The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Director: Harald Zwart

Cast: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bowler, Kevin Legers, Jemima West, Robert Sheehan, Robert Maillet, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Lena Heady, CCH Pounder

Rating: B

Movie executives are scrambling to cash in on the next big fantasy drama/love story since the Twilight series. Beautiful Creatures and The Host did not even come close to filling the shoes of the rather weak Twilight movies but The Hunger Games films based on a trilogy written by Suzanne Collins is showing great promise to knock the Twilight saga from our memories. Director Harald Zwart, is bringing the adolescent fantasy story The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, the first novel in a series of six books written by Cassandra Clare, to the big screen. So – will this latest endeavor to enter into the world of teen fairy tales sky rocket at the box office or will it land in the abyss of forgotten films?

Clary (Lilly Collins), your normal everyday New York teen, starts randomly drawing strange symbols. At first she thinks nothing of her doodling but then the symbol starts showing up everywhere. One evening Cary, while out with her friend Simon (Robert Sheehan), sees the symbol on a nightclub billboard and she convinces Simon that they should go in for some night time fun. Across the dance floor Clary spots a mysterious blonde boy that she witnesses committing a murder that apparently only she can see. Jace, the mysterious nightclub murderer, tracks Cary down and figures out that she is not entirely human – she must be a mix of a Mundane (human being) and a Shadow Hunter. Shadow Hunters are special beings sent into this this world to protect mankind from demons. He explains to Cary that what she saw was not him murdering an innocent person but him killing off a nasty demon.

As the story unfolds, Jocelyn (Lena Heady), Clary’s mother is kidnapped because she knows where something known as the Immortal Cup has been hidden. If one drinks from the Holy Grail, that person will become extremely powerful. Not only has Jocelyn been hiding the cup, she has also been hiding her daughter and the truth about her heritage in an effort to keep her safe from Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a villainous rogue Shadow Hunter that split off from the order to go on his own quest for power.

On a mission to save her mother, Clary is inducted into the world of the Shadow Hunters by Jace. Clary, along with Simon, Jace, and fellow hunters Alec (Kevin Legers) and Isabelle (Jemima West), begin working on uncovering who kidnapped Jocelyn. Blackwell (Robert Maillet), one of the oldest and most skilled Shadow Hunters, is in charge of the secret fortress that houses all the secrets of the demon fighting army. He begins to mentor Clary on the history of his kind and the mysteries of the Immortal Cup. It is here that Clary starts to uncover the truth about her roots and discover the treasure map that will lead her to the hidden supernatural cup.

The special effects in this film are not too bad and some of the fight sequences are sharp and very stylized. Humans changing into demons and men transforming into Werewolves are not too shabby to watch along with a few good shots of some nasty Vampires. The cast is fairly convincing compared to their counterparts in other teen fantasy films and mange to capture the idiosyncrasies of their characters effectively.

One of the major problems in the movie is the lack of suspense. Nothing every really builds up in this movie. Unlike the dread you felt when Voldemort was lurking around the corner in the Harry Potter films or even the feeling of foreboding that you got from Darth Vader, the classic Star Wars villain, there is no build up to Valentine. This villain just shows up and growls his dialogue. If anyone has seen the Show Time series “The Tudors”, you will know just how underutilized Meyers is an actor.

There are some good one-liners in the movie but then everything gets really cheesy such as a stupid lovers quarrel thrown into the mix and butterflies and fire flies suddenly appearing right at midnight. The film also bounces around a lot with unnecessary back stories that cause the film to drag almost to a screeching halt. There is a lot of flipping back and forth from past to present in an effort to make all the details of the story clear and all that explaining actually leads to just more questions and confusion.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is not a bad movie in comparison to some of the Hollywood flops to recently show up in theaters. If the filmmakers can just clean up the storyline and tweak things a bit, they just may have the magic formula to create a one of the best fantasy action adventure winning streaks to hit the big screen. After all – we have five more novels from Cassandra Clare to go- so movie moguls opportunity still knocks.

MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES opens on August 21, 2013

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