The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is the fantasy action romance film adaptation of Cassandra Clare’s first published work of the same name. The film follows a standard hero’s journey with little deviation. Like many other young adult franchises, it suffers and triumphs by its own awkward immaturity. The story of City of Bones should be a familiar plot. A young adolescent discovers a magical world that she was never told about only to find out she is a very important and until now completely missing piece of it. Her emergence into the dark world of fairy tale creatures throws her life into a tailspin. Along her journey she meets new friends, enemies, and lovers. During the film the plot manically flips from familiar stereo typical urban fantasy teen romance to dark horror action thriller. In many ways it is the fictional love child of Harry Potter and Hellboy. Switching between ideas is at times daftly executed like a story-surgeon. At other points however the story is as clumsy as the coming of age characters it portrays. What this film does right is captures the idea of the urban fantasy, places it in a realistic setting, establishes strong characters, and pits them against great odds. Without ever feeling patronized or demeaned, the audience learns about and grows to like the characters as well as their world. What the film does wrong however is shellacked typical themes onto the good characters and setting. Lines out of Harlequin and Twilight fan fictions seem to just be pasted into the script without a second thought. In essence the film feels like it was created with amateur flair common to other films in its genre like Eragon, Wizard’s Apprentice, and Guardians of Ga’Hoole. All the parts of a big Hollywood blockbuster are there but it is unpolished, unedited, and feels incomplete. On a good note however, the cast is dead on perfect. Robert Sheehan gives an impressive performance as the friend-zoned companion. Lily Collins steps up to the plate and gives a heartfelt strong independent female protagonist. Also news worthy is Jared Harris and Aidan Turner—both of whom made excellent supporting cast without overshadowing the leads. With some minor directing changes, a little more work on the dialogue, and maybe a few more demon school girls this could have been a smash hit. As it is now, the film is worth seeing in the theater but probably not one you will be waiting on to come out for home video. I give ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ two and a half dancing hamsters for great cast, strong characters, but just too many rough edges.
September 11, 2013