Movie Reviews

'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones': Not quite the next big thing

By Anjali RaguramanMovies - 28 August 2013 12:00 AM | Updated 12:24 PM

'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones': Not quite the next big thing

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Rating: 2 out of 5

When you get past the mouthful of a title, 'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones' is promising for the first half hour. And then it becomes a confused mass of borrowed fandoms and plot lines.

Based on the series of young adult novels released in 2007 and written by Cassandra Clare, ‘Mortal Instruments’ follows the story of young New Yorker Clary Fray (Lily Collins, 'Mirror Mirror') who witnesses a murder that no one else could see. It is then revealed to her by Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower) that like him, she is part of a half-angel half-human race called Shadowhunters.

Along with Jace, Alec (Kevin Zegers, 'Frozen') and Isabelle Lightwood (Jemima West), Clary finds herself caught in a supernatural battle between worlds as she tries to rescue her mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey, 'Game of Thrones').

Clary discovering her powers and learning about her bloodline form the main focus for the movie. There is also the plot of everyone going after the all-powerful Mortal Cup. Along the way, there are demons, warlocks, werewolves and vampires (everything but zombies).

Clary is all wide-eyed innocence till she meets the Shadowhunters and is taken to The Institute, a safe haven for their kind. As her wardrobe changes to include more leather and tight, black outfits, her courage and butt-kicking abilities surge. There hasn’t been this much black leather in a movie since ‘The Matrix’ series, with the Shadowhunters sporting tattoos (ancient magical runes with healing powers) all down their arms and torsos.


Bower, who has appeared in both the ‘Twilight’ and ‘Harry Potter’ franchises (as Caius Volturi and a young Gellert Grindelwald respectively) is well-cast as the brooding Jace. He could easily be just the token pretty boy lead, but his wit is acerbic and he is disarmingly charming.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who played King Henry VIII in the TV series 'The Tudors', plays the power-hungry antagonist Valentine with aplomb, snarling and conniving his way into retrieving the Mortal Cup.


But the screenwriting lets the characters down. It is full of done-to-death tropes, including a love triangle. For various reasons, Jace and Clary can’t be together, even if they want to.

Scott (Simon Sheehan) who serves as the comic relief and the third guy in the triangle, is forgettable.

As expected, it sharply veers into cliched and cringeworthy teen romance territory, complete with a tacky pop song inserted at the height of a kissing scene.

What is most puzzling is that the City of Bones appears for just two minutes.

Like other movies in the young adult Hollywood movie pantheon (for example, ‘Percy Jackson’), it tries to emulate the success of blockbusters such as 'Harry Potter' and 'Twilight', and tries to fill the void left when both series ended. Even the term for humans without angelic powers, "mundanes", is a thinly veiled imitation of "muggles", the word for non-magic folk in 'Harry Potter'.

But with stolen plot lines, tacky love scenes and the constant bombardment by CGI effects, ‘Mortal Instruments' is nothing more than a pale imitation of its teen-movie predecessors.

Harold Zwart, whose most successful venture was 'The Karate Kid' reboot, serves as director and keeps the action well-paced, almost making you forget that the movie is slightly more than two hours long. That still can’t save the patchy source material though.

Yet, all these will not likely stop them from making a sequel.

'The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones' is now showing in cinemas

Our Rating

2/5 Stars