Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Following the abduction of her mother, young Clary slowly unravels a mystical secret about her past: she is possessive of angelic blood and comes from a line of demon-killers. With her best friend Simon tagging along, Clary aligns herself with a group of Shadowhunters, led by the steely Jace, as they seek out her mother and travel through the eerie Downworld that shrouds New York City.
The young and captivating Lily Collins leads a diverse cast as the heroine Clary. This youthful generation is completed by Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, and Jemima West, while the veteran actors include Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and CCH Pounder.
Lest we go any number of months without a film starring werewolves, vampires, angels, demons and impassioned teenage love. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, based on the first in a series of teen fantasy books by Cassandra Clare, hopes to satisfy pop culture’s endless infatuation with the romantic supernatural and become the next influential franchise.
The future rests on the shoulders of a young cast (though a sequel is already underway), which includes androgynous warriors, awkward beaus, and fiery ladies, all with wanton glances, brooding stares, and tight, leather ensembles. At the center is a new heroine Clary Fray, played by the incandescent Lily Collins. The fair-skinned and red-haired Clary returns home one day to find the apartment trashed, her mother missing, and a Cerberus-like demon trolling the mess. That’s only after witnessing a murder in a club, as an enigmatic if not very attractive young man introduces a fated victim to his plunging sword.
Clary, along with the doting Simon – he thinks of Clary as just a friend, she ensures her mother – get swept up into an ancient war, Matrix-style, for there is a world underneath (or behind or beyond or wherever) the world we see. Clary discovers that, like her mother, she is a shadowhunter, a creature with angelic qualities and powers capable of slaying demons and keeping evil at bay. Those powers include telekinesis and some cool things with fire, but first she must learn how to acquire and control her new skills, accept the path of her future and the lies of the path, while simultaneously dealing with all the accompanying normal teenage emotions.
That includes the attention of two boys, the Mundane Simon (he lacks special powers….for now), and the blonde, svelte Jace. While it’s a familiar love triangle, it is far more compelling than another more recent one. Aside from a romantic encounter that finds Jace and Clary in a beautiful, rain-soaked forest and that lays on thick some very forced mushiness, the romance, like the action, intrigue, and drama, are handled carefully and with restraint.
There is the necessary and lengthy exposition, and those who aren’t already fans may have trouble either understanding or caring about magical cups and mystical swords and strange dimensions and watery portals (it could have easily been titled The City of Mortals: Bone Instruments, and it would have made the same lick of sense), but surprisingly and refreshingly there is much to get excited about.
Anchored by great performances all around, including Canadians, Zegers and Durand, City of Bones has scares and suspense, and young adults with authentic problems; and you do start to care about them. While Simon has to cope with not being as special as Jace, the shadowhunter Alec (Zegers) must confront his strong feelings for Jace, as Jace starts to take risks for Clary. Alec is gay, as is another character a film that seems more grounded in reality than most science fiction. There is just enough time to think about the situations, as the film speedily moves towards its dramatic, familial finale. It’s jumbled a bit, and we just sort of have to assume that there is actual imminent danger (because it doesn’t seem like it), but it remains a thrilling, albeit recognizable journey.
A foundation is set, and there seems to be far more interesting storylines to uncover – the talent though, is in place.
Should You See It?
If you’re of a certain age, then absolutely. If you want something more interesting than Twilight, then yes. Otherwise, you can wait to see if it catches on.