The summer is wrapping up with quite a bang as one of the last genuine event movies of the entire summer is launching tomorrow in theatres everywhere. "Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is yet another offering in the line of 'Young Adult' literature that's getting adapted for the silver screen, and with this installment it would seem that they have at least started off on the right foot.
Clary Fray (Lily Collins), a seemingly ordinary teenager, discovers she is the descendant of a line of Shadow Hunters, a secret cadre of young half-angel warriors locked in an ancient battle to protect our world from demons. After the disappearance of her mother, Clary joins forces with a group of Shadow Hunters who introduce her to a dangerous alternate New York City called Down world, filled with demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves and other deadly creatures.
While you may expect a film of this nature to have young attractive people making googly eyes at one another for the entire run time and needlessly emoting towards one another...it does, but it also has some solid action, a flowing narrative that doesn't telegraph the story arc too much and some half way decent character development as we see this franchise launch. Director Harald Zwart is a solid hand and launches into this story reasonably well by avoiding any condescending traps or story devices since the material never talks down to the audience, it instead allows for not only the target demographic but audiences members any age to relate to how the characters are feeling in a pretty darn perfect balance with the fantasy elements that are throughout the film. The narrative never drags or gets bogged down in anything too severely as the 130 min run time of the film won't have you looking at your watch too much aside from a couple of over padded expositional bits. To be honest nothing about the film screams that it is exceptional, however Zwart has crafted a solid base to build from and lead a solid young ensemble cast to some performances that ranged from halfway decent to actually pretty darn good.
With only a handle full of films under her belt at this point, Lily Collins is showing that the talent is there to be able to carry a full film, and by the looks of it a franchise. Her Clary is a strong and independent woman who is not only looking for the truth about her life and her family but also won't take any grief from anyone. The material does let her down in a couple of spots but with a little work and the right material she does have the chops to be a star. Playing opposite her as the Shadow Hunter Jace Wayland, Jamie Campbell Bower was a little bit of a letdown, because while he worked well enough in the awkward romantic scenes, any time he had to get serious, emotional or crack a joke we as an audience were left a little wanting. The rest of the ensemble is a mish mash of the good with Jemima West & Jonathan Rhys Myers, the bad with CCH Pounder and Robert Sheehan and the relatively indifferent with the likes of Kevin Zegers, Lena Headey, Kevin Durand and Robert Maillet among others.
Ultimately, "Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" does lay the groundwork for what should be an entertaining movie franchise that will cater to the target demographic of young teenage girls, but won't bore the tears out their boyfriends or anyone else that goes to see it, since it has a little bit of everything and makes for a solid piece of fantasy and action filmmaking.
3 out of 5 stars.
"Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is now playing at theatres all across the country, please check with your local listings for show times.