By Dan Metcalf, Jr.
Clipper Film Correspondent
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (Screen Gems)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action, and some suggestive content.
Starring Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Jemima West, Lena Headey, Jared Harris, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Robert Sheehan, Robert Maillet, Kevin Durand, Godfrey Gao, Harry Van Gorkum, CCH Pounder, Aidan Turner, Stephen R. Hart.
Written by Jessica Postigo, based on the novel by Cassandra Clare.
Directed by Harald Zwart.
It used to be an inspirational movement, commenced by J.K. Rowling. Juvenile fantasy literature has since seen the likes of several new franchises, marked by the runaway success of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight Saga and Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series. The movie adaptations of such literary works have been spotty, at best, with Harry Potter dominating (Hmmm...perhaps quality source material is significant here). The Mortal Instruments (TMI) series of six novels is the latest to get a big screen adaptation, beginning (and perhaps ending) with Cassandra Clare's first TMI book: City of Bones.
Lily Collins plays Clary (short for Clarissa), who lives with her mother Jocelyn (Lena Heady) in New York City. When Clary begins to have visions of a strange symbol (or rune), Jocelyn and her best friend Luke (Aidan Turner) fear the girl may be in danger. During a night on the town, Clary and her platonic friend Simon (Robert Sheehan) encounter a strange group of people in a club, and witness them killing another person while using odd-looking ancient weapons. Lilly later discovers that the group (consisting of very attractive young people with British accents) was not committing a murder, but disposing of a demon – since they are shadowhunters (some sort of ancient race of demonic creature police force in existence since the Crusades).
The young team of shadowhunters consists of Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle (Jemima West). Soon, demons attack Jocelyn, who drinks a potion to save herself while hiding the location of a sacred cup. The demons are under the command of the evil Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who broke off from the shadowhunters and wants to use the magical cup in an attempt for world domination.
Lilly and Simon seek refuge with the shadowhunters in their downtown Manhattan lair (unseen by “mundanes,” or regular humans), where they learn more of the shadowhunter history and practices from the wise Hodge (Jared Harris). Jace begins to romance Lilly, much to the chagrin of Simon. Soon, the group must deal with vampires, werewolves, more demons and Valentine himself, who does all he can to get his hands on the cup.
TMI: City of Bones has its moments, in the form of some clever dialogue between the main characters (most of which was stripped right from the pages of the novel). Other than that, the movie is a hodgepodge of stuff you've seen and read already. It's as if Cassandra Clare (or the producers) rummaged through the garbage cans outside the homes of Rowling, Meyer, Riordan and George Lucas to come up the City of Bones story. There are magic people, werewolves, vampires, supernatural powers, and a little “kissing your sister” awkwardness. It's like ordering a snow cone with 6 flavors, all mixed together. You can't really enjoy any of it, because there's too much in it. The "TMI" acronym certainly works for the movie's title - and plot.
Perhaps Jamie Campbell Bower is the film's saving grace with his sarcastic wit and delivery, but it's all wasted on a plot most people won't understand or care about, even if they've read the books.