What's the main problem with the new paranormal romance genre? It really only appeals to teenage girls and lonely housewives. Don't believe me? Ask any adult male you know if he likes Twilight. If he says yes, he's either lying or his girlfriend/wife is a fan, and he doesn't want to piss her off. However, movies like Warm Bodies and Beautiful Creatures managed to have broad appeal without being condescending for teenage audiences, which shows the genre is starting to change the game.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, based on the vast book series from Cassandra Clare, also manages to be entertaining to more than one specific demographic. Sure, it has it's Twilight tendencies, such as prominently featuring a love triangle and featuring predominantly pretty people, but it doesn't detract from the riveting fantasy action and solid story.
On her 16th birthday, Clary Fray (Lily Collins) begins to see a strange symbol everywhere, not knowing what it means. To make matters worse, she begins to see people who no one else sees, which creeps out even her best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan), and her mother (Lena Headey) goes missing. Suddenly, a young man named Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), who calls himself a Shadow Hunter, sheds some light on the situation -- her mother is also a Shadow Hunter, vampires, werewolves, and demons exist, and an evil Shadow Hunter named Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is looking to come back to our realm. And now it's up to Clary, who is starting to develop her own supernatural powers, to discover who she is and discover the location of the mysterious Mortal Cup, a prized artifact that could help the Shadow Hunters thrive for generations to come.
Director Harald Zwart (2010's The Karate Kid) and first-time screenwriter Jessica Postigo adapt Clare's novel with amazing flair and confidence. While the book is rather slow and hard to read, Postigo's brilliant dialogue and Zwart's keen eye for detail make this one of the better teen novel adaptations, and, unlike, say, last March's The Host, entertains from start to finish.
While the film is very good, and vastly superior to Twilight (although, let's face it, what isn't?), City of Bones isn't without its flaws. Even if you haven't read the book, there are several moments where the film is horribly predictable. Whether it's certain parts of the dialogue, some of the action sequences, or even some of the "big reveals", the film often telegraphs moments that should be bigger surprises. However, this certainly does not hinder City of Bones' entertainment factor. It may not be as witty as Warm Bodies or magical as Beautiful Creatures, but it is still one the Summer's last great action movies. Sure, it harkens Twilight with the involvement of vampires and werewolves, but, hey, at least the werewolves keep their shirts on and the vampires don't sparkle.
FINAL VERDICT: Though it's far from revolutionary, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is delightful to both men and women, and certainly proves that a paranormal romance film doesn't have to be Twilight. It's definitely not the best of the new genre, but it's still a prime example of good old fashioned Summer cinema.