Hello, Spongey here.
Welcome to 2016, everyone. If you read my 2015 retrospective, you know that this year I will stop doing weekly play by play film reviews. If you want further info, go there. But until July, it’s business as usual.
For the rest of the time I’m doing this, I’ll be doing films I’ve been itching to do, as well as requests. Our first film is in the former category. I wasn’t really all that interested at the time, but then the reviews came in.
You’re all aware of the YA Craze at this point, as I’ve done a few of those Books/Movies at this point and you all know my stance. Some have worked, some have….not. Most don’t, although they are getting better at making actual franchises instead of stopping at one.
I think the problem with most of the movies is that they try too hard too hard to be franchise, instead of a good product on it’s own, hence the annoying cliffhangers. The fact that they tend to rip off better films and books doesn’t help either.
Of the films of this latest craze, this one is said to be one of the worst, besides the Stephanie Meyer stuff. While it was largely forgotten, those who did see it seem to hate it, as it has a 12 on Rotten Tomatoes, and Adam J called it the worst film of 2013. Yes, above such gems as Movie 43 and A Haunted House.
Yeah. Needless to say I got interested, so here we are. This one is based on the series of the same main name by Cassandra Claire, and I had never even heard of it until the film came out, so I’ve never read it.
Although after I do this review, I do plan to find it and give it a shot. I mean, I’ve bumped into twice over the last month. That’s a sign.
I also wanna read Divergent and Vampire Academy to see if those books are better than their film adaptations.
But for now, we’re focusing on the film. While it did end up barely making it’s money back, it’s mostly known as a flop and eventually they decided to just cancel the sequels. …But they are now just making it into a TV Show that premieres next week on ABC Fam-oh sorry, I mean Freeform.
Well, in this case a show seems to make more sense. Plus, it’s gonna give Katherine Mcnamara some work. Anyway, the writer has mostly done nothing, while our director was at the helm of Agent Cody Banks and Pink Panther 2.
A great sign.
With all of that said, let’s dive into this YA Adaptation and see if it’s really all that bad, or it’s just another Meh-fest.
This, is The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
The movie opens with our heroine Clary, played by Lily Colins talking to her friend on the phone. What a riveting opening to this YA Epic, amirite? She plans to go a club with her friend that night, and she won’t tell her parents about this.
Well, I’m sure this will go well, with no problems whatsoever.
Her parents whisper about if she’s “ready’ to be told about some big thing. Well, the cliches are piling up already, that was fast. Before we have to hit the club later, Clarly hits a friends’ poetry slam.
So….i guess I need to call now that Simon, the friend, is going to be a love interest? That’s almost as predictable as the cliché itself. The fact that he says he’s saving himself for someone makes it even more obvious.
After that pointless detour, they hit a club, which has a strange symbol on the front of it. Yeah, that’s gonna be the big important symbol of this “franchise”. She sees a bunch of weird people fighting, one of which is killed by a bad guy.
Well ,at least they got the “edgy” stuff out of the way. No one else sees this, which means she has weird special powers. This whole review is just going to be me pointing out that this film has a lot of cliches, isn’t it?
She goes home and after she wakes up the next morning, we find out she isn’t fond of her Mother’s current boyfriend person. What are the odds?
Odd things are still happening as Clary (what kind of name is that anyway? Sounds like a dumb nickname, not a real name) find herself drawing that strange symbol.’
“Maybe you’re like the guy in Close Encounters”
Ugh, what have I said about mentioning good movies in bad ones?!
We cut back to her home as some weirdly dressed bad guys attack Mom, while Clarly finds herself with her own weirdly dressed bad guy, that only she can see. Mom’s gonna die, calling it now.
“You’re a killer. A cold blooded killer”
“As opposed to a peace loving killer”
Whoa, I wasn’t expecting any humor here!
Her stand off with a killer is interrupted a phone call (don’t you hate it when that happens) from Mom telling her not to come home, because she has been found. Naturally, she runs home to find out what this is all about, while Mom drinks a potion from a plot device, which knocks her out.
If my summary is sounded a bit jumbled, it’s only because the scene itself is. It keeps cutting between these different things and it’s not quite working out, although at least the exposition is kept in check this time.
Also, this guy’s reaction to her drinking the stuff if amusing. I can’t describe but it’s too funny.
She runs home to find that her Mom is gone, as well as the bad guys. Well, she didn’t quite die but going missing is the next best thing that tends to happen. Is this going to one of the films, that doesn’t even try to be original?
A crazy dog that turns into a CGI monster is there though, because we need action here in some form. Thankfully, Jace the hunky killer guy saves her. Okay, he could be a love interest as well. Most love interests don’t kill people before being introduced as one so…at least that’s new.
That dog thing was a demon and so was the guy he killed at the club. In order to get further exposition, they visit a neighbor who happens to be a witch because why not. Instead of just telling us straight, the film decides to mess around and do stuff with cards to explain what is going on.
I’m sure they wanted to avoid bland exposition, but come on, you’ve done all the other tired tropes at this point. We eventually find out that Clarly’s Mom is a Shadow Hunter, aka a Demon Hunter. Well, that’s a bit cooler of an idea then the stuff we’ve seen so far in these kind of movies.
Mom apparently used magic magical voodoo stuff to prevent people from getting her memories, which basically means we can’t find out too much about the past right now. I guess they figured they would slowly reavel that stuff over time, but here it seems a bit lazy.
Before we move on, lets recap. We have a strange world that normal people are not aware of , and our main character’s parents are part of the world but never told them, and they happen to have strange powers they were not aware of their whole life.
As you can tell, this is an incredibly original storyline that has been done in any movie based on a book series before.
Simon drops by wondering what the hell is going on, and she just tells him the truth. Good, we can skip that boring part, to get to other boring parts. Jace somehow reveals himself to Simon.
“Jace Wayland, Demon Hunter”
“Uh…Simon Lewis. Keymaster. Are you the gatekeeper?”
Also, Jace finds a picture of Clarly’s Dad who are we are told died when was 2. They hand him find that JUST to tell us that. That’s…pretty lazy.
They head to Luke’s Bookstore, where they find him captured by bad guys asking him where the McGuffin is. Clarly is seen right in the middle of this and a poorly done fight breaks out. They run out and stop to kill two demons disguised as cops because….reasons.
Also, during that Luke scene he claimed he didn’t care about his girlfriend, and while we know he’s likely faking to get the bad guys off his back, Clarly does not so we get a sad moment.
It’s the most human part so far, at least. It’s just brushed over after a bit, though. Also, it rains in the middle of this because drama.
Their next stop is the Shadowhunters Hideout, The Institute. She got a demon bite somewhere so she passes out and wakes up with a weird rune on her arm.
“I passed out and you guys tattooed me? I thought that only happened in Vegas”
Hey, more humor!
Apparently these rune tattoo things can go magic stuff, and Jace used his to make Simon him and stuff. Sure, why not. …Insert Runescape joke here.
They move on to meet the head of this place. Hodge Starkweather. While Clarly is having her meat up with him, Simon wondering about gets him to find some exposition that really belongs in Clarly’s bit but whatever.
We find ou many creatures like Werewolves exist….but Zombies do not, for whatever reason.
“Jace has got a real chip on his shoulder”
‘You would too if you saw your father murdered when you were a child.”
….Yikes, I apologize for calling the other exposition bits lazy. That was…bad.
Hodge goes into the backstory of the Shadowhunters and the McGuffin known as the mortal cup. We then found out about our villain of the evening, Valentine Morgenstern. He was a Shadowhunter but he went bad cuz he wanted to do stuff they didn’t want to and must of all he wanted The Mortal Cup so he can rule over demons.
Mom stole the cup to prevent this happening. Just when you think this couldn’t more generic, it does. I usually like this kind of stories, but every bit just feels obligatory, and even the cool parts aren’t that cool.
The exposition isn’t too bad at least, but it still isn’t hugely character driven or anything. They figure that the memories of the cup’s location are in Clarly’s head, so they finally go to the City of Bones to see what they can do about this.
The City of Bones is some underground place that is pretty dull looking. I’m not sure what this place really is since they gloss over it just to keep the plot moving. Please don’t let this be one of those book movies…
Some dudes in robes tap into her memories but the mental block prevents them from getting too far. Thankfully, they figured out who actually put the block there, so they gotta visit him.
That guy is Magnus Bane and they pop up at his place to ask him about the block. He’s pretty much the guy Mom asked to mental block here as memories kept briefly coming back, nothing more complicated than that.
As you can imagine she’s not happy with her mother, but she is told all this was to protect her. Yeah, everything that has happened tells me she did a bang up job doing that.
…Man, I am not on my game today. I’m given so little to work with, as this is mostly just cliché and dull, but not in the fun way like Rebound. Meh. Simon is kidnapped by Vampires, because why not and they go to their hideout, which is called the Hotel of Death.
“You can’t say they don’t have a sense of humor”
There actually have been other jokes I skipped, but most of them are kind of lame and somehow make things more lifeless, except for the ones I quote. Those are good.
After finding Simon in the middle of a deleted scene from 50 Shades of Grey, they take him but of course dozens of bloodsuckers who up to stop them. Thus we get a hard to follow fight scene!
They find themselves outnumbered, but are thankfully saved by Werewolves. ….Because why not. After that Werewolf Ex Machina, they escape and Clary falls ontop of Jace just to enforce that he is the love interest.
Okay, I was right the 2nd time. So why does Simon exist then? He’s done nothing but get captured. Also, this romance is indeed quite forced and not natural at all. Can’t have a YA movie without that!
They head back to HQ, where this other Shadowhunter guy whose name I forget, says he is mad cuz Clarly almost got them killed back there somehow, and he doesn’t her interacting with Jace a lot. What is Clarly’s theory on why this is?
“If you were half as brave as you pretend to be, you’d admit that you’re in love with Jace”
“If you ever say anything like that again, I’ll kill you”
I can safely say I was not expecting….THAT in a YA film. That’s.uh…I’m not sure how to react to this. Is this a positive portrayal or not? Since it’s in this movie I can assume but…still, gotta give them credit for even including this in the first place.
Anyway, Simon comes to and Clarly takes care of some of his wounds. This leads to a moment between the two that is pretty cheesy, but thankfully it ends when he just goes back to sleep.
It seems like every genuine moment in the film is short lived. Clarly talks to Jace who plays the piano because of course he does. Also, Bach is a Shadowhunter. Huh, revealing that historic figures were actually part of the book/film’s strange world. What, we’ve stopped to taking from stuff like Percy Jackson now?
He shows her this weird portal that is supposed to take you to where you desire to go, but you need a ton of training to use it right. He sticks his arm in it to make it appear next to Clarly as he touches her her.
…And we’ve reached the creepy part of the romance, yay. This moment here is very odd, while the Simon bit was more genuine. Which means Jace will be the love interest because that’s the logic of these stories.
They aren’t done yet as they have further romantic adventures in some magic garden. It gets so cheesey the pop song plays during this. They seem to be trying a bit harder than those films where the romance is really tacked on, but it’s beyond force and soap opera-ish.
As they move on, the two end up kissing right as Simon walks out of his room. Seriously, we’re doing this cliché? Even for this movie this is incredibly lame. Simon is not happy, since he’s the friend who has been there for years and Jace is some random new hot guy.
He’s got a point. Jace is an asshole with deep troubles, while Simon is decently trustworthy friend. Granted, you aren’t the most interesting either but you are way better.
“I’m in love with you”
Funny how you showed no sign of it at all until now. Hell, you were an entirely useless character until now!
He storms off and Clarly just goes back to doing some research like all that never happened. She manages to figure out where Mom hid the cup, and it seems to somehow be in one of those Tarot cards the witch Neighbor had.
They visit her and she indeed is able to grab the cup right out the card through magic. Well ,she did hide it pretty well, can’t complain too much there. Then it turns the witch was replaced by a demon who lashes out now.
I’m assuming only a good guy may grab the cup, hence why she let her take it to begin with. They don’t explain it though, so there’s a flaw. Simon shows up for no reason, and they successfully kill the demon and get the cup.
Not exactly the best time, especially since right after that we find out Alec was crtically wounded. I should have mentioned this earlier, but he’s played by the kid from Air Bud, and he was also in a Goosebumps episode. Well, good to know another Goosebumps found a role, even if it’s in this.
They take him home, and Clarly gives the cup to Hodge. One again a bit dramatic character point is interrupted to just move the plot forward. But because we need some kind of shocking twist, it turns out Hodge is working for the villain, who shows up and gets the cup.
This would be cool if I cared about the story or characters at all. Valentine tries to get Clarly to drink from the cup.
“You’ve been drinking since before you were born. I fed it to your mother while you were in her womb…..You’re my daughter”
….Really? You’re going for the “I am your father” twist? I thought we ditched that long ago! This is really stupid and obligatory. Mostly because we barely know this guy. At this point he’s just a random bad guy with no personality to speak of.
It worked in Empire Strikes Back because we actually knew Darth Vader as a threatening villain ,so when the twist came up, it was shocking and worked very well. Here, they don’t put enough effort into developing the characters before doing this.
Plus, compare the reactions. “NO THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE” Vs ….Nothing. I’m so invested. Anyway, he wants her to join him so they can rule the galaxy as father and daughter, but she just runs into that portal and ends up on the streets.
We got tons of time left by the way, so this is not our climax, sadly. She winds up at Luke’s bookstore, where it turns out he is a werewolf. Because why the hell not, let’s pile on pointless twists.
They talk and he says that he told those guys he didn’t care about them just to save face. Called it. Valentine summons an army of demons as Jace shows up to stop him.
“How do you know my real name?”
We cut back to Luke as he confirms the whole Valentine Father thing. Not only did he fake his death, he faked the death of Clarly’s brother. Yep, she has a brother now because we didn’t have enough twists.
His name is Jonathon Morgenstern. Wait, we just found that…..No. They wouldn’t. Nah, that’s just a coincidence. They are just discuss the basic father stuff here, so yeah, nothing weird going on here.
Because we need to pack as much as shit as possible, Simon calls and says they found her Mother at the Institute. I’m sure the explanation will make perfect sense. Clarly and Luke gather his werewolf buddies to storm HQ and stop the incoming demons.
After a bunch of action happens, Valentine stumble upon the sleeping Mother, and Clarly is thankfully here to stop him. Jace shows up as well.
“Finally, both my children together”
They went there. Goddammit, They had a pretty overblown love scene earlier and even had a love triangle, but now they are siblings. …Ew. What is this even going in a YA story?
Plus, it’s our 2nd twist stolen from Star Wars, and it didn’t even work there! Here it’s even creepier since we had major love scenes instead of just one minor kiss. This kind of revelation could be interesting in a better written story, but as it is, it’s just….really odd.
And guess what? I read up on the book series, and in later books they almost consider going through with their love anyway despite this. Yeah. But then it turns out that the bad guy was lying and they are not siblings, so they hook up.
Yes, not only is it in the book, and it’s odd, but it’s entirely pointless! I can’t blame the film too much since they don’t get to that point yet but…still!
Man, these twists really get me ranting. Hopefully this is our last pointless twist. Anyway, Clarly has a bigger reaction to not being able to bone her brother than the evil guy bring her father but she gets over it so we can get this damn thing over with. Jace does most of the actual fighting, until Clarly threatens to drop the cup.
He gives it her, which means it’s a fake. He then kicks him into the portal, after a pitiful attempt at one liner. They manage to destroy the portal in the process and he’s pretty much taken care of.
Eh, typical weak villain defeat. Yawn.
In the fallout, Clarly tells her comatose mother that she now gets why she did what she did. Oh yeah she had that inner turmoil. Glad that was poorly resolved. By the way, our explanation was just that just got this way by drinking the cup. I’m sure there are more details I missed, since I simply don’t care.
They put her in the hospital as they try to recover from this adventure. Clarly talks to Simon and he apologizes for all of this. Clary still doesn’t love him because of that reveal in the books I mentioned.
At least they would have explained it eventually in the sequels that thankfully never happened. …Although the TV Show now has a chance to explore it. Yikes.
Clary goes back to her mom and uses her powers she now has to repair the apartment. Because that was so important we needed to see that. Jace shows up and the two figure that they need Clary as an ally, as awkward as the sibling thing is.
They do seem pretty calm about this. They say they’ll just figure it out, like it’s no big deal or something. Yet it’s still done melodramatically thanks to the music.
To add in one more cliché, she hops on his motorcycle to ride off into the night. The song playing does not make this note triumphant at all, yet it’s not even sad or bittwersweet.
Whatever, the credits predictably role. Well, we had some kind of rap up, and at least it’s not a hugely annoying cliffhanger. Things are resolved well enough at least. How is that this one isn’t as bad with the sequel hook as the better ones?
While I can safely say Adam J was overeating yet again, this was bad. Not horribly offensive, but still bad. Really there isn’t a ton to say because it has every problem these movies tend to have.
The story is incredibly predictable and poorly paced, the characters are mostly one dimensional, a lot of elements rip off better works, and there’s a weak romance which ends up being pointless in this case for now.
It’s incredibly generic when it comes to the concepts and story. Everything that’s been done, I have seen in tons of stories like this, and it does nothing really all that new with them. Any of the interesting or new elements are glossed over, or are just barely there.
It has similar issues to Vampire Academy when it comes to the pacing. While the exposition isn’t nearly as bad, it still suffers from trying too hard to get the plot moving and introducing all these elements.
To it’s credit, it tries to have real development in some places, which puts it above some other bad movies, but those moments are few and far between. A lot of it just getting to the next plot point.
On top of that, we have too many poorly handled twists that don’t really add anything. The only that matters is the possible incest thing but that ends quickly so that can do it in a sequel that never happened.
To focus on the positives, a few of the ideas are interesting , some of the sets of nice, some of the comedy is okay, and some of the acting is decent. Granted, most of the film looks pretty dreary, there isn’t enough fun and a lot of comedy is weak, and none of the performance stick out except maybe the villain….but no one is awful either.
The film is just incredibly generic and boring. I’d say it’s the Rebound of YA Movies, although it’s not quite THAT bad. At least the incest thing is new to this kind of story, while something like 21 & Over had nothing new.
Is it the worst of the YA films? Eh, maybe. It lacks most of the positives they can have, and offers nothing new and fails in almost every category. But at the same time, it’s not offensive in anyway. It’s mostly harmless and doesn’t go above and beyond like The Host or something.
It’s pretty bad as a film, but considering what other films are capable of, it’s not the worst. Hell, 2013 had worst films such as Grown Ups 2, Movie 43, and if you want a serious one, Getaway. This at least kind of follows the basic rules of storytelling and does have some level of effort put into it.
Not enough effort, but I think the people behind it did actually try, it just didn’t turn out well. Which is better than some others. It’s bad, but not really horrible. I’m likely to forget it once I’m done here.
Hopefully the Tv Show will be better.
(Also, the whole Alec having a crush thing was completely pointless. Yay)
Next time, we do our first in a round of a requested reviews. I should be able to handle it, since I’m not chicken.