Written by Deanna Lee.
In the realm of vampires, werewolves and ‘sexy’ demon hunters, this film would have been at its most appropriate several years ago; inevitably like the rest of the genre, it will get sucked into the background of teen supernatural romances and clichés.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, based on the book by Cassandra Clare, certainly doesn’t keep originality at an arm’s length. A love triangle, supernatural creatures and a plot that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense is dumped on you in this fast-paced film. I enjoyed the non-stop action pace for the first hour or so, but I began sharing the distress and confusion of lead protagonist Clary (Lily Collins), whether or not it was director Harald Zwart’s intention. The film introduces several plot-points that go unresolved and are just thrown at you for no reason: for example, why is everyone in this film a British-American hybrid? What started off as an intriguing plot became convoluted, the complications and twists ultimately bringing down the momentum created in the first hour.
Clary Fray is your typical teenage girl with off-putting eyebrows: she draws magical symbols, has a mother with a secret and has no idea her best friend pines after her. Although apparently 15-years-old, she manages to get into a nightclub in New York. There she witnesses a murder that no one else can see and slowly declines into hysterical madness. Her mother (Lena Headey) is kidnapped right before she needs to tell Clary something important and a terrifying demon is trying to kill her. She is stalked by Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), a brooding, sallow-faced demon hunter who makes terrible jokes and wears a lot of leather (when is leather ever practical?). He introduces Clary to the world of Shadow Hunters, half-human, half-angel creatures that kill demons.
Jace is immediately set up as Clary’s love interest of the film and, despite that Jamie Campbell Bower and Lily Collins dated in real life, they lack any genuine chemistry. You might say their relationship is more familial. One of the worst moments in the film is the “hook-up” greenhouse scene which features unbearably inappropriate music and terrible special effects. The tension between Clary and Jace is really lacklustre in what is supposed to be the most romantic scene of the film. But you can be thankful that the two don’t stare creepily as much as Edward and Bella did.
The plot lacks a serious amount of information. Ideas and characters get thrown around without being explored. Often, scenes seem to be included for the sole purpose of giving us a fight sequence. In this world, vampires like to roofie their victims at clubs and then chain them up in their mansions. Blood-sucking? No way! City of Bones feels like it is attempting to hit several keys by throwing everything at you but misses the mark. Speaking of keys, the film throws out a terrible reference to German composer Bach that made me cringe into my seat.
Overall the acting is pretty good. Lily Collins gives a believable performance that makes you feel like Clary’s mental state is breaking down. A likeable lead, Collins portrayed all of the confusion, fun and teenage angst that was expected. Robert Sheehan was adorable as Simon, Clary’s best friend. The novel depicts Simon as an annoying, whiny little bitch, but Robert Sheehan demonstrates nerdy charisma and great comic timing, so I found myself actually rooting for Clary to choose him over Jace. It’s hard to tell if Jamie Campell Bower is going for charismatic or just plain strange; either way I enjoyed his portrayal. While I believe he does a good job with the character, the character itself often falls flat. Jemima West is fun as the female Shadow Hunter Isabelle but brother Alec (Kevin Zegers) is thrown aside and his “twist” is so unexplored it is unnecessary. Jonathan Rhys Meyers was a delight as Valentine, the evil Shadow Hunter, with his penetrating stares and creepy personality, but he played along to the silliness of the movie and came off rather comically. The character of Magnus Bane (Godfrey Gao) was a randomly inappropriate and flamboyant character who appeared twice and acted as though he was more significant than the plot gave off.
Whoever chose the music for this movie should have been fired. It was over the top, out of place and more often than not found myself being distracted in a “serious” scene because Demi Freaking Lovato was playing in the background.
Cheesy dialogue and bad music choices aside, this is a surprisingly enjoyable film. The Twilight films have given the teen genre a bad name over the last decade, but The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is more worthy of teenage attention. It breaks apart from the Twilight mold by having decent actors (occasionally), better cinematography, a plot that is separated from the romance and a bolder approach to violence and supernatural themes.
THE REEL SCORE: 6/10