“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is about an ordinary, teenage girl named Clarissa “Clary” Fray.
Or it would be, if Clary (Lily Collins) could just stop seeing people that others can’t, avoid getting chased by dog monsters and stop writing mystic runes all over the place.
In fact, Clary has had a quiet life up to now, living with her single mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey) in Brooklyn when things start to go a little crazy – such as when Clary first sees a trio of “Shadowhunters” (angel/human hybrids) kill a young man in a nightclub (that goes unnoticed by the other club goers) and realizes there’s a lot more to the world than what she has known.
After Clary finds her mother missing from their home, she sets out to find her with her best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan) and soon finds herself surrounded by other supernatural beings – warlocks, vampires and werewolves, to name a few.
She is also helped by the Shadowhunters she saw (they hunt demons to protect innocent humans) – Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower), Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle Lightwood (Jemima West) – who are at first wary that this human can even see them (they’re not supposed to). Jace is drawn to Clary and wants to help her, while the other Shadowhunters remain suspicious of her. They take her and Simon to the Institute, the Shadowhunters’ magical home in the city – a beautiful cathedral, transformed from a run-down church by a spell.
Things speed up when the group goes to a supernatural high-class party so that Clary can learn some answers about herself (her memory was blocked) as well as about her mother; but things get more complicated when Simon gets kidnapped by vampires.
Then there is a huge, all-out demon attack at the Institute. Most of the film wears the ‘non-stop action’ bumper sticker with only a quick, quiet stop-over at love scene territory (which takes place in a beautiful place at the Institute called ”The Greenhouse.” Horribly corny sequence, but looks a quarter of a million bucks, and comes complete with a really snazzy Demi Lovato song).
Also in the mix is the “Mortal Cup,” the first of the “mortal instruments” – a goblet in which an angel, long ago, mixed his blood with the blood of humans. Anyone who drinks from the Mortal Cup becomes a Shadowhunter, and it can also be used to heal or give new abilities to Shadowhunters. Clary finds it, and some dangerous people want it too.
Engaging? Check! It definitely held my attention. The actors did a good job, especially Collins (she portrayed a feisty, admirable character, while retaining a sweetness at the same time), Sheehan and Bower. Screenwriter Jessica Postigo Paquette managed to pack in a great deal of magical doings in the film, being careful to consult author Cassandra Clare along the way, while director Harald Zwart (“Karate Kid”) kept the pace going well with a few nice personal scenes and funny moments here and there. Is it a perfect film? No, Not at all – the dialogue is laughable, it’s too swiftly-paced for the audience to form any sort of emotional attachment to the characters, and it’s not shot all that imaginatively, but still… it’s welcome foreplay before the new ‘Hunger Games’.
Think an ‘edited for family audiences’ episode of “True Blood”, throw in a bit of “Twilight” (particularly the cheeseisms), and utilize some of what we see each week on MTV’s “Teen Wolf”, and you get the idea here. If I suddenly wake up tomorrow morning in the body of a 15-year-old girl, I’ll probably remember the film slightly more lovingly… referring to it across my social streams as ‘best movie ever’ material. But the fact that it still kept me interested, and both the actors and production design impressed, is evidence enough that it encompasses enough magic to work on audiences of all ages.
Based on a series of blockbuster fantasy books by Clare, “The Mortal Instruments,” the film is the first big adaptation of the books, looking to be the next “Harry Potter”- only perhaps the female version.
And if the hundreds of rapt female teen fans that were in the audience with me have their way, there will definitely be a second adaptation.