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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Book vs Movie: The Mortal Instruments Book One - City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Now I know movies generally do not follow a book scene for scene. (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone was an exception. It followed the book pretty closely, but the later movies left a lot of detail out.) There are always a lot of things left out and there are always liberties taken with the way the story unfolds. What makes a good story on the page doesn't always translate to the screen, so there are times events need to be manipulated, shall we say. 

I don't necessarily mind those liberties being taken as long as the film version retains the flavor of the book. Take The Lord of the Rings trilogy for example. When I first saw the film I was outraged over changes made to the story. I mean, Arwen doesn't speak at all in the books and she's barely even mentioned, but we had to give her a bigger role with lots of lines. When I went back to see the movie the second time, I took all the changes into consideration. I already knew it wasn't a faithful adaptation, so I could just watch the movie and enjoy. You know what? The second time around, I watched the film for what it was and didn't lament what it wasn't. And what I found was that even though there were changes made to the films that never happened in the books, the films themselves retained the spirit of the books and I was able to look past all the differences. I had the same issue with the Hobbit.

As I've said before, I used to go to the movies a lot, almost every Friday night, but over time, we don't go so much. We have a big 52 inch TV with surround sound, so it's more comfortable at home. We've got Netflix streaming, Fios On Demand, HBO, Showtime and an insane amount of Blu Ray and DVDs. The other issue I have is that there are not as many movies coming out that I am interested in seeing. I doubt I have been to the movies 10 times this year. I will go see Thor, though.

When I saw City of Bones advertised, I wondered how it would be. I didn't see Beautiful Creatures, which did not do well, and I was afraid it would be about on par with that. Then I saw the cast and I was not entirely thrilled. Some of the cast just didn't look right to me, most notably Jace. But then I saw a trailer and all my anxiety evaporated. I knew I had to see it in the theater. Hubby said he'd go with me, which I appreciated very much, although, I would have gone alone as well.

So, I watched the movie with rapt attention, but like any of the other movies made from books I have already read, I kept having moments where I was thinking that wasn't in the book. Don't get me wrong. I really enjoyed the movie and I will get it on Blu Ray, but there were some very blatant things that just irked me. I had read the book probably about 9 or 10 months earlier and decided to reread it to refresh my memory.

I decided to draw up a chart up to document the differences as I read the book again. I don't think I even made it to the middle of the book before I quit keeping track. There were just too many things, little things that didn't happen in the book or were not entirely accurate. As an example, when Clary and Jace went to Madame Dorothea's, she never made him leave his weapons at the door.

After I finished the book, my thoughts are that the movie was good and did retain the flavor of the book, but the book is oh so much better.
So what is it about the Mortal Instruments series that is so appealing? Why do I love the books so much? The characters. The characters are well defined, very flawed and there is depth to them. There's characters I love, characters I love to hate and characters I want to smack upside the head. I'm not sure the movie really captured the essence of some of the characters, but I thought the casting of Clary and Jace were spot on. After the movie, hubby said he didn't really like the film all that much (no surprise there), but it was because there were things that made no sense to him. For instance, he thought Jace was a total jackass and he didn't feel like it was really in character. He didn't find it believable. I told him that that was exactly how Jace was in the books and I explained his background, but hubby didn't get a lot of that from the character on the screen. So maybe I was filling in back story from my head.

Alec was just as insufferable as he is in the books, although, I do like the character. I had forgotten how mean and nasty he was to Clary in the first book. Isabelle seemed meaner in the book than she appeared on the screen. And Simon, well, Simon still had a knack for being where he shouldn't be, being stubborn and refusing to stay home where he would be out of harm's way. I really did want to smack him and still do.

Besides the characters, I love the mythos of Idris and the Shadowhunters, Angels versus demons. There is a rich history to the clave, the downworlders, Idris. Their world is believable. Then, the story itself is complex. There is action from the first scene in the book. I was caught up in the rush and got taken along for a ride. There's a mystery to solve, a mystery at the heart of the story. Just who is Clary? Where does she come from? Where is the Mortal Cup? It's a story filled with action, enough butt kicking action for even the biggest adrenaline junkies, mystery, adventure and romance.

What I realized though in comparing the two is that there is a lot of filler that doesn't necessarily make the story flow better on screen. For instance, there was a lot more to Magnus' party and the Hotel du Mort, but a lot of that doesn't really progress the main plot line. So I can accept that. There are things, though, that I just can't understand. Why was Jocelyn at the Institute? That is not where she was found. Perhaps to avoid having to create another set and have it full of Forsaken. Why did Clary keep the cup? In the book,. the card was destroyed when she pulled the cup out. If there is a sequel, how will that play out? The biggest grievance I have, though, is why did Hodge and Valentine plot to mislead Clary about her family? In the first book, the reader does not know what Valentine knows about Clary's family. The truth is never revealed, so when the bomb is dropped, the reader is in shock. By laying it out in the movie, it reduces the impact of just how devious and manipulative Valentine is. I agonized over the relationships and I couldn't put the books down because I had to know the truth. That lie is essential to the story for the next two books, and by telling the truth and conspiring to lie about it, it makes all the struggles to come less emotional because we already know the truth. I had to wait until the end of the third book to find out what the movie viewers already know. That is the biggest flaw of the movie for me.

Yet despite that major flaw, I still really enjoyed the movie. It is possible, there were no plans to turn any of the other books into movies, which could explain the differences. I had planned on going to see the film again after I had reread the book, but sadly, the movie had moved out of the theaters. I will just have to wait for Blu Ray.


  1. I personally loved this movie and thought they did a pretty good job with the adaptation. Like you though, I was surprised that they revealed right away that Valentine was tricking Clary and Jace into thinking they were related. But when I thought about it, I realized you had to with the movie, since if the second movie never gets made, all the ends are pretty neat and tidy (for the most part). Also I dont know how well the brother/sister relationship would have translated to screen. I think it kept from truly shocking people and causing drama.

    1. That was my feeling as well. They probably weren't sure how well the movie was going to do, so they tied it mostly up so there wouldn't be any major cliff hangars.
      Don't get me wrong. I can't wait until it comes out in Blu Ray, but I was really amazed at how much they did actually change.
      For example, Clary is bitchy to her mom at the beginning of the film. There is no explanation as to why, but they left out the whole discussion about going to the farm. That would have made her attitude make sense.