The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones

Starring : Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Lena Headey, Kevin Durand, Aidan Turner, Jemima West, Godfrey Gao, CCH Pounder, Jared Harris and Jonathon Rhys Meyers

Director : Harald Zwart

Release Date : 22 Aug 2013

A slightly ‘mundane’ adaptation of a book series that nonetheless entertains.

Based on Cassandra Clare’s best-selling book series, The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones tells the story of Clarissa “Clary” Fray (Lily Collins), a seemingly average teen who slowly starts to realise that she may be a little different.

It begins with her unconscious drawing of the same symbol repeatedly, and culminates in her discovery of the Shadowhunters, a breed of human-angel warriors who have been defending humanity from demons and all kinds of evil for centuries.

When her mother goes missing after receiving a cryptic phone call, Clary joins forces with Shadowhunters Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), Isabelle (Jemima West) and Alec (Kevin Zegers) to find her mother and to learn about her heritage. They are joined by Clary’s best fried Simon (Robert Sheehan), who is not-so-charmingly called a “mundane” or “ordinary human”.

Fans of the book series may not necessarily be thrilled with the film adaptation. There are some creative liberties taken with the storyline, especially towards the end. Nevertheless, the movie keeps a fast pace (much like the book), and does a credible job of following Clare’s sometimes convoluted mythology.

Although there is nothing new in the plot – a love triangle (more like a square, really), a heroine who is just discovering the secrets of her past, the never-ending fight of good against evil – the movie does a good job of keeping the audience engaged.

The cast carry the movie quite well, too. Collins, particularly, redeems herself here for her abysmal performance in Mirror Mirror, and is a very believable Clary. Bower appears a little wooden at times, but plays his character Jace convincingly enough, while Headey commands each scene she is in. Sheehan does a stellar job of portraying nerdy, sweet Simon, who is not-so secretly in love with Clary; he steals the show, really.

But while Gao as the mysterious Magnus Bane is spot on, Meyers really overplays his character, and the “Star Wars moment” feels contrived and plastic.

Also, the characters Isabelle and Alec are vital in the series, but somehow, in the movie, these characters seem a little one dimensional, mainly due to their limited dialogue.

The special effects are good, if not spectacular. The transformation of some of the characters from human to werewolves is very natural, and the formation of the demons (as well as the ugly demonic eye-rolling and possession), realistic. The appearance of the Institute, hidden by mundane eyes, was also executed beautifully.

Although director Harald Zwart does a decent job of setting the scene, screenwriter Jessica Postigo Paquette’s dialogue was one of the biggest downfalls of this production.

While a fair bit of Clare’s dialogue from the book had been written into the movie, Paquette’s execution of the final screenplay leaves a lot to be desired, and in fact, creates a sort of awkwardness that isn’t in the book.

It might have been better if Clare herself had written the screenplay.

Another disappointment is the lack of chemistry between Collins and Bower. For a couple that is supposed to have a love that is “epic”, this is a huge let-down. The scene leading up to the kiss between the two, although romantic, fails to ignite any spark, and the awkward kiss that follows is just plain uncomfortable to watch. Collins and Sheehan however, manage to capture that bond of love and respect that Clary and Simon have for each other, and it comes through in every scene they have together.

Clare’s series spans six books (with the final one slated to be released in 2014), and in each book, there are so many things happening simultaneously that it is sometimes difficult to keep things straight. Zwart has attempted to address this by reducing the number of events in the movie, but the result is confusing, especially towards the end.

For those who are looking to fill the hole left by Twillight’s Edward and Bella, don’t expect this movie to be the one to do it. Although the Jace-Clary-Simon-Alec relationship is reminiscent of the Edward-Bella-Jacob triangle, and even though this is also a world that has plenty of vampires and werewolves, those are pretty much the only similarities.

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