The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones by Frank Ochieng (film review).

Well, the search for the next ‘Twilight’ phenomenon continues desperately as Hollywood coughs up yet another pretender in the clunky supernatural serial ‘The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones’. When will the movie studios realise that these futile attempts to fill the void with these tepid teenybopper fantasy romancers featuring the arbitrary inclusion of ‘tween triangular love, vampires and werewolves and demon hunters are becoming relentlessly tiresome?

Sure, the need to tap into the youth market is a profitable venture for the next bloated spectacle looking to duplicate the ‘Twilight’ craze of yesteryear. If a suitable replacement does come along it certainly will not be in the form of the sluggish styling presentable in the disposable ‘The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones’.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones film review
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones film review

Uninspired, cluttered, generic and boorish, ‘The Mortal Instrument: City Of Bones’ features strained action sequences, repetitive plotting, unimaginative character development and the tedious overstuffing of mythological mumbo jumbo. Director Harold Zwart’s (‘Karate Kid’) nonsensical narrative not only poses as an obvious ‘Twilight’ knock-off but is nervy enough to recall other influences from the likes of established vehicles such as the ‘Harry Potter movie series (using movie terminology in defining mortal subject matters as ‘mundanes’ — a tip of the hat to how ‘Harry Potter ‘labelled their plain folks as ‘muggles’).

Screenwriter Jessica Postigo Paquette convoluted script packs no particular distinctive punch as it merely regurgitates the mystical messiness seen countless times before in the adolescent macabre melodrama genre. ‘The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones’ is based upon the best-selling six-part fantasy book series by Cassandra Clare. Reportedly, a ‘Mortals’ sequel is in the works (of course) so no doubt time will tell if this film series will capture the same magic in the demographic eye of teen tarts looking for their Edward/Bella/Jacob replacement fix. Hey, if literary dreams can come true for J.K. Rowling and Stephanie Meyer then why not Cassandra Clare, right?

So are you ready for the carbon copy premise? Here goes: New York-based 15-year old Clary Fray (Lily Collins from ‘Mirror, Mirror’) is unaware that she possesses supernatural powers. Otherwise, Clary is pretty much an average young gal that wraps herself in various interests. It is discovered that she is not a ‘mundane’ but a Shadowhunter, a resourceful race of assassins that were planted on Earth to confront the demonic elements that threaten the humans around the planet.

Evidently, poor Clary has a lot on her plate to consider. For starters, she must find her mother (Lena Headey) who has been kidnapped by the demon detractors. Secondly, there is a ‘Mortal Cup’, a cherished trinket with unique powers (it contains the potent mixture of angelic and human blood ties) that Clary must track down. In addition, she is trapped between two guys that she has deep affections for in individuals Simon (Robert Sheehan) and Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower). Simon is the stand-by nerdy childhood confidant while blonde-haired Jace represents the wizardly warrior wonderboy that assists Clary in coping with her Shadowhunter bloodline.

The overload in ‘The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones’ feels weighty and wasteful as the movie bogs itself down in the philosophical static of the dark side where the aforementioned vampires and werewolves (known as Downworlders) as well as pesky shape-shifting demons rule the hostile landscape. In the meanwhile, our heroine Clary tackles her nightmarish visions but turns into a determined butt-kicking babe in the process.

The handful of off-the-wall personalities that make up this worn-out whimsical spectacle includes a who’s who of mysterious misfits that arbitrarily take up the 130 minute spacing of drudgery. Along for the rancid ride are Jace’s trusty sidekicks Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle (Jemima West). A Shadowhunter mentor in headmaster Hodge (Jared Harris) is instrumental in shaping Clary’s understanding of her super-powered DNA discovery. A figurehead known as The High Warlock of Brooklyn aka Magnus Bane (Godfrey Gao) roams around at will. Also, a wacky fortune teller named Madame Dorothea (CCH Pounder) makes her inspired evilness known. Last but not least is Clary’s long lost father (Jonathan Rhys Meyer) who has walked on the wild side as he wears his dastardly badge with honor (lazily echoing Darth Vader for some of you old-time ‘Star Wars’ fans).

Outlandishly clichéd and cockeyed, ‘The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones’ is meshed together with all the conviction of preparing homemade goulash but without a comprehensive taste for escapist originality. Thanks to the guaranteed serving of an inevitable sequel in the works another tablespoon of this pseudo ‘Twilight’ treat is one too many to digest.

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)

Sony Pictures

2 hrs. 10 mins.

Starring: Lily Collins, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Lena Headley, Robert Sheehan, Jemima West, Godfrey Gao and CCH Pounder

Directed by: Harold Zwart

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Genre: Action & Adventure/Science Fiction/Drama/Fantasy

Critic’s rating: * ½ stars (out of 4 stars)

(c) Frank Ochieng 2013



Frank Ochieng has contributed film reviews to SF Crowsnest off and on since 2003. He has been published in other various movie site venues throughout the years. Ochieng has been part of The Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and had written film reviews for The Boston Banner newspaper (USA) and frequently is a media/entertainment panelist on WBZ NewsRadio 1030 AM on "The Jordan Rich Show" in Boston, Massachusetts/USA.

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