The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the first instalment in Cassandra Clara’s series was released in theatres this weekend and I took the plunge and saw it, hoping for some good vampire action, maybe with a bit of gay love too. Only I discovered vampires play a small part in the first book and then their role was cut down even further in the film. One tidbit did remain, though that would be spoiling the series (so read about it below).
There are vampires in the books, but they are not a main part of the early story and even when they become more involved in later books their role is still minor. I say this because at one point the web was buzzing with news of another teen vampire movie, something of a Harry Potter style universe. This is not quite the case and worth mentioning. However the film is pretty good and I was disappointed in seeing it, though there were also very few men in the cinema.
The vampires are along with werewolves, part of the downworld of non-demonic creatures that exist in the Mortal Instruments universe. The series focuses on the Shadowhunters, descendants from the crusades who have powers and live in a world unseen by mere mortals (or the mundane).
The City of Bones follows Clary as she discovers that she is a Shadowhunter after her mother is attacked and disappears; the same mother who has used a warlock named Magnus Bane to suppress Clary’s memories of this other world. As these events unfold and this other world appears to Clary, she meets Shadowhunter Jace, played by the incredibly beautiful Brit Jamie Campbell Bower. But Clary is not just looking for her mother and discovering her forgotten powers, but searching for one of the Mortal Instruments, a cup.
Clary’s best friend Simon (played by Irish actor Robert Sheehan) gets drawn into the adventure to save her mother, and he finds himself kidnapped by vampires (more on that later) while they are attending Magnus Bane’s party. Magnus, played by Godfrey Gao, is not only a 500-year-old warlock, but gay, which we discovered when at his party he flirts with Shadowhunter Alec (who eventually comes out but for the time being is interested in Jace). This is probably not the best background summary of the Mortal Instruments series, but I would say it’s possible to watch the film without reading the book.
I also haven’t mentioned that one Shadowhunter, the one has is seeking the cup and has taken Clary’s mother, is Valentine played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers (future NBC Dracula star himself). Also a fan of leather, Valentine also dislikes shirts, opting for the open jacket and exposed upper body look.
I spent the movie watching two things: keeping an eye for vampires and Jamie Campbell Bower, who like the other Shadowhunters, favors the wearing of leather accessorized with weapons. Unfortunately his character seems to want to be romantic with Clary. When we did get vampire action, the Shadowhunters were rescuing Simon from their Conclave inside the Hotel Dumort, a rundown hotel featuring a ballroom abandoned fully set up for banquet. In saving Simon the Shadowhunters seem it’s appropriate to attack and kill many of the vampires, aided by later on by others from the downworld, though they are said to have a truce. We only see brief close ups of the vampires, and it seems one of the main vampire characters from the book was removed, strange given his importance with one of the main characters, but possibly the director was trying to keep that character’s future secret. Overall we get so little interaction with the vampires and few lines.
Now for the spoiler alert. In the book, before the raid on the Hotel Dumort, a vampire approaches the group attempting to appear as a human, Raphael Santiago. He is important because he is the reason Simon is becoming a vampire. This is well-known to readers of the novels, but the filmmakers downplayed his change, but they did hint to it was he remarks he no longer needs his glasses and Clary discovers bite marks on him. However it seems it’s a slow process and not one revealed in the film. Annoyingly I’ve either dream it or I am just imagining Robert Sheehan giving an interview saying he’s playing a gay vampire in the film; only half of this is true. While Alec eventually comes out, which is apparently a big deal for the Shadowhunters, this is also not until later and has little to do with vampires. Kevin Zegers who plays Alec has actually played a vampire in another film, Vampire by director Iwai Shunji.