Review: Interesting new myths in 'City of Bones'
"The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" is about a typical New York girl named Clary Fray. After her mother Jocelyn was abducted in a most violent way by demonic creatures, a Shadowhunter (or demon warrior), a tattooed Goth boy named Jace, helps Clary and brings her to their institute for refuge and training. It turns out that Clary was in fact a Shadowhunter as well, and a very powerful one at that.
Wait a minute, didn't that backgrounder on the central character sound very familiar. It should! The story is almost exactly like that of Harry Potter, a boy who suddenly discovers he is a powerful warlock, who had to be taken to Hogwarts for training. This same line was also taken by Percy Jackson, a boy who suddenly discovers he is a demigod son of the god Poseidon, who had to be taken to Camp Half-Blood for training.
Similar to the other successful young adult series "Twilight" and "The Hunger Games," we also have a love triangle here, involving Clary, her fellow Shadowhunter Jace, and her human best friend Simon. To be fair though, as was revealed in this first film, this Mortal Instruments series throws an interesting wrench into the mix to complicate the triangle.
The fantasy world it creates has its own mythology of an alternate dimension inhabited by angels and demons, with vampires and werewolves on the side. Of course, there is also an ultimate evil being. As Voldemort was to Harry Potter, or Kronos to Percy Jackson, here the super villain is Valentine, a Shadowhunter who turned to the dark side.
The adventure in this first book/movie is the search of a certain Mortal Cup, one of three Mortal Instruments, bequeathed to the first Shadowhunter by the Angel Raziel. Valentine, of course, has his own nefarious plot why he wants to gather all three Mortal Instruments into his possession.
Lily Collins plays Clary. I must say her thick eyebrows bothered me since she played Snow White in "Mirror, Mirror," and same here. However, as the movie progressed she was able to get me on her side as far as her quest for her mother and the Mortal Cup. However, like Bella in "Twilight," I will never understand this girly romantic indecision.
Jamie Campbell Bower graduates from his minor vampire character in the last "Twilight" films to play the lead male character here, Jace. In my opinion, his appearance looks a little scary, hardly shedding his pale Volturi look, looking more like a drug addict than a hero. But I would guess he is really supposed to project that bad boy vibe that good girls can't resist.
Robert Sheehan plays the third angle of the triangle as Simon. He is convincing as a nerdy good boy, unfortunately friend-zoned by the girl he loves. Cheesy as that scene was when he confesses his love to Clary, I have to say that Sheehan played that realization very well.
My biggest disappointment was how Valentine was presented in this film. Instead of the big bad villain he was supposed to be, he turned out to be rather lame after all the way he acted here. This role was performed by an acclaimed actor Jonathan Rhys Meyer, but I felt he was totally wrong for it physically. Meyer did not have enough commanding presence nor negative charisma to be truly terrifying.
Overall, this really is not a bad film. The pace set by director Harald Zwart is decently fast. The cinematography and musical scoring were well done. The CG special effects were okay, but could be better by today's standards.
The mythology though can be very interesting. You will want to read the book to get more details that could not have been squeezed into the film's two- hour running time.
So despite the derivative nature of the story line, squirmy love triangle angle and the weak portrayal of the main villain (in this film at least), this world created by author Cassandra Clare is quite engaging and compelling. I can say that I am still actually curious to watch for the next films in the series for further developments in the story and, hopefully, improvements in their execution. 6/10.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."