The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Review

Mortal

rating: 2.5/5

Familiarity breeds contempt for some and comfort for others. The very reason one may be affected by something may be the same reason someone else fails to connect, rejecting what they see as a slavish imitation of what's come before. This phenomenon, applied to almost anything that's become old-hat in popular culture, may explain why I'm offering up dual reviews for The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Since author Cassandra Clare obviously believes her YA fantasy saga important enough to receive two titles, I feel sufficiently encouraged in this direction. In the film, Clare's hero Clary Fray wakes up one day to learn she has a second sight that can reveal demons, vampires and werewolves. Before you can shout "female Constantine", she's in the path of darkly handsome heart-throb Angel€”er, Jace€”who's part of a society of celestially sired humans called Shadowhunters. To help Clary in her search for an abducted mother, Jace takes her to 'The Institute', a second-hand Hogwarts that prepares Shadowhunters for their roles as protectors of Mundanes (us boring human folk). It comes to light that evil, dread-locked adversary Valentine might be responsible for the mom-napping and that he's out for the Mortal Cup€”you guessed it, one of a set of 'instruments'€”that would allow him to make his own army of gloomy half-angels. When not learning of her own significant powers€”it involves drawing and runes!€”Clary finds time to vacillate between lovable, doting Simon and glowering, hot-to-trot Jace. It's safe to say that the ghetto of young adult fantasy films has grown with alarming speed, and for every Hunger Games there's a whole batch of duds like Beautiful Creatures, The Dark is Rising or Eragon. In the wake of Stephanie Meyers, the term 'young adult' feels less appropriate than that other library identifier; 'Juvenile.' Into the gap left by Twilight and Harry Potter steps Mortal Instruments, a dark adventure that follows the usually awkward heroine who wakes up to a world she never knew existed, and on her way to do battle with evil gets stuck between two boys who fancy her. Secrets are revealed, alliances are tested, swords are swung and lips get smooched. Yes, there's snogging. If you go in expecting you've seen it all before, you have, whether or not you've read the book it's based on. You've also seen it done better; maybe even earlier this summer. The Mortal Instruments City Of Bones Image The above, if you were wondering, is the viewpoint of a weary film goer who doesn't know nor particularly care about Cassandra Clare's novels or how faithful the movie is to them, mostly because it never sets itself apart or explains its appeal to newcomers. Sure, the production values are nice, the sets are suitably atmospheric and well realized, and the people are definitely really, really good looking. The whole thing makes a nice set of wall posters. The toppings are fine, but where's the meat? Most will see a tepid mix of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Harry Potter and Star Wars €“astonishingly, this single film copycats almost all the big dramatic reveals of the original trilogy. This perspective is not wrong, but it's also not the only viable choice. Expected champions of this Mortal Instruments are also not without their reasons. They digested, enjoyed and embraced the story Clare was telling, despite its contrivances and well-worn twists. Coming to the film version, the question isn't whether or not director Harold Zwart re-invented the wheel€”they already know not to even expect such a thing€”but whether he's effectively captured the world and characters they met when they read the books. It's an elaborate game of mental matching, really, and while Zwart couldn't obviously channel every theme or feeling, I suspect he's hit enough notes to please those who would care deeply about whether or not he succeeded. Having read Clare's first novel in the series, I actually think he's offered up a couple of improvements. Jemima West The Mortal Instruments City Of Bones Isa Fans who already connected with the story on the page are likely to swoon over Zwart's adaptation, not necessarily because of its artistic prowess or imaginative evocations, but because it literalizes the prose in a satisfyingly concrete manner. There have been changes, sure, but the same textured dichotomy of the novel€”blending snark and understated wit with the supernatural and the melodramatic€”is front and center here. What matters is that the alterations make the convoluted story flow better, and give the sense of self-awareness room to breathe and evolve into something that's rather refreshing in between run-of-the-mill demonic skirmishes. Zwart and screenwriter Jessica Postigo make the characters older, the danger darker, and everything else prettier and more expansive. You may not have envisioned the fifteen-year old Clary Fray as a twenty-something wearing Tom Selleck's mustache above her eyes, but Lily Collins and her smirking, cute-as-a-button charms do the trick. Collins is growing into those to-die-for brows and warm smile, and her acting chops are stronger here than we've seen before. If Clary really were more of a stabilizing central force like Buffy Summers, then the young actress might have carried the film to a higher pedigree altogether. Clary is certainly more her own agent than vacant vamp accessory Bella Swan, but there's still room for improvement; she's mostly moved around the story observing others rescue her or fight over her or tell her important, destiny-changing stuff she should have figured on her own. But there I go again, swapping fan for outsider, and ruining everything. If you liked her before, you might be surprised to find you actually adore and empathize with her here. Mortal Instruments City Of Bones Trailer The likes of Jared Harris as the mentor figure, CCH Pounder as the portentous plot device, and Lena Heady as Clary's mysterious mother prove more substantial support than anyone who drifted through Twilight. Jamie Campbell Bower smolders as a more mature, more brooding Jace, and for this film, that's akin to knocking it out of the park. Valentine isn't a truly menacing character, but Rhys Meyers goes the extra mile to assure he's at least a bit off-kilter and shifty. He felt to these eyes like a cast-off from Kiefer Sutherland's Lost Boys tribe, but certainly the script had loftier aims for him than that. I was most interested in Jemima West as Isabelle and Robert Sheehan as Simon, perhaps because they invested great agency in characters that often threaten to feel like benched sidekicks. The cast works well together, and as dopey as some of the dialogue is, there's always someone willing to turn it on its head and wring a laugh out of it. Which brings us back to the question at hand. Is being amused with--or bemused by--Mortal Instruments enough to recommend it? Not to those sick and tired of half-baked fantasy films. If you want an uncomplicated hour or two of slickly-produced adventure, you can really find that other places too. However, if you've been holding out for this particular story and these particular characters, then this particular movie is your ticket. If not, wait right here, another aspiring YA adaptation will be along shortly. Mortal Instruments City Of Bones Ver5 The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones is out now in cinemas.
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