29/08/2013

AT THE CINEMA: THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS CITY OF BONES - SEEN WITH MY KIDS

Note added on Wednesday 5th September 2013: I've seen the movie again at a week's distance. Different theatre, different audience, in my niece's company: second time it was much better! I'd write a different review, honestly. But I won't. I'll only give you this "legenda": the first part was just very good rewatching it (see the "What didn't work" section of present review).  I didn't have the same impression I had the first time. I'd like to re-watch it a third time now  to see what happens but... I'll have to wait for my digital copy when it will be released. I've pre-ordered it. 
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I’ve been looking forward to seeing this film for a while.  I told you how it all started, do  you remember? 
Mission City of Bones accomplished today.  I saw the movie,  I made a new shadowhunter  without needing any mortal instrument - seeing Jamie Campbell Bower on screen was enough for her  (my niece, 16).   I can go to bed  happy and satisfied.

The first film of what is supposed to become a saga has arrived  today here in Italy and I was at the nearest theatre (one hour’s drive)  in time  for the first afternoon screening. The Italian title of the movie is “Shadowhunters - Città di Ossa” , based on Cassandra Clare's series of books, The Mortal Instruments, YA urban fantasy,  which sold 22 millions copies all over the world.
Young people in my family  were at  first puzzled for my sudden, unexpected enthusiasm for a YA series but, teasing me,  they decided they had to discover why The Mortal Instruments had succeeded where the Twilight Saga , Harry Potter , The Lord of The Rings and all the others hadn’t.  Hence, a few of them brought me to the cinema with them or was it more “I brought them to the cinema with me”?



Clary's life changes forever when one night she sees a mysterious guy killing someone in a club 

Son (22), nephew (22) , niece (16)  were with me this afternoon and  it’s  been great to go to the cinema all together.  Only nephew and I had read Cassandra Clare’s books in the Shadowhunters series but all of us liked the movie, differently and for different reasons 
After following the making of the movie step by step,  I was really excited and ready to notice all the details I'd heard actors and director talk about. 
Anyhow, watching the first part was somewhat awkward: the scenes were like fast, short fragments passing away too quickly.  My impression was " ... no... no ... no... please,  too fast,  too quick!"  ,  as I sometimes complain  with  my son driving my car, when I sit next to him. 

Then,  after the break, the second half of the movie had a different effect on me. It was still fast paced,  but I was involved in a  rollercoaster of emotions this time. I went from actually scared to really moved,  from very angry with the wicked guy to heartbroken for the pain he brought to the young protagonists, from stunned in front of the deep emotions the young actors could convey to totally entertained  by the comedic  undertone which makes this story unique respect to other franchises. The audience clapped their ends when Jace and Clary left the screen on his bike while I was puzzled and thought: "Phew! At least I liked half of it. But part one must be rewatched, MG. Maybe it wasn't so bad and you were too ... nervous?"

Clary sees the cold bloody killer again in the daylight. Apparently nobody else can see him.

The irony and wit which made me love the books , those  sarcastic, brilliant lines Jace, Simon or even Clary herself deliver ,  are remarkably hilarious and luckily  some of them made it into the final cut. Comedy casts an irreverent glow on the very  dark, gothic, gritty  world inhabited by the shadowhunters  (half angel/ half human demons' slayers)  by vampires and werewolves, by fairies and warlocks.  Although, some of them, the one in the foreground at least,  are more  human than supernatural.  Demons are excluded. They are nothing human and they are really terrifying!

His name is Jace Wayland, shadowhunter, demon slayer. He will help Clary in her quest to get her kidnapped mother back.

What I particularly loved in this story is that it is unbelievably rooted into reality, has got incredibly relatable , flawed , layered characters and, especially,  it spans from romance, to adventure and comedy becoming  a really atypical urban fantasy.

Clary and Jace in the City of Bones
I really can't agree with what I read in some awful critic reviews online. May I totally dissent and join the enthusiastic crowd of ordinary watchers and book fans who loved it? No,  I didn't come out completely overwhelmed, but with the impression it could have been done better. What I wanted more than everything else was to see it again, a second time, it  may give me a different impression.  

I found the cast awesome,  I may be biased, but their acting was definitely the best part in the movie.
I had seen Robert Sheehan (Simon), Aidan Turner (Luke) , Kevin Zegers (Alec) Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Valentine)  and Jamie Campbell Bower (Jace)  in other works and was so curious to see them all together in this one!  I had liked them in their previous roles and this is what brought me to see this film. Here they just seem to achieve their best, as if they were the incarnations of Cassandra Clare's characters on screen.  This is true for Jemima West too (Isabelle Lightwood)  and,  last but not least, for  Lily Collins (Clary Fray) , the protagonist,  who was the one who surprised me the most. 

Lily Collins as Clary Fray
I was astonished by the intensity of her Clary and felt deeply sorry remembering  that  I   mocked her in my review of “Mirror, Mirror”.  She is simply amazing and so convincing  as “my” little Clary.  A real old school actress. Favourite moments: Clary bickering with Jace’s sarcasm, responding aggressively to Alec’s dislike for her,  and mastering her terror while coping with dangerous,  wicked  Valentine.

Quoting myself from the review of the book: 

"I like Clary because she faces everything so bravely and, especially, because she doesn't let Jace sweep  her off her feet. She likes being in control. She goes on like"Yeah, you're handsome sweetie but, be prepared, I'm just as tough as you. I don't like to do what I'm told, I'd rather have things done my way. Then, you know, I have to find my mother first. And also, you know, there's Simon ... You don't like him? Well, I like him very much, instead"   Lily Collins did her justice.  She's really growing into a beautiful woman and a very promising actress. 

Godfrey Gao is Magnus Bane

Jamie Campbell Bower was the actor I had seen the least on screen before.  He was only young Edward De Vere (Anonymous)  in my eyes  when he was cast as Jace.  Anyhow,  I felt somehow he could be Jace. Yes, he had that half-angel quality.  Now,  I am totally sure he is Jace,  an amazing one,  and I’ve also seen more of him lately (meaning, I caught up with others of his performances). 

Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace - My cap from this vid
Jamie's Jace has everything I loved in the book: he's snarky, smart ass, sweet, proud, jealous,  charismatic, coy,  broody , vulnerable, broken , deeply in love, furious, brave.  Oh, and let me mention  his elegance in the fight scenes and that front flip on a table!  A real warrior. 
Among the cast, Jamie Campbell Bower  is the one who most resembles the description of the character in the book and his performance on screen is really touching.  He totally nailed the role, he smashed it.

Jace and his damaged soul, his vulnerability hidden behind his cockiness, his sad childhood and tormented present had immediately touched my heart while reading.  Now,  watching him come to life on screen through this young sensitive actor,  I  felt like  I wanted  to give him a hug, to reassure him, to find a way to console him, especially after watching his confidence shattered to pieces,  his look of deep grief after the shocking final twist (see picture on the right).   My  motherly nature always  prevails, you know.

After becoming many a girl’s dream boy only  for staring and scowling  in a blondish wig  (read Caius Volturi in the Twilight saga) or for serenading Johanna in a 19th century costume (remember Anthony Hope, Sweeney Todd) ,  he risks having a really hard time now at preserving his privacy,  when many more will start day-dreaming -  if not stalking -  him after watching his Jace fight , smirk  and especially kiss (niece mentioned before is totally smitten!) 

The time of just being in the peripherals of blockbusters is over for JCB!  He’s acting at last and he is a real action hero with a remarkably charismatic presence. Impossibile not to notice him once he is on screen.  He’s a real scene stealer.

Gosh! Did I write so much for just one character? Apologies but Jace is my best favourite in the series and JCB really did an excellent  job. 

OK! OK! Moving forward! 

Here's another of my favourites. Robert Sheehan as Simon: so much fun!  With his curls, his green eyes and his bizarre sense of humor he may seem  untrustworthy  or a bit naive when you watch him as himself in interviews,   but once he becomes a  character he can astonish you.  He has a natural, chameleonic talent. He was an irresistibly funny Nathan in Misfits, a convincing merciless killer in Love/Hate ,  a romantic  charmer  in Me and Mrs Jones.  But you can’t see any of them in his Simon.  Once he loses his curls, wears a pair of glasses and his high- top Nike shoes , Robert becomes  the geeky, shy, tender, hilarious Simon we all loved in the novel.  His performance goes from heartbreaking (I am the one who’s always been there for you, not him) to extremely hilarious (The werewolves are here to save us.  I never   thought I’d say that ) and if I were Clary I’d have a hard time choosing  between Jace and Simon! Ehm … well ...   I’d choose Jace, no doubts,  but would want to be Simon’s BBF forever, just as Clary does.


Fight scene at the Hotel Dumort - Isabelle, Clary and Simon


Aidan Turner as Luke Garroway in one of the action scenes in the movie

The rest of the cast was incredibly good,  though they had less screen time.  Aidan Turner,  for instance, was a powerful Luke Garroway.  I bet many in the audience (my son, for instance)  left the theatre with so many questions about him: he was a shadowhunter, when and how did he become a werewolf?  what was his relationship with Clary's mother actually? Not his fault, of course. Non readers will discover more once the sequel, City of Ashes,  is out. 

Kevin Zegers and Jemima West were perfect as Alec and Isabelle Lightwood. I want to see more of them in City of Ashes, please.  


Jonathan Rhys- Meyer as Valentine
Jonathan Rhys-Meyers doesn't disappoint. His Valentine has indeniable intensity and magnetism. Once he entered the scene the tension is palpable, even I started fidgeting, felt uncomfortable on my comfortable chair, and  I was safe from him.  Talking about Valentine, I think I must warn you,  there are quite a few changes respect to  the book, which  I didn't mind but,  here too,  his role in Jace's life might have been explained better and his interaction with Hodge, the tutor in the Shadohunters Institute,  too. 

Favourite scene




The end. Cheesy? Delightfully so.  After the shocking revelation,  Jace visits Clary at home. I loved it. And,  by the way, I want a rune like the one Clary uses just before Jace arrives. No spoiler. Watch the movie and discover why.  I bet you'd want one too :-)

Does the film do justice to a brilliant best seller? My answer is,  it may have done more and better. 
But let's see the positive in it first. 

Kevin Zegers is Alec Lightwood 

What was good

- The cast was incredibly good. Undeniable
- Harald Zwart, the director,  kept the essence of the characters and of the plot elevating a YA fiction tale to a more mature product. I liked that.
- Some parts of this movie are riveting, all of it is fast paced and enjoyable even by ex teenagers,   because  the Shadowhunters’ world  is  darker and more brutal than in the book. I liked that, too.
- Dry comments and  puns, the irreverent, comedic undertone worked as an original element in a fantasy movie.
- The sets were awesome. I love the City of Bones, the Hotel Dumort and the Institute.
- The action scenes  were great  and the effects -  the demons, for instance - remarkable. I felt as if the emotions experienced  while reading were hugely amplified, pumped up.


What didn't work 

The movie has inevitably become something different from the book and I was aware of that,  even before watching it . Anyway, I wasn't so dissatisfied with the cuts and changes. From books to movies, it has always been the same old story, hasn't it? What mainly disappointed me was that the movie resulted confusing,  messy,  a montage of  fragmented scenes more than the fluent narration of a story.

Clary: Is it better like that?  Jace: Much better.
And I had to notice the missing bits, which,  I'm sure, may disorient  both people who read and people who didn't read the book.

Another puzzling point was the script. Honestly, Ms Postigo lacks Cassandra Clare's brilliance. Maybe,  they should have writtten it together. They should think about it for movie 2.

Last but not least, my usual complain. Dubbing. It was a real pain not to be able to listen to the actors' real voices and acting. The dubbing voices were so fake, so emphatic, so unnatural that I was rather disturbed. So much went lost! I had heard the original version of some scenes in the trailers or in the clips released before the movie  and the comparison made me furious.

Apparently, there are several reasons for me to re-watch this movie, and actually I feel like I want to, I feel like I  must, my feelings are rather conflicting and unclear even to me. I need to find the movie in the original version. There must be a theatre daring subtitles!

 Fancy coming to the cinema with me?





6 comments:

Spikesbint said...

Spot on review of the movie, Jace is my favourite character too. I am always drawn to the damaged, angsty ones. I love him and Clary together.

I also have pre-ordered the blu-ray although it's not due out till Jan. Hoping there will be lots of special features to go with it.

Sad news that City of Ashes has been delayed, hopefully not indefinitely!

Maria Grazia said...

Glad to know we share not only old, but also recent interests, Spikesbint!
I was so disappointed to hear they delayed the shooting of City of Ashes, especially because the best is yet to come in the series. Fingers crossed they just did it to improve the script, as they declared in the official statement.
Enjoy reading the books, meanwhile, and thanks for visiting and commenting.
Have a nice weekend!

Unknown said...

We seen this and really enjoyed it!

Maria Grazia said...

Glad to hear that, unknown! I like both the books and the movie very much. Fingers crossed they decide to go back shooting City of Ashes. I was so disappointed when they announced it was indefinitely postponed :-/

Piperita Patty said...

Ok, a questo punto sono curiosissima riguardo al libro, vado a leggermi la tua recensione.

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