Aug 222013


While at an inner city nightclub with her best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan), Clary Fray (Lily Colins) witnesses a murder. How could it be that she was the only one who screamed? My review of The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is after the jump.

The mysterious murder Clary witnesses only the beginning of the strange events which will unfold, as she discovers that she isn’t who she has been lead to believe. Clary is transported into a world that hides in plain sight, the world of the supernatural and other worldliness. Shadowhunters, humans with angelic qualities and supernatural powers exist to protect those above from the demonic forces below. Vampires, werewolves, witches and warlocks are among the various creatures inhabiting world, living among and below the oblivious human population.

Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) is Clary’s guide in this new world. He introduces her to the few shadowhunters that remain and explains their plight. Their kind is on the way out – the few things that could ensure their safety are hidden, and they are struggling. When Clary’s Mother (played by Lena Headey) is taken, Clary is forced to trust Jace and dive head first into their world.

Up until this point I was with the film. There was a captivating and dynamic, supernatural world created, filled with interesting creatures and an intriguing element of magic. I liked the shadowhunters and thought their ability to cast spells/use their power by drawing ancient ruins on their skin was quite compelling. However from this point on (around the 30 minute mark), the film lost me completely when it turned into a cliché-ridden supernatural teen romance, with an awkward love triangle which was almost a combination of Harry Potter and Twilight, with something altogether distasteful added in.

The Harry Potter likeness isn’t surprising. The author of the book which the film is based on had her origins in Potter fan fiction, creating the extremely popular ‘Draco Trilogy’ (among other fan fiction), before her first book was published in 2007. The major problem with this love triangle, apart from being indulgently clichéd and predictable, is the uncomfortable connection between two of the characters and how this is revealed and played out. It was hard to take the film seriously after, and the audience was giggling and groaning during much of the subsequent events. If you’re going to tackle this sort of relationship it needs to be done with some care, and that wasn’t the case with this film.

Performances ranged from good (Lily Collins), to awful (Jemima West, Jared Harris), as the actors struggled to elevate the decidedly average material. When the film reaches a point where the audience is anticipating and mocking the dialogue, you know things aren’t going well. Action set-pieces did little to hold my attention, as the camera moved widely around the scenes. When the film finally reached its epic conclusion (after some 2 hours of film), I was grateful rather than jubilant. I’m not entirely sure who the audience for this film is (other than the fans of the book), as I believe that average fantasy fan expects, and deserves, a lot more substance from their transcendental adventures.


By Sam McCosh

The Facts

Director: Harald Zwart
Writer(s): Jessica Postigo (screenplay), Cassandra Clare (based on the novel by)
Starring: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Jared Harris, Robert Sheehan
Runtime: 130 minutes
Release date(s): USA: August 21 2013; Australia & New Zealand: August 22 2013