“A war that can never be won, but must always be fought.”
Truly a film that starts out strong, then dies a slow death, “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones,” directed by Harald Zwart and adapted from the Cassandra Clay teen novel of the same name by Jessica Postigo, leaves the viewer still asking for the pertinent questions to be answered. What are they, why are they, what can they do? All the answers that would have made this movie attractive.
There is no reason anyone should have to read a book to understand who characters are, what their motivations are, or where they’re at. It’s almost like Hollywood has decided to let novice or midlevel writers cut their teeth on works adapted from successful book franchises because there’s a guaranteed payday. But it is the moviegoer and the book fan who suffer.
Barring what might be learned in the novel, this movie is about a girl, Clary Fray (Lilly Collins), who is being stalked by a symbol. First it comes from her imagination and she draws it everywhere, then she begins to recognize it in other environments. When her mother, Jocelyn (Lena Headey) discovers Clary’s drawings she becomes unnerved revealing her own recognition of the symbol and that she has a secret.
Not disclosing the truth to her daughter, Jocelyn allows Clary to walk into danger. Clary begins to see things in addition to the symbol that would normally be hidden from others, or “mundanes” as humans are called. This sight opens her up to a world where demons are slaughtered, family friends are really creatures of the night, and guy best friends are, well of course, in love with her.
Clary stumbles into trouble to be rescued by a charming Shadowhunter stranger, Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), who mistakes her for a mundane who can see him and finds her equally as captivating because of it.
After that point, the movie begins to lose its steam. All of the intrigues that have been set up are never really knocked down. Therefore, the predicable action and obvious, expository dialogue become an annoyance.
Another irritation of “City of Bones” is that Clary has to be completely clueless to learn anything. Nobody’s asking for a Rhodes Scholar, but the hope was that she could be intelligent, so that what she learns could be mature, detailed and significant.
Like “The Covenant,” that 2006 mockery of camaraderie and coventry, “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is an example of how to take a completely interesting idea and break it. This film wants to gain legitimacy by casting veterans like CCH Pounder, but instead ends up feeling like it’s not good enough for that level of talent.
It’s really difficult to sell a love story, whether poorly or properly written, when the gay warlock and the ignored best friend are more gorgeous and more attentive than the love interest. Jace cannot hold a candle to Simon (Robert Sheehan) in terms of either his looks, or the way he treats Clary.
This is another brutally romantic story about a young girl falling for the guy who does not treat her as he should, as she deserves. All the while she disregards the hottie with a heart right next to her. Even Edward of “Twilight,” though a blood drinking, possessive stalker, truly loved his Bella and tried to always act in her best interest.
Toward the end the movie just becomes hokey and laughable. Simon is the only relief. Great acting from Sheehan, plus the character is witty and aware. Unfortunately, everyone else seems to be half-formed half-bloods.
The same is true for locations. Why take me to the Shadowhunter Institute, if cooler things happen at my house? Before Hollywood was flooded with these superhero, half and half, magical stories they knew the places and people in enchanted tales had to be extraordinary. There is nothing special about “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones”.
The idea that Sigourney Weaver is attached to the next installment is cringe-worthy. Hopefully it won’t so quickly lose its tension, or try to bank on a few funnies here and there. These books warrant adaptations that show just how exceptional they truly are.
If the next chapter doesn’t raise the bar, “The Mortal Instruments” may keep fighting, but might just lose the box office war.