Monday, September 9, 2013

On Novels and Movies: The Mortal Instruments - City of Bones by Cassandra Clare and Unique Features & Constantin Film

(In which I tried to hit two birds with one blog post.)


We are in an ever-changing world of changes. One day, we were texting on noisy keypads. The next we are drooling over a fan-made video of a smartphone with keyboard and screen projection features. One day we were idolizing wholesome actors and actresses. The next, we wonder at their odd fashion sense and even odder dance moves. One day I was contented with reading historical fiction. Last week I lost some sleep for a gothic romance.             

That was rather an abrupt transition. But at least you get the picture.

Going back to that change-related introduction, as a reader I personally make it a point to read the novel from which a novel-turned-movie was based for the sheer assurance that I won’t awkwardly gape at the cinemas and bog my companion with questions regarding plot, or more embarrassingly, the script. So I had purchased my boxed set of Hunger Games before the movie was out. And I had read the first three books of the Percy Jackson series before I decided not to watch the Sea of Monsters. But for the movie adaptation of the City of Bones, the first of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments series, I put off the reading because the trailer was exciting. 

But unfortunately, not all changes of hearts, or sudden lapse of judgment, or sudden disobedience to personal practices, happen to end up very positively.

The novel’s motion picture counterpart starring Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower is set in a modern New York City where Clary Fray (Lily Collins) lives the life of an ordinary teenager with her mom Jocelyn (Lena Heady), and her mom’s friend Luke Garroway (Aidan Turner). And when we picture out ordinary, we mean teenagers doing the stuff that basically make them happy (which, to Clary, happen to be painting and spending time with her bestfriend Simon [Robert Sheehan]), being confused with things that they do and occasionally having an argument with their parents, primarily because of the weird things that teenagers like Clary do. But Jocelyn has good enough reasons to be worried, though.

Clary’s ordinary life gets to a halt when she sees a trio of teenagers kill a man in a bar one night when she’s hanging out with Simon. Unfortunately, she seems to be the only one who sees them and she, for a time, believes she’s gone insane. From then on, Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower) appears and makes her feel even more scared. What’s worse, she realizes she’s been drawing a symbol and she thinks that it has something to do with her being the only one who can see people like Jace, and other creatures. She then learns that Jace is a demon slayer called Shadowhunter and that Clary can see him because she is not a mundane, or ordinary human. During their conversation, Clary receives a phone call from her mom warning her not to go home. Just as she asks for details, she hears terrible growling sounds and the line goes dead.

When Jocelyn officially gets missing, Clary accepts Jace’s offer to take her to the Institute. When they find out that a certain Valentine kidnaps Jocelyn and that she hid the Mortal Cup, Clary seeks Jace’s help, as well as the sibling tandem of Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle Lightwood (Jemima West), and Simon to bring her mother back. In the process, she learns the main reason why she can see the Shadowhunters, the great power of the Mortal Cup and who she really is. But unfortunately still, changes don’t seem to be friendly even for a movie heroine.

What’s good about the movie was primarily Lily Collins. Seriously. I liked her in Mirror, Mirror and she’s more adorable in this movie. Although she could use a bit more of novel-Clary’s sarcasm and wit. Jamie Campbell Bower, on the other hand, (as I keep on telling anyone who cares to ask about my take on the movie’s main characters), was dashing in his first appearance in the murder in the pub scene. But his charm seems to dry out the moment he took off his hood. But, surprisingly, he regained that charm in the next hour –and-so of the film, especially with those longing looks. But I’d definitely take the novel-Jace anytime. Campbell, I believe, lacks the ego and sexy rudeness that Clare described in her novel. 

What’s not so good about the movie is the same problem almost all movies based on novels suffered from – time constraints. The novel was a complicated mix of folklore, biblical allusions and character histories that 500 pages gave justice to. Converting that to a live action version composed of only a couple of hours is a terrible gamble. While watching the movie – and with no literary background at that – I seriously had to suspend whatever doubt and disbelief I had in my mind just to keep holding on to the plot, which didn’t make sense in most parts. What were left in the original 500-page story were dead ends and unexplained phenomena, simplified complications resulting to confusion and a love triangle made cheesy by the lack of the original and necessary weight of conflict. In the end, what really stuck was that the kissing scene at the greenhouse has been done in almost all Pinoy romantic soap operas and movies and that Johann Sebastian Bach was a Shadowhunter. (I swear I always had to fight laughing out loud whenever I recall the hidden Marks on Bach’s arms and neck in his portrait.)

Oh those, and the amazing soundtrack that literally sucks the life out of my phone. 

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