind of beauty that really does change the world in the right conditions.

If you love fairy tale retellings, if you love the places where science and magic clash, if you love journeys of discovery, this book is definitely for you.

Until next time~

Permalink 2 Comments