The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones (dir. Harald Zwart, 2013) – When her mother goes missing, Clary Fray discovers that she descends from the lineage of Shadowhunters, half-angel warriors who fight against demons in the Downworld.
Diving into dull genre conventions, City of Bones made a potentially fascinating world mundane. Points off for squandering that cast.
The fantasy genre’s greatest lure lies in the boundless imagination of the writer’s mind. From the Islands of Abarat to the vast plains of Middle-earth, it is hard to remain impassive to the unrestrained conception of such rich and vast mythology.
Young adult series The Mortal Instruments opens the door to its own expansive universe of fantastic creatures. Half-angel warriors Shadowhunters protect the Earth from Downworlders – werewolves, vampires, warlocks… You name it, you’ve probably got it. This can feel excessive, which is no surprise. Rooted in fan fiction, the monomyth borrows heavily from several recognisable franchises in the already inundated genre.
City Of Bones regrettably lets the influences show through in its straightforward and shallow adaptation of a thinly written novel. With archetypal personalities as dull as the script allows, someone owes its solid cast a sincere apology.
Triggering the series of events is Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), who abducts Jocelyn Fray (Lena Headey) for her knowledge of the Mortal Cup’s whereabouts. Unbeknown to her daughter Clary (Lily Collins), this is the first of three coveted instruments that can summon the powerful Angel Raziel in times of need.
The young teenager dives into the Downworld solely to seek her mother, and finds no pay-off in her quest as she ends where she begins. The leader of the Shadowhunters Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower) does no better. He gets little chance to prove his combat capability, as every line tries to define him by no more than his charisma.
More frustration lies in the entourage he leads, each seeming much too querulous and inconsequential to be likable. I can almost understand why Valentine is frustrated with the lot. Thank Raziel then for Simon Lewis (Robert Sheehan), whose quips come as a relief from the rest of the ever-brooding pack.
Even with its lengthy run-time of 130 minutes, City Of Bones finds little room for the fun side of young-adult fiction. Ridiculous the novel may sometimes get, the silly levity of a man turning into a rat (seriously) would surely have beaten going through the motions of unnecessary clichés.
None of the insanity happens, save for the inevitable romantic tangle that finds no improvement on its silver screen. Trite teenage angst drags out, complete with kissing-in-the-“rain”. Excuse me while I cringe.
Those holding out hope for a well-presented familial twist will be disappointed. One that spans a couple of books were downplayed in a single, off-hand line. Now, even avoiding that risqué subplot cannot conjure up the least bit of optimism for its inexorable sequels.