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Set in contemporary New York City, a seemingly ordinary teenager, Clary Fray, discovers she is the descendant of a line of Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of young half-angel warriors locked in an ancient battle to protect our world from demons. After the disappearance of her mother, Clary must join forces with a group of Shadow Hunters, who introduce her to a dangerous alternate New York called the Shadow World, filled with demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves and other deadly creatures. Written by
Sony Pictures Entertainment
Since the success of films like Harry Potter and Twilight, film studios have been looking for the next young adult book series to adapt. With five books already out and a sixth on the way, The Mortal Instruments is latest series to diving into a cinematic adaptation, being more fantasy, than supernatural romance.
Clary Fray (Lily Collins) is a seemingly normal New York teenager, who lives with her artistic single mother, Jocelyn (Lena Headey). Her best friend, Simon (Richard Sheehan), has a crush for the young woman, but she sees him more as a brother. Clary leads a normal life, but starts to draw a strange symbol, that leads to changes in her life. She begins to see it everywhere, leading her and Simon to a nightclub where she sees people, no one else can. Soon, Clary's mother is kidnapped and her only ally is Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), a Shadowhunter, a half-angel, half- human creature, who hunts demons. Clary is thrust into a strange world of demons, vampires, witches, warlocks and werewolves and has to open up her own suppressed memories as an evil Shadowhunter. Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) is looking for the lost Mortal Cup that can create more Shadowhunters.
To get the Twilight comparisons out of the way, yes there is a love triangle and a teenage girl has a romance with a supernatural creature. But, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones borrows much more from the Harry Potter, having a world within world, many mystical creatures, having a term to describe humans and focuses on a young character who could be more powerful then she realises and discovers her real past. The character of Alec (Kevin Zegers) is the Rosalie of the film, having animosity to our major character.
Continuing with Twilight comparisons, Clary is dependence on the other characters, but that is more due to the fact she is in a strange world and the Shadowhunters are much more experience. But, Clary is still resourceful, asks the right questions and is a go-getter who wants to get stuck in with the adventure.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a standard fantasy adventure that, as already mentioned, borrows highly from Harry Potter. This is a film that has many predictable plot points, that we've seen many times before. This is a film that does follow The Hero With A Thousand Faces formula, but also makes you dive head first into its world and mythology, where other series would be much more gradual when bringing you into their worlds.
Harald Zwart of Agent Cody Banks and The Karate Kid (2010) fame took on the directing duties and he makes a darker film to his previous efforts. Zwart brings in Gothic visuals throughout the film, from the use of a catacomb that is run by creatures with sewed up mouths and the Shadowhunter's being like a church: but Institute's interior looks very much like Hogwarts. There are some gruesome moments (even for the PG-13 rating) involving the demon dog and the extra limbs demons can grow. But despite all this, death is kept to a minimum.
While The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones does have Judo-Christian iconography with its use of angel statutes and paintings, this is a film that actually side-steps being be a Christian, saying all religions are valid and avoids any mention of God or the afterlife.
The acting for the most part is decent enough, though the dialogue is predictable and a little clichéd at times. We do get to see Clary transform from a regular teenager to a Shadowhunter wearing a short dresses, a leather jacket and thigh high boots. While Campbell Bower brings a sardonic wit to Jace and there is strange aspect that all the Shadowhunters speak with English accents whilst the werewolves are Irish. Actors like Headey and Jared Harris do offer a little gravitas to proceedings but there are really extended cameos with the young actors being front and centre.
Zwart did show his action credentials when he directed The Karate Kid; but he seem to regress for his follow up film. The action sequences are for the most part fairly bland, typical fare. But Jemima West's Isabelle has some moments with a whip and looking really bad-ass when she has a flamethrower. Hell, give her a film.
The special effects are nothing to write home about. There are not bad, but due to the limited budget the digital looked obvious at times, particularly the werewolves. Yet, the demons near the end of the film does have a cool, glowing effort and have a similar look to Kronos' minions in Wrath of the Titans.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones has been have a torrid time with mainstream critics, but in all honesty, it is a perfectly serviceable fantasy adventure that is better to the Twilight series it has been compared to and will please fans of the novels.
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