Official Verdict: Better Than Twilight
Well, if you need to take your significant other to a romantic movie but also want to get a chance to go "hey that looks cool" or "oh, that was neat"... well, see if you can get them hooked on The Mortal Instruments instead.
I don't want to waste too much of your time with City of Bones, but I also want to make sure I get my feelings about the movie off of my chest. Gonna do my best to divide it into subsections so that I can properly focus on what was good about it... and what sucked about it.
How about we start with what was good?
It Looks Cool!: Everything in this movie looks cool. Every single thing. The costumes, while unrealistic, are breathtaking. The weaponry is amazing. The scenery goes above and beyond the call of duty into absolutely astonishing levels of quality -- from stunning cathedrals, to beautiful gardens, to dingy caverns and everything in between.
On top of that, this movie is filled with enough pretty people to rival a CW show -- all of the characters (Jace in particular, who resembles a younger, sexier Billy Idol) are pretty to borderline inhuman levels.
The Action's Pretty Good!: Some of the newer teen-angst-supernatural-romance flicks (hi, Twilight!) offer a promise of action during the previews, but what we end up getting is a lot of talking, some hesitant almost-kisses, and then some crying. City of Bones actually does not fall into this trap -- the preview offers action, and while the movie may not be action-packed, there are several well-shot action scenes that will have you, once again, saying "Whoa, that's cool!"
There are badass glass swords, cool throwing knives, sweet runic tattoos with magical effects, and even a sweet energy whip, not to mention werewolf hordes and lava monsters and demonic possession and blah blah blah. So, if you want to see some goth kids carve up some monsters this won't disappoint you -- the action is fun.
The Acting Is Mediocre-to-Good!: Okay, maybe not a "high" point but it isn't a low point either. Not once was I pulled out of immersion from a comically bad performance (the storyline and twists did that for me instead), and most of the time the acting was actually really solid. Special mention goes to a few proven veterans of the screen; Jared Harris, Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and Kevin Durand, who offer genuinely enjoyable performances.
Now, however, we start getting into the bad of this movie... oh boy, here we go.
The Music is Dissonant and Godawful: Normally I'm not this person. I can forgive a movie for its faults when it comes down to something like music. However, with City of Bones, it is truly unacceptable. The film apparently needs no excuse to launch into some nauseating romantic teen pop whenever it feels it's necessary, and it's not just that this music isn't good... it's that it doesn't work. This film is a dark, edgy, gritty, gothic urban fantasy, it establishes this right off the bat and immerses you in a world of vampires, magic tattoos, and cool monster-slaying weaponry. This needs dark classical pieces, edgy goth beats, anything that isn't what it has. It yanks you directly out of the film when you hear a track that a chimpanzee obviously picked because the song's name looked like a bug.
The Plot is More Exhausted Than An 80-Year-Old Prostitute: Now the plot in this isn't that bad if you've ever seen a movie before. However, if you have ever seen a movie, ever read a book, or ever watched a TV show, you'll see that the lack of originality this movie shows is downright commendable.
Lemme explain. No, there is too much. Lemme sum up.
Teen girl (Clary) lives normal life with normal mom and normal not-boyfriend, oops, she is actually part of an enormous magical world that has always existed but that we have never known about (and is also totally the best at doing what these other guys have been doing their whole lives). All of the popular myths concerning vampires, werewolves, and demons, are real. Teen girl has no idea what's going on and is reluctant but quickly catches on and is hailed by everyone as the most incredible X ever despite acting basically like a bumbling doofus, because she hails from a powerful bloodline which includes, guess who, the villain.
Does any of this sound familiar to you?
If it does, it may be because this is a very slightly warped version of Harry Potter/Lost Girl/Twilight/Star Wars/etc./etc./etc. and because you've literally seen everything in this movie happen before.
The Pacing is Unbelievably Absurd: This movie deserves an award for "fastest pace". The plot advances at an absolutely stunning speed, and I mean, honestly, it get it -- this movie was based on a book, and it's clear that, rather than split it up into two movies, they just decide to go ahead and cram the entire thing in there. Within about five minutes of Simon being on-screen, he both "subtly" confesses his unrequited love for Clary, her mom insists that she's stringing him along, and even Jace who's known them both for about 45 seconds in-universe thinks it's obvious. The movie makes sure to shove plot points into your face because, despite being extremely long, it just doesn't have the time to exposit naturally, so it does so in the most heavy-handed way it can manage.
My very favorite instance of this is where Clary is completely sure that Alec is in love with Jace (which reminds me, this movie is about 300% gayer than other movies of its type, yay!), after having met Alec about five minutes ago, never spoken to him, and most importantly, never actually seen Alec and Jace interact in any way. Yet she not only has the confidence to call him out as being gay, she specifically knows that he's into Jace... and she's actually right. I'm sure all of this stuff was gone over in the book, but dammit, this isn't a book, it's a movie. I didn't read the book and as a result, I'm left sitting in my theatre seat going "...How the hell did she figure that out?"
Apparently, among Clary's other vaguely-defined abilities, her most powerful is cosmically-powerful gaydar. Oh well.
...Oh wow, this review has gotten long. Okay, I think I've said enough, time to wrap up.
This movie is ridiculous and I found myself saying "HAHAHA WHAT?!" out loud in the theatre on more than one occasion. Don't go into it expecting a masterpiece, just go in expecting to go "oh hey, that looked cool" and you won't be disappointed.
Just bring earplugs.
For more non-comic reviews and articles, come visit my blog, Chronicles of a Stoic Maniac.