The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
|The Mortal Instruments:
City of Bones
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Harald Zwart|
|Produced by||Don Carmody
|Screenplay by||Jessica Postigo Paquette|
|Based on||City of Bones
by Cassandra Clare
|Music by||Atli Örvarsson|
|Cinematography||Geir Hartly Andreassen|
|Editing by||Michael Kahn|
|Distributed by||Screen Gems (US)
Entertainment One (UK)
|Running time||130 minutes|
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a 2013 German-Canadian-American action-adventure science fantasy film based on the first book of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare. The story takes place in an urban and contemporary New York City. Directed by Harald Zwart, the film stars an international cast, including Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Jemima West, Godfrey Gao, Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Aidan Turner, Kevin Durand, and Jared Harris. It was released in theaters on August 21, 2013.
New York City teenager Clary Fray (Lily Collins) begins seeing a strange symbol, worrying her mother Jocelyn Fray (Lena Headey) and her mother's friend Luke Garroway (Aidan Turner). Later, at a nightclub with her friend, Simon Lewis (Robert Sheehan), Clary is the only person who sees Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower) killing a man. Meanwhile, Jocelyn is abducted by two men, Emil Pangborn (Kevin Durand) and Samuel Blackwell (Robert Maillet), but she is able to call Clary and warn her about someone named Valentine. Jocelyn drinks a potion putting her in a comatose state. Returning home, Clary finds her mother missing and is attacked by a demon. Jace, a Shadowhunter, appears and kills it. Jocelyn was also a Shadowhunter (also called Nephilim), a warrior that slays demons and rules over the downworlders, and Clary has inherited her powers, including the ability to use runes.
Madame Dorothea (C. C. H. Pounder), the Fray's neighbor and a witch, deduces that Pangborn and Blackwell seek the Mortal Cup, one of the three Mortal Instruments given to the first Shadowhunter by the Angel Raziel. It allows normal humans to become half-Angel Shadowhunters. Simon, now able to see Jace, arrives and they go to Luke's bookstore. Pangborn and Blackwell are interrogating Luke there, who claims he cares nothing for Jocelyn and only wants the Mortal Cup. The trio escapes to the Shadowhunters' hideout, the Institute, where Clary and Simon meet Shadowhunters Alec Lightwood (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle Lightwood (Jemima West), and their leader, Hodge Starkweather (Jared Harris). He reveals that Valentine Morgenstern (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an ex-Shadowhunter who betrayed the Nephilim seeks the Mortal Cup to control all Shadowhunters and demons.
Hodge instructs Jace to take Clary to the City of Bones so the Silent Brothers can probe Clary's mind for the Mortal Cup's location. The Brothers uncover a connection to Magnus Bane (Godfrey Gao), the High Warlock of Brooklyn. Bane says Jocelyn had him block the Shadowhunter world from Clary's mind. Vampires then kidnap Simon. Clary, Jace, Alec, and Isabelle trail them to their hideout and rescue him but are outnumbered. Werewolves (that share a truce with the Shadowhunters) intervene and save them.
At the Institute, Clary shares a romantic evening with Jace, ending in a kiss. When Simon confronts Clary about it, she downplays the incident, angering Jace. Simon confesses to Clary that he is in love with her, leaving her feeling guilty because she does not reciprocate his feelings.
Clary realizes the Mortal Cup is hidden inside one of Madame Dorothea's tarot cards that were painted by her mother. The group goes to Dorothea's apartment but she has been replaced by a demon sent to steal the Cup. Simon and Jace kill it, but Alec is critically wounded. Clary retrieves the Mortal Cup.
Clary gives the Mortal Cup to Hodge who betrays them by summoning Valentine Morgenstern and giving him the cup. Valentine reveals he is Clary's father and wants her to join him. She escapes through a portal that transports her to Luke's bookstore. Luke, revealed to be a werewolf, confirms that Valentine is her father and says Clary had an older brother called Jonathan who was killed. Luke and his werewolf pack return to the Institute with Clary to fight Valentine, who has summoned an army of demons through a portal he created. Simon and Isabelle close the portal with help from a repentant Hodge, who sacrifices himself. Meanwhile, Magnus Bane arrives and heals Alec.
Clary and Jace fight Valentine, who falsely claims both are his children. They refuse to join him and, following a battle, Clary pushes him through the portal after giving him a fake Mortal Cup. The portal is destroyed, and Jocelyn is rescued, but she remains in a coma at the hospital. Clary tells Simon that someday someone will love him. Clary heads back home and uses her new-found powers to repair the apartment. Jace appears, confessing he needs her and wants her to return to the Institute. Realizing she belongs in the Shadowhunter world, she goes with him.
- Lily Collins as Clary Fray
- Hope Fleury as Young Clary
- Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace Wayland
- Robert Sheehan as Simon Lewis
- Kevin Zegers as Alec Lightwood
- Lena Headey as Jocelyn Fray
- Aidan Turner as Luke Garroway
- Kevin Durand as Emil Pangborn
- Jemima West as Isabelle Lightwood
- Godfrey Gao as Magnus Bane
- C. C. H. Pounder as Madame Dorothea
- Jared Harris as Hodge Starkweather
- Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Valentine Morgenstern
- Chris Ratz as Eric
- Robert Maillet as Samuel Blackwell
- Stephen R. Hart as Brother Jeremiah
- Elyas M'Barek as Vampire Lieutenant
- Chad Connell as Lambert
- Harry Van Gorkum as Alaric / Werewolf
While shopping the film prospect around, author Cassandra Clare had difficulty finding a studio interested in making a film with a female in the lead role. Studios asked her to switch the lead to a male character, which she refused.
Alex Pettyfer was originally offered the role of Jace Wayland, but turned it down. Alexander Ludwig, Ed Speleers and Leebo Freeman tested for the role but it went to Jamie Campbell Bower. Xavier Samuel, Nico Tortorella, Max Irons, Douglas Booth, were also in consideration.
A teaser trailer was released in November 2012, and a second trailer was released March 2013. The film was originally due for general release on August 23, 2013, but was released two days earlier, on August 21, 2013. The film secured broad European distribution deals at Cannes.
According to the Los Angeles Times, $60 million was spent on marketing. Kulzer, Constantin's co-president, stated "$60 million has been spent worldwide on prints and advertising...." and went on to explain the importance of managing expectations.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones received negative reviews from critics. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 12% based on 112 reviews, with an average score of 4/10. The site commented that "Bogged down by narrative clutter and tween-targeted supernatural romance, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones borrows ingredients from seemingly every fantasy franchise of the last 30 years—but can't seem to figure out what to do with them". At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100, the film has a score of 33%, based on reviews from 35 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews."
The Telegraph's Robbie Collin gave the film 1 star (out of 5) rating, saying "This gothic teen fantasy is one of the most disastrous page-to-screen adaptations in memory". Collin added "the plot is an incomprehensible tangle of dead ends and recaps, and afterwards you realise only two things have stuck: the story’s countless unsubtle borrowings from very recent pop culture... and a brief aside in which we learn one of the earliest demon-hunters was Johann Sebastian Bach." Michael Rechtshaffen from The Hollywood Reporter also gave it a negative review, saying "Certainly not the first and very unlikely the last studio attempt at launching a Twilight/Hunger Games franchise of their very own, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a bona fide saga all right—just not in a good way" adding "Despite the overstuffed assortment of vampires, werewolves, warlocks and demons of all shapes and sizes, The Mortal Instruments seldom feels like anything more than a shameless, soulless knockoff." New York Daily News also gave it a negative rating of 1 star out of 5; critic Jordan Hoffman felt "This one is by far the worst of the Twilight copies. And when that bunch includes The Host and I Am Number Four, that’s saying something." adding also "Despite an avalanche of back story, the film is merely an excuse to hop from one spookily dressed set to another. Alas, the titular City of Bones is more of a basement. Other than a gag about a cache of weapons beneath every church altar, there’s hardly a moment of levity or imagination. For a film that is wall-to-wall fantasy, you've seen all of this before, in much better movies."
Tom Keogh of The Seattle Times also gave it a negative review, stating "City of Bones is so overwhelmed by CGI effects that it amounts to white noise for the eyes. Far worse is the way director Harald Zwart can’t establish a mature tone to support some of the story’s genuinely bold and challenging elements, especially a forbidden-love theme that deserves a more serious context". A more average review came from film critic Stephanie Merry of The Washington Post, who said "To be fair, there are elements worth celebrating. The film is thankfully less self-serious than the mopey Twilight films. The Mortal Instruments revels in its own camp." Then she added "But there is plenty of room for improvement. The action flick is overly long, complicated and, even by teen romance standards, cringe-worthy in its cheesiness."
David Blaustein from ABC News also gave the film an average review of two-and-a-half out of five stars, saying that "Director Harald Zwart unsuccessfully tries to compress teen angst, love, passion, unfulfilled dreams and action into an overzealous, over-the-top, never-ending finale which seems about as well planned as throwing rocks and sand into a blender in the hope that if you blend it long enough at high-enough speed, you might wind up with a delicious milkshake." then he finally added: "The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is not a very good film by any stretch of the imagination. However, it does possess a slick, beautiful, young-adult aesthetic and a supernatural, emotional yet nonsensical love triangle that the film’s target demographic goes crazy for."
Venetia Falconer of MTV News gave the film a positive review, with a score of 4 out of 5 stars, posting "The Mortal Instruments more than lives up to its hype of ‘The New Twilight’. The special effects are impressive, the battle scenes enthralling and there is solid acting from all members of the cast. The film's main strength is that it perfectly hits the right balance between drama and comedy."
Cinema audiences responded more positively than critics. Viewers who saw the film on the opening Wednesday, gave an average grade of B+, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The audience was 68% female, and 46% under the age of 21.
City of Bones grossed $9.3 million for the three-day weekend in the U.S. and $18.2 million worldwide, debuting in #3 place as the highest ranked new release, although losing out on the top two spots to holdovers from previous weeks (Lee Daniels' The Butler and We're the Millers). For the five-day cumulative total, it grossed $14,088,359 in the U.S. and $23,188,359 worldwide, placing it below estimates of Variety at $18 million, The Hollywood Reporter at $15 million, and Sony itself who predicted $15 million. According to The Wrap, the film "failed to connect" and is on the same course as other misfires Beautiful Creatures and The Host. Forbes also made comparisons with Beautiful Creatures and The Host, and called the five-day weekend gross "a full-blown disaster" as well as "the biggest bomb of the weekend".
Executive producer Martin Moszkowicz blamed the weak opening in the United States on "a strongly competitive environment", including competition from You're Next and The World's End, as well as strong holdovers The Butler and We're the Millers. Moszkowicz was confident saying it was still too early to call, with the film still rolling out release in more territories worldwide.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones has been nominated for Achievement in Art Direction/Production Design, Achievement in Costume Design, Achievement in Make-Up, Achievement in Overall Sound, Achievement in Sound Editing and Achievement in Visual Effects at Canadian Screen Awards.
On May 8, 2013, before the film was released, it was announced that a film adaptation of the second book City of Ashes, would start production on September 23, 2013 with a 2014 release date. In August 2013 after the film opened below expectations, Kulzer, Constantin's co-president, explained even if it performs moderately, it would warrant a sequel, noting increasing book sales, and soundtrack revenues. Constantin also managed the Resident Evil franchise which made money despite not being that big theatrically.
On September 10, 2013, The Hollywood Reporter claimed that the sequel "had been pushed in the wake of a lackluster box-office opening" and The Wrap claimed the film had been postponed indefinitely. Moszkowicz responded "... Constantin is committed to making the sequel, the company did not want to rush into production with an unfinished screenplay, preferring to take the time to get right". Cassandra Clare responded, saying the draft screenplay she saw was "very far from the book" and that the original schedule would not have allowed time for changes, and she thought the delay could be good.
On October 23, 2013, Moszkowicz told The Hollywood Reporter that production on the sequel would resume in 2014, saying the fan base had responded positively to the adaptation and that Constantin is determined to continue the franchise. Moszkowicz suggested one reason for City of Bones' misfire may have been a marketing campaign that was too narrowly focused on teenage fans, to the detriment of Clare's other readers. "The readers of Mortal Instruments are older than you might think," he said. "That may have been one issue in our marketing, that we focused too much on a very young audience segment."
Moszkowciz also spoke to Variety and admitted that nothing had been finalized nor confirmed, saying "It is an ongoing discussion that we are having, and it is not done. We haven't made a final decision. But we will only move forward — and we plan to move forward — when we feel we are going to get it right," Moszkowicz said.
Although the intention is to shoot the film sometime next year, it is not carved in stone. "That is the plan, but it is not a given," Moszkowicz said. "We believe in that franchise, and we would like to do that, but we need to get it right."
Scott Mendelson of Forbes magazine expressed surprise that a sequel is still in production: "The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones received neither positive reviews nor box office large enough to justify its production and marketing expenses. Yet, against all odds and arguably against all logic, [...] it’s getting a sequel!"
To tie-in with the film, Sony Pictures worked with developers PlayFirst to release a game on August 15, 2013. The game, available free for Android and iOS, allows players to hunt demons and supernatural monsters like the Shadowhunters of the story. That includes cross-platform features, allowing users to sign in on Facebook and save their progress across Android and iOS devices.
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- Official website
- The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones at the Internet Movie Database
- The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones at Box Office Mojo
- The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones at Rotten Tomatoes
- The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones at Metacritic
- Official UK Facebook page
- Official UK Twitter page