Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, which tells the story of 15-year-old Clary Fray discovering a hidden world of beasties in contemporary Brooklyn, is a page turner on the right side of quirky. The same cannot be said about the film adaptation of the first book of the series, City Of Bones.
Directed by Harald Zwart (The Karate Kid, The Pink Panther), the film is cluttered with subplots dashing off in different directions without investing in any. At the end of the film’s 130 minutes, you are left dizzy and disoriented.
When Clary realises she can see things others cannot, she enters a hidden world of demon hunters called shadow hunters. She realises nothing is real — there are neighbours who are witches, family friends who are actually werewolves and policemen who are demons. Her mother is abducted by demons and Clary needs to find the Mortal cup to rescue her.
The film felt derivative — everything felt like you had seen it before from the triangle love story, where both good boy Simon and dude Jace have feelings for Clary (Twilight and The Hunger Games), to normal humans beings called Mundanes (Muggles in Harry Potter right?). The young adult discovering her destiny is a common trope in young adult fiction so we shall not clump it with other derivative stuff.
The books move quickly and there is that frisson of forbidden love, which the movie unaccountably races past. So then what is left but the actors? Lily Collins is sweet as Clary and Robert Sheehan is all right as good boy Simon; he takes off his shirt at some point but needs to work out to get Lautner-abs. Jamie Campbell Bower has the right pedigree having appeared in the Twilight movies and a Harry Potter film. He is sulky sexy as Jace — that he is begging to be spoofed is another matter altogether. Jonathan Rhys Meyers has weird hairstyle and wiggles his eyebrows threateningly to reveal the depth of his villainy.
The wall-to-wall CGI, the creatures weird and wonderful — vampires, witches, warlocks, demons and the shadow hunters all pop in and out of frames thanks to machines, but none of the effects are eye-popping. That ride on the vampire motorcycle which would have made for a gobsmacking visual inexplicably didn’t figure in the movie. More’s the pity. That alone would have been the price of the ticket.
Director: Harald Zwart
Cast: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Storyline: Regular teenager Clary finds her world turned upside down when she realises she is a demon hunter and has to save the world
Bottomline: Good-looking but shallow and derivative