Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The (2013)

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Released 18-Dec-2013

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Fantasy Thriller Main Menu Audio
Deleted Scenes
Featurette-Making Of-Bringing Them To Life
Featurette-Making Of-Descendants Of The Cup
Music Video-Almost Is Never Enough
Trailer-Make Your Move, Some Girls, The English Teacher
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2013
Running Time 124:39 (Case: 130)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Harald Zwart

Roadshow Home Entertainment
Starring Lily Collins
Jamie Campbell Bower
Robert Sheehan
Lena Headey
Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Kevin Zegers
Jemima West
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Atli Örvarsson

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

“There is a world hidden within our own.”

     Cassandra Clare has written a brace of novels targeting the “Twilight” genre where fantasy fiction and pubescent murmurs collide. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a film adaptation of one of those novels which deliberately sets out to capture the (predominantly female) young adult market just as Twilight had done previously. Set in modern day New York City we have teen Clary Fray (Lily Collins) who is unknowingly the possessor of powers passed down from her mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey). When Clary starts drawing and seeing a strange symbol, Jocelyn fears that the secrets she holds will finally be revealed and that Clary will be endangered. The turning point comes when Clary and her best friend Simon Lewis (Robert Sheehan) go to a nightclub and she witnesses what seems to be a bizarre murder. No-one else seems to have seen the people involved or the incident itself, so she isn’t sure if what happened was real or not. Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower) interrupts proceedings with the revelation that he is a Shadowhunter, a semi-angel member of a secret society that hunts demons. When Jocelyn is kidnapped by demons Jace becomes Clary’s mentor as his world of fantasy demons, werewolves, vampires and the like are revealed. The demons who took Jocelyn are connected with Valentine Morgenstern (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who is looking for the "Mortal Cup", an artefact hidden by Jocelyn that can create more Shadowhunters. Clary has a repressed former identity as an evil Shadowhunter, and this suppressed past is something she must also overcome.

     The hunt for the Mortal Cup descends into the "City Of Bones" which is apparently beneath New York itself and is a burial ground for dead Shadowhunters. The inevitable Twilight-style love triangle becomes evident with the Clary/Jace relationship clashing with Simon who carries an unrequited flame for our heroine. Team Jace will always win this romantic tussle – even though, to be sure, he is a bit sappy for a demon killer. As events get down and dirty an avalanche of demons and fantasy creatures are thrown at the screen but there is never any doubt as to who is going to win this battle. The conclusion leaves plenty of room for a sequel but really – is it worth it?

     Director Harald Zwart appears to have taken every fantasy teen movie cliché and thrown it into this film. I suspect the theory of more is better was high in pre-production talks with the screenplay writer and producers. Readers of the novel might have been able to follow plot events better than I, but this Cassandra Clare virgin had great difficulty in understanding what was going on and the relevance of the Mortal Cup, amongst other things. Production values were reasonable with most of the creature effects quite good, although a limited CGI budget was sometimes apparent. Visuals were suitably Gothic in the City of Bones, with a marked resemblance to the Harry Potter sets at times. Acting was on a par with the production itself – good but not great. Lily Collins and Headey were standouts, but Rhys Meyers was poorly used and had little to work with. The Simon and Jace characters were both sappy and uninspiring, with Jace in particular a very unconvincing hero. Being a film aimed at younger teens the special effects were not overly gruesome although there was plenty of on-screen and implied violence. As a fantasy adventure aimed at a specific demographic The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones almost succeeds. I suspect however, that even ardent fans of the novels wouldn’t bother to watch it more than once.

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Transfer Quality


     Video is presented in the theatrical aspect of 2.40:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. Colour saturation is good with the blacks and greys well defined so that underground scenes are distinct despite the low lighting levels. Texture is slightly grainy with a film-like quality that is quite pleasing for those who dislike the often over-sharp images generated by high definition digital. Skin tones are accurate and black levels are distinct without any significant evidence of crushing. This is a dual layer authoring and I didn't notice any significant compression artefacts. Detail is very good for standard definition even in dimly lit scenes.

    Overall a nice if uninspiring video presentation.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


     The default option is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 track at 448 Kb/s. Also available is an English Dolby Digital 2.0 track and an English Descriptive Audio track both at 224 Kb/s.

     I anticipated a surround heavy presentation that would supplement the action-based plot. Surprisingly the sound field as presented here was all rather bland and insipid. The surrounds are certainly used for ambient effects and during action scenes but, really, it was all pretty introspective. Similarly the subwoofer was understated although it did break into action on occasion. Speaking voices were clear and accurate and in synchronisation with the video. The musical score by Atli Örvarsson was appropriate and suited the on-screen action.

    In summary this audio presentation does the job but for an action movie it is all rather subdued. There are English subtitles.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



     The menu featured looping audio with static background.

Movie Trailers (appearing before the main menu)

     All widescreen video. Dolby Digital 5.1 at 448 Kb/s: Make Your Move (2:20); Dolby Digital 2.0 at 192 Kb/s Some Girls (1:57), The English Teacher (2:16).

Deleted Scenes

     Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kb/s. Stunningly Attractive (0.45); Simons Asks About Demons (0.27); Magnus Party (1:03); You Came Back For Me (0.38); Jace Confronts Valentine (0.46); Luke Tells Truth About Valentine (0.50).

Featurette: Bringing Them To Life (6:23)

     Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kb/s. Discussing the main characters and featuring contributions from most of the main cast including director Zwart, producers Don Carmody and Robert Kulzer, and author Clare.

Featurette: Descendants Of The Cup (4:25)

     Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kb/s. Similar contributions to the previous featurette but focusing on the fighting methods of the Shadowhunters.

Music Video: "Almost Is Never Enough" (3:36)

     Dolby Digital 2.0 at 224 Kb/s. Official soundtrack music video with Ariana Grande and featuring Nathan Sykes.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release appears to have no extras but otherwise seems identical apart from subtitles. This title is also available in Blu-ray and Blu-ray combos with additional extras.


     The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones tries hard but this combination of teen romance and action fantasy just wasn’t strong enough to hold 120+ minutes of attention. The plot is convoluted at best and incomprehensible at worst. I suspect you’d need a knowledge of the book to truly know what was going on and the significance of events. In the acting stakes the cast is serviceable and makes the most of an uninspiring script although the casting of Jace seems flawed. In summary this franchise hopeful is deserving of a rental viewing only.

     The video quality is good.

     The audio quality is good.

     The extras are reasonable.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Mike B (read my bio)
Friday, February 07, 2014
Review Equipment
DVDCambridge Audio 751bd, using HDMI output
DisplayPanasonic TH-58PZ850A. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
Amplificationdenon AVR-4311 pre-out to Elektra Theatron 7 channel amp
SpeakersB&W LCR600 centre and 603s3 mains, Niles in ceiling surrounds, SVS PC-Ultra Sub, Definitive Technology Supercube II Sub

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