The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/08/2013

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 130 mins

The first instalment of a would-be franchise, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones starts well and has both colourful characters and the occasional snappy one-liner, but it quickly descends into a painfully derivative, over-populated, over-long and increasingly confusing mess.

What's it all about?
Directed by Harald Zwart, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is based on the best-selling novel by Cassandra Claire (who began her career writing Harry Potter fan fiction) and stars Lily Collins as Clary Fray, a New York teenager who meets leather-clad hunk Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) and discovers she's a Shadowhunter, a half-angel warrior whose job is to protect mankind from demons. When her mother (Lena Headey) is kidnapped, Clary and her smitten best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan) team up with Jace and travel into a hidden underworld where vampires and werewolves battle demons and angels.

Along the way, Clary receives help from a number of different characters including werewolf Luke (Aidan Turner), Shadowhunter siblings Isabelle and Alec (Jemima West and Kevin Zegers) and shady Shadowhunter leader Hodge (Jared Harris), all of whom attempt to prepare her for an encounter with the sinister Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who holds the secret to her past.

The Good
Lily Collins is a sparky and appealing presence as Clary (terrible name though) and there's strong support from Robert Sheehan (doing a passable American accent) and Jamie Campbell Bower, even if their supposed love triangle lacks the necessary chemistry. There are also colourful turns from Aidan Turner and Jemima West, while Kevin Zegers is suitably sulky as Alec and Jonathan Rhys Meyers puts his permanent sneer to good use as Valentine.

In addition, the film starts well with strong character introductions and an exciting attack by a CGI demon dog creature, while the script occasionally throws up a winning one-liner, such as Simon exclaiming ‘The werewolves are coming to save us – I never thought I'd say that...’

The Bad
Unfortunately, the script rapidly descends into painfully derivative nonsense, grabbing ideas from multiple sources (most notably Harry Potter, Twilight and Buffy) but failing to mould them into anything coherent or engaging. Similarly, if you haven't read the book, the entire third act is badly muddled, since there are way too many characters (Clary is off screen for what seems like ages at one point), the stakes are never clearly explained and it's hard to tell what's actually going on.

On top of that, the supposedly emotional love story element ramps up the angst to a laughable degree thanks to a late-arriving plot twist, though by that point you may well have ceased to care.

Worth seeing?
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a disappointing fantasy thriller that squanders its interesting premise thanks to a derivative and increasingly overstuffed script that fails to engage on an emotional level. For the fans only.

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Content updated: 15/12/2017 04:31

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