Film Review – The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones

The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones (M)

Directed by: Harald Zwart

Starring: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers,

Two and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

Who says comedies shouldn’t be longer than two hours? Not technically classed as a comedy, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones clocks up more guffaws than the recent Red 2 (heck, Schindler’s List was funnier than that lazy sequel). And I am not just talking about the unintentional howlers either. The one saving grace for this Twilight wannabe, teen pandering bag of mystical mumbo jumbo is its sense of humour – and its gawd-awful dialogue, acting and direction. While most cringe at the thought of the next Judd Apatow running longer than his last comedy, the 134 minute This Is 40 (though it was shorter than his 146 minute epic Funny People), the consistent stream of hilarity make this 130 minute fantasy zip by. Not that I am praising poor film making, but how can one stay mad at something so long and so incompetent, that remains deliriously entertaining (for all the wrong reasons) without once forcing you to check your watch or suss out the nearest exit?

This somewhat coming of age story about identity (I can’t believe I am justifying its silly story with meaning) has coffee-house hanging Brooklyn teen Clary Fray (Lily Collins) discover, when she witnesses the murder of an invisible man (only she can see him and his attackers) and her secretive mother is abducted, that she is actually a shadowhunter. That’s part angel, part human. This is relevant because the people who have her mother are after a precious cup (yes, a cup) that is apparently a mighty powerful tool that Clary and her new shadowhunter pals must keep safe.


There is so much more to this story than my three sentence synopsis suggests with werewolves, vampires, a pants-less ally, and a blue portal. But then again, much of the exposition is repeated so regularly that maybe there isn’t all that much going on at all. Regardless, this starts out surprisingly well, for about the first 15 minutes. The mystery is suggested immediately with promise of an interesting revelation that convinces the audiences that it would be worth their time to continue watching. But it very soon begins to fall apart, slowly but surely. Clary preferring to fill her apartment with gas to blow up her first demon encounter while taking refuge in her fridge, as opposed to exiting the home, is an early clue where this is heading. But it isn’t just the baffling visual aspect – the dialogue is also mind bogglingly bad. Clary reacts to an underground labyrinth of tunnels, hideouts and skulls with “I can’t believe this place is just outside of the city.” Then there is the love interest Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) who, after their first fight, scolds Clary for how quickly she would dismiss their love. At this point they had shared one cheesy smooch.

Ultimately, this is a sloppily plotted and scripted adaptation (homosexual relationships are alluded to then immediately forgotten, a human friend’s eyesight is restored after a vampire bite, but Clary just shrugs it off) with questions raised that are left unanswered (why is Clary more concerned about her friend’s shaky alliance than her missing mother or the demons after her blood? And why doesn’t Godfrey Gao have pants on in his first scene?) But there is a deliberate sense of humour amidst the corkers, with Jace given the majority of the witty lines (besides the one mentioned earlier). Just when you think the script might have some bright moments or spots of clarity, it proves the opposite. Not even director Harald Zwart seems to have a firm handle on any of the madness. Or perhaps he knew what he was doing all along with his tongue firmly in cheek; the humans in this world are, after all, referred to as mundanes.

One Response to “Film Review – The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones”

  1. […] The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – I’ve never said “what the heck?!” so many times during one film. But […]

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