The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – Movie Review

Director: Harald Zwart
Writers: Jessica Postigo, Cassandra Clare
Starring: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan
Runtime: 130 min
Rating: STC

Living up to the expectations of millions of teenaged fans is never an easy task. The Mortal Instruments is yet another highly anticipated adaptation of a popular fantasy book series, and as such, there are certain elements that every filmgoer expects to see when they attend a movie like this. Romance, adventure, mystery, and action are just some of the elements that send our hearts into a frenzy when watching  young adult fantasy films. Luckily, if you are looking for any of these, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones has got you covered.

The first installment of what could become a six-part movie series tells the story of Clary Fray (Lily Collins), an ordinary teenager living an ordinary life in New York City. Little does she know, her real identity has been kept a secret for years, and after her mother is abducted by unknown beings she sets out to find out who she really is and save her family.  After a series of events, she becomes involved with the Shadowhunters, a group of half-angel warriors who not only protect Clary, but seem to hold answers to her hidden past.

Mortal Instruments

Although the story is filled with fantastical creatures, artifacts, mysteries, and love triangles, it is simple to follow the plot. Mysteries unravel in a timely fashion and there are merely a few questions left unanswered (the second film has to weave off something, after all). The action in the film is paced very well, and confrontations between creatures are always exciting. Some of the monsters and situations in the movie are quite grotesque, giving the film a more serious and dark undertone, despite its pg-13 rating in the United States (STC in Canada at the time of review). This might be the film’s greatest asset, since its characters don’t really provide anything new or exciting. Lily Collins’ portrayal of an ordinary girl turned warrior is all too ordinary, and she does not shine in the role. Her chemistry with both her co-stars, Jamie Campbell Bower and Robert Sheehan, is quite bland, and the spectator seems to follow the love triangle as an imminent part of story development, but true involvement with it is lacking. It should be noted, however, that the entire cast of the film is anything but an eyesore, and viewers will most likely find someone who suits their fancy. It is often the case with book adaptations that Hollywood’s most beautiful are chosen in order to create more attraction towards the film. City of Bones is naturally no exception.

Mortal Instruments

Sadly, the attractiveness of the cast and the intensity of the action sequences are primarily what keep the spectator drawn to the film. Its screenplay is quite predictable and at times awkward.  Although the story is complicated enough so that spectators won’t find it easy to guess what happens next, the screenplay is not favorable to characters whatsoever. Most of them come out as one-dimensional, and their dialogue seems forced in a number of instances. It is at times disappointing that even though there are a significant number of characters, most are left in the background, serving merely as plot devices. It would be interesting to know where these characters come from and what they stand for. If five more installments are planned, however, it is perfectly understandable to be saving their stories for later.

Although not the most original story, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones creates a fantasy world that is fast paced and entertaining. Regardless of having read the book or not, it is a story that can enthrall, or at least entertain most filmgoers. With well paced action, a plethora of different characters and creatures, a dramatic love triangle, and Lena Heady beating a demon senseless with the door of a fridge, City of Bones provides a safe choice when deciding what to watch on a Friday night that will most likely not make you question your existence, but will at least help you forget about things and have a good time for two hours.