The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

There is a world hidden within our own.

The tween market has been a bit dry as of late, so it was only a matter of time until a studio released a new fantasy/romance flick hoping to cash in on some of the success gained by the Twilight and Harry Potter franchises, while giving tweens something to get giddy about. Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the first story from The Mortal Instruments novel series is the latest picture to be part of the popular book-to-film conversion. Having not read the novel myself, it’s almost impossible to tell how faithful this film adaption is in regards to its source material, although this feature feels very congested, with werewolves, vampires, warlocks, demons and other various creatures all shoved into one origin story.

'You Shall Not Pass!'
‘You Shall Not Pass!’

Set in New York, an ordinary teenager, Clary Fray (Lily Collins), learns that she is in fact a descendant of a line of Shadowhunters, a secret organization of young half-angel warriors, complete with a Hogwarts style mansion, caught in an ancient feud to protect our world from various creatures. When her mother (Leana Headey) mysteriously disappears, Clary joins forces with the Shadowhunters who expose her to a dangerous alternative reality known as Downworld, were demons, vampires, werewolves and other deadly creatures reign supreme.

Let’s start with the positives as The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones does get some things right; firstly casting the always charming Lily Collins, Mirror Mirror (2012), as the lead was a top decision as she does a credible job of driving the picture forward, keeping her character both likable and relatable. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones also features some interestingly ‘cool’ creature designs for a youth targeted fantasy-romance, particularly a dog-like demon resembling something one would expect to see in John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), while another absurd set-piece which involves Clary’s possessed downstairs neighbors seemingly combines prosthetics and CGI together to create a frightening demonic beast.

X Factor Auditions!
X Factor Auditions!

Sadly that’s about it for the positives, so on to the negatives. To begin with, the majority of cast, particularly the male leads look like nineties boy-band rejects with the personality and depth of cardboard cutouts, only Robert Sheehan, Cherrybomb (2009), comes off passable as Clary’s infatuated best friend Simon, while Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Match Point (2005), is wasted as the totally redundant central villain Valentine. The film’s biggest problem though is its bloated narrative, as too much happens too quickly, with side plots disappearing into thin air and unanswered questions galore, it’s easy to lose track of the fundamental premise. There are a few concepts that are worthy of note here and there, but director Harald Zwart, The Karate Kid (2010), quickly shrugs them off in order to continue the hurried plot-line.

Having not read the novels, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones was confusing for the most part and even after a 130 minute running time, it’s still not exactly clear as to why villain Valentine was after a mystical holy cup, why Clary’s mother was in a coma or most importantly what Clary’s powers actually are. While I’m sure most Mortal Instruments fans will enjoy proceedings, most others will almost certainly just shrug it off.

2.5 / 5 – Alright

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is released through Roadshow Entertainment Australia