The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Review: More Harry Potter Than Twilight
Since the success of movies like Harry Potter
, movie 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 realizes and discovers her real past. The character of Alec (Kevin Zegers) is the Rosalie of the movie, 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 movie that has many predictable plot points, that we've seen many times before. This is a movie 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 movie to his previous efforts. Zwart brings in gothic visuals throughout the movie, 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 movie 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 center.
Zwart did show his action credentials when he directed The Karate Kid
; but he seem to regress for his follow up movie. 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 movie.
The special effects are nothing to wite 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 movie 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.