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~


  1. Kelley said,

    Ahhh, I noticed those things too: the inconsistency with daylight/nighttime, and Isabel’s necklace! I loved Magnus, but I do think that Simon was too good-looking and not nerdy enough. The casting for Jace actually made me like him better than I did in the books!

    • Dot Hutchison said,

      I would have liked to see some of the nerdy t-shirts for Simon, but otherwise I very much liked him, and I definitely agree about Jace- not just the casting, but also the scripting. They softened his sharper edges a little bit, let him be broody and self-deprecating and arrogant without being a *constant* jerk the way he frequently was in the books.

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