From Harald Zwart, the director of “Agent Cody Banks” and “The Pink Panther 2,” comes yet another teen fantasy film based on a book series for young adults. Okay, okay, he also directed the actually decent remake “The Karate Kid.” Cassandra Clare’s novels are surprisingly some of the better young adult fantasy stories, but the film transforms the characters and plot into a hollow shell; “City of Bones” blurs into the typical genre mold without creating a soul for its story.
Clary (Lily Collins) lives with her artistic mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey) and hangs out with her best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan), but she has started to see things that other people can’t and is obsessing over a strange symbol. She witnesses a strange attack in a club, her mother is kidnapped, and she finds a monster in her home. Luckily for her, Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) from the club saves her and brings her to the Institute, a former church used to train Shadowhunters (a.k.a. demon killers), and he begins to explain the magical world she lives in, along with details from her neighbor Dorothea (CCH Pounder) and trainer Hodge (Jared Harris). Trying to find and rescue her mother from evil Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), Clary, Jace, Simon, and Shadowhunter siblings Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle (Jemima West) find themselves battling demons, a witch, vampires, and werewolves. Also, Clary finds out that her mother has kept numerous secrets from her, including the true identity of her father.
The novel is dense with action and history for its world, so the film would be incredibly long if adapted fully; of course, the plot needs to be simplified for the medium change. However, that which was left on the cutting board involved all of the depth of characters and more descriptions and explanations about the mystical world they live in. The film revolves around Clary and Jace, their senses of self and their attraction. This isn’t one in which you really want to heighten the romance (get to the ending; let’s just say it’s awkward). Jumping from action sequence to action sequence, there are rarely moments to get to know the characters besides plot points dropped in the dialogue.
Fans already know the characters involved, so in-depth development might not be necessary, though they might be upset over the last third of the film; the beginning starts off similar enough to the book, but the story eventually leads to a more action-packed, over-the-top mess of events that drastically differ from the novel. Apparently vampires and werewolves aren’t satisfying enough for viewers, so they throw in a vampire gun (no, it makes no sense), Apocalyptic clouds, and a flame thrower. Zwart comes up with as many excuses to heighten the adrenaline with special effects as possible, but they’re all so over-the-top that the film becomes entirely ridiculous (assuming you already accepted the plot).
Trying to separate the film from the book, many of the details don’t make any sense. Without a more complete history on the parents’ generation and back story, Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ Valentine must go to extremes to be evil. He comes creepily close to his daughter and tries to force her to drink his blood, a divergent subplot having to do with him turning into a mad scientist using his blood to control demons and give power. All of this is supposed to make sense because he’s conquered some kind of magical force by using the Mortal Cup (one of the Mortal Instruments of the title, but they’re never explained in the film). Since it’s magic, it apparently doesn’t have to make sense. But even if you accept the magic explanation, Valentine constantly says he wants to purge demon blood, yet he needs the demons to make his army he controls with magic, conflicting with his extermination idea.
“City of Bones” is half-filled with crap actors (not surprising, Jamie Campbell Bower is also in the “Twilight” series and briefly in “Harry Potter”), highlights the romance (even with a kissing in the rain scene), waters down its plot, and tries to make up for the lack of sense by making the villain recognizably evil. “City of Bones” is one of the worst adaptations of this genre, and it gets worse: a sequel is already being discussed since the series has six books.
Rating for “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones:” D
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“City of Bones” is playing at most theaters in Columbus, including Starplex Westpointe and Marcus Crosswoods and Pickerington. For showtimes, click here.