The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones Review

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  • The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones film still

Score

This tired mulch of fantasy clichés is hampered by its regressive attitude towards its plucky heroine.

Harald Zwart, the director behind such lower-tier hogwash as Agent Cody Banks and the recent Karate Kid reboot, heads up this cacophonous catastrophe of fantasy hackwork which drags along the talented Lily Collins to play Clary Fray, a heroine who makes the pouting princesses of classic Disney look positively enlightened when it comes to feminist credentials.

Fray is a poetry-loving teen living in a kooky town house in Brooklyn with her artist mother played by Lena Headey. All is well until one night she sees what appears to be a murder, which turns out to be an angel-human hybrid (termed a 'shadow hunter') slaying a demon. From there on in, Fray delves into a world of vampires, werewolves and demons while discovering that she is in fact one of a long line of angelic hunters. She also possess in the recesses of her mind the location of the angel fraternity's holy grail, which reveals the secret of how more hunters can be created.

Also on the look-out for this lost artefact is the rogue angel-turned-goth named Valentine, played by an overly brooding Jonathan Rhys Meyers who gets pretty short shrift in terms of screen time. The remainder of the plot focuses on Fray's attraction to the golden-locked shadow hunter Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower, doing his best Orlando Bloom/Legolas impression) who lives in a hidden building that resembles a Hogwarts located in lower Manhattan and is lorded over by a wasted Jared Harris. Suffice to say, all this plot foams up into to a series of stomach churning revelations.

The foul depths as to which this tale of teen crushes and magic will go is quite breathtaking. At one point it is tempting to think that Zwart indulges the essential ridiculousness of the story and allows the film to appear wry and self-depreciating. Sadly this glimmer of ironic hope rapidly turns out to be a red herring, as the film instead more closely resembles the frenzied diary scribblings of a sycophantic 14-year-old girl whose only writing instrument is pink, fluffy and contains a push-down light function.

This laughable tale is also not afraid to skirt the thin line between homage and appropriation, where we get jokes that sound like they've been ripped directly from Lord of the Rings, Twilight, Harry Potter and Buffy and then tossed together like some fetid Twi-hard gumbo. You have to pity the cast, particularly when Campbell Bower and Collins are forced to play out such idiotic scenes as a botanical garden kiss which is capped up with the sprinklers bursting into to full applause.

On this evidence, Zwart and Clare clearly believe that teenage girls are little more than walking neurotics desperate to fall in love. Can't such tales ever evolve to a more interesting level, where the heroine doesn't need some flaxen-haired male fool to be constantly coming to her rescue?

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