The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones (2013)

The Mortal InstrumentsTeenager Clary Fray (Lily Collins) has been seeing and drawing a strange symbol, a behaviour which has her artist mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey) worried. While celebrating her birthday with best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan), Clary witnesses a murder that is invisible to everyone else. Shocked, she returns home to find her mother missing and her home in ruin, encountering a monstrous dog that is stopped by the killer from the nightclub, purportedly a shadowhunter called Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower). Believing her to have angelic abilities too, Jace takes Clary to The Institute to meet his fellow shadowhunters, and to ask for their help in finding her mum.

It’s difficult to think of a genre that has received quite as much ridicule from serious cinephiles as the young adult adaptation. Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games may have found their audiences, but the likes of Eragon, The Golden Compass and Beautiful Creatures have been met largely with indifference, failing to make the sort of box office numbers necessary to warrant a sequel. For the most part they are seen as derivative, generic and lazy, and if Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters did little to alter such perception, Harald Zwart’s Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones does everything in its power to enforce it.

There is nothing in City Of Bones that you haven’t seen before; instead of muggles it’s mundanes, instead of slayers it’s shadowhunters, and instead of cross-species romantic love it’s quite possibly incest. There are moments in the movie that could have been lifted almost wholesale from its predecessors; much of The Institute could double for Hogwarts and the werewolves for Jacob’s pack, while a scene desperately trying to tie Bach into the narrative clunks even harder than Percy Jackson‘s assertions that the entrance to Hades lies just next to the Hollywood sign, or that Hermes runs UPS.

If the script (and, if it is any indication, Cassandra Clare’s source material too) is ropey, then the rest of the film is even worse. Lily Collins gives an incredibly unremarkable performance as Clary Fray, completely bereft of the charm she brought to Mirror, Mirror, although she at least has the decency to deliver her lines with a look of sincerest apology (“But I don’t remember anything my mum would want me to forget”). Everyone else suffers from a similar lack of distinction, which is all the more unforgivable given the cast, the majority of whom are shamefully underused: Like the audience, Lena Headey spends most of the movie in a coma, while Robert Sheehan is forced to suppress his Irish accent along with his not inconsiderable talent to play Clary’s love-sick friend-without-benefits Simon.

Really, however, there’s little point attempting to determine who’s who, as the writers clearly haven’t bothered either. After an hour of exposition, Lily Collins talking to herself and the cast changing in and out of leather costumes (except Godfrey Gao’s Magnus Bane, who spends half of his screen time sans trousers), the film spirals out of control and into one of the worst, longest and most confused denouements imaginable. Two of the characters apparently spend the final fight asleep, others disappear for minutes on end until they’re eventually needed, and the werewolves show up but for some reason don’t change form — presumably because the production budget was blown on PVC. One character is even bitten by a vampire, only for the plot point to then be forgotten all together.

It’s clear that nobody particularly cares for Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, either in front or behind the camera. It has no sense of its own mythology, little time for its characters and absolutely no respect for its audience. And it’s not even awful in a fun way; it’s just awful.

1-Star

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

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