The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Movie Review)

Mortal InstrumentsThe transformation of a bestselling novel series into film has a history of blockbuster effect. Hollywood may have just broken this pattern.  I am confident that with some skilled editing, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones could be reconstructed using clips exclusively from the likes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, National Treasure, The Twilight Saga, any one of the Harry Potters, Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Underworld and just a quick still frame from Stargate.  The entire movie reeked of been-there-done-that, but America’s insatiable thirst for supernatural, love entwined, gothic action films shall only be quenched when Hollywood starts delivering second rate knock-offs like this one.  So let this be a lesson to you all.

Mortal Instruments: Bone City sets the stage for Clary Fray (Lilly Collins), a seemingly normal teen living in Brooklyn, to discover her hidden bloodline of being a demon slaying, angel warrior better known as a Shadowhunter.  Unbeknownst to Clary, her mother (Lena Heady), whom is also a Shadowhunter, has kept this secret in hopes to stay under the radar of the evil Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).  Once-good-now-evil, this Darth Vader-esque character has been searching for Clary and her mother in an effort to discover the whereabouts of The Mortal Cup.  My understanding of the cup’s power is somewhat hazy, but I think it can either save, or maybe destroy humanity.  Not entirely sure.  After Clary’s mom is kidnapped by Valentine’s henchmen, she and her “mundane” human BFF, Simon team up with more Shadowhunters including Jace, Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle (Jemima West) as they forge on a quest through the Downworld to rescue Clary’s mother.

Being that Bone City is the first of the Mortal Instruments series, I think it’s fair to assume we will see this casts continuation in future movie development.  The entire cast is made of new and ever so slightly familiar faces.  The main character, Clary, is played by Lilly Collins.  You may be more familiar if I referred to her as Phil Collins’ daughter.  I’ll save you my Elaine Benez tyrant on perfectly shaped eyebrows, but on a side note: dang, girl’s got a decent brow.  Collins comes across as a very novice actress, but this isn’t to say she’s awful.  Collins has only recently made her way into the acting arena last year in the semi-flop Mirror, Mirror starring Julia Roberts.  Clary is introduced as the girl next door but shortly into the film transforms into bad-ass Shadowhunter.  Collins does a commendable job playing the dual sided character, but in moments that are more dramatic and dialog driven, she certainly has room for improvement.

Jamie Campbell Bower acts alongside Collins as Clary’s Showhunting mentor, Jace.  There’s no argument, Collins and Bower share a believable connection on screen, but how much talent does it really take for two attractive, hormone fueled teenage actors to share flirty chemistry on screen? Jace’s character is confidently arrogant and delivers an emotionless sarcasm consistently throughout the film.  Campbell does an excellent job showcasing these attributes, but like his acting counterpart, Collins, falls short during dramatic dialog.

The best acting was delivered by Irish native, Robert Sheehan as he plays Clary’s best friend, Simon.  Sheehan may be best known for his hilarious portrayal as Nathan in the UK superhero series, Misfits.  It took me sometime to place him as he presented with an impeccable American accent and some thick-rimmed hipster frames, but his only slightly more tamed curly mop of hair triggered my memory.  Simon is the “mundane” borderline dorky sidekick, but plays a vital role showcasing a slightly more mature acting talent amongst his younger costars.

As I tried to keep up with the convoluted plot line, I found that the film never solidified its target audience.  Moments of tweeny supernatural chemistry accompanied with an equally pop-tastic soundtrack speaks straight to the heart for those still waiting on their driving permit.  It was during these moments of adolescent passion that the remaining audience, including yours truly, broke into synonymous sarcastic laughter and what I can only assume was some aggressive eye rolling.  On the other hand, the violent hostility perpetuated by vampires, werewolves and mutating demons kept my adult thirst for vicious carnage in check.  Mortal Instruments attempt to broaden the target audience had a juxtaposing effect.  The exaggerated dramatic teenage love story (well actually, is there any other kind?) seemed better fit for a Disney Channel sitcom and distracted me enough to never fully commit to the remaining storyline.  On the other hand, those enthralled by the supernatural love plot may be a bit too juvenile for a werewolf violently taking down a demon disguised as a young child (spoiler alert: best part) or graphically mutating human-demons.  This left for what I can only imagine as a very limited fully engaged audience.

Visual effects were the most impressive aspect of this picture.  The abundance of supernatural creatures in an excessively imaginative underworld, kept me visually stimulated through the entirety.  The almost continuous live action incorporation with CGI was seamless.  Attention to detail was meticulously achieved in every visual aspect: optical and mechanical effects, makeup, stunts, costume, and choreography.  The film is set exclusively in modern day New York City, but the brilliant execution of special effects incorporation makes it very easy to consider the possibility of a Shadowhunter Downworld buried within Manhattan.  Action scenes are so fast and action packed, the film speed doesn’t always do justice to the extensive and precise choreography.  But overall, City of Bones has a visual prowess that will keep you impressed from beginning to end.

With the credits rolling and the house lights softly rising, “The book was way better!” banter began to echo throughout the theater.  I cannot guarantee this as a factual statement or honestly speak to its validity, because I did not read (nor will I ever read) Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, but I am confident Screen Gems didn’t make a barely tolerable film based on an equally mundane novel.  Sony has made the bold statement that it has plans to release the second installment, Mortal Instruments: City of Ashes next year.  I’m hoping the title is a spoiler to the movie’s end: the Downworld city of Shadowhunters is burned to ashes and thus brings the tragic end to all its characters.  Wait… this is a six part novel series?  Well, shoot.  Never mind.

 Mortal Instruments Poster


3 Responses to “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Movie Review)”

  1. Brian White

    “I am confident that with some skilled editing, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones could be reconstructed using clips exclusively from the likes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, National Treasure, The Twilight Saga, any one of the Harry Potters, Star Wars IV: A New Hope, Underworld and just a quick still frame from Stargate.” – Laney

    So it must have been the Harry Potters and the Twilight clips that did this one in 😉 huh?

    Your sarcasm and tone made me chuckle more than a few times 🙂 Thanks!

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    Nicely written! Welcome

  3. Brandon Peters

    Well done. Welcome Welcome