Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Review by Bob Ignizio

I've always been a sucker for fantasy/adventure stories. That's probably why I'm a little more forgiving of some of the would-be franchise launchers that adapt “Young Adult” epics about vampires, extraterrestrials, demi-gods, and the like. All these films tend to hew pretty closely to Joseph Campbell's classic “hero's journey” template, so it's not as if there's any great expectation of originality in the plot department. As long as an effort is made to dress up the tried and true framework with some small degree of freshness – a clever and surprising plot twist, interesting characters we haven't seen before, a unique storytelling voice or visual style – I'm reasonably content to sit back and enjoy the familiar thrills without too much complaining.

I did not enjoy THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES. Not one bit. Once again Campbell's writings on heroic myths serve as the framework for the story, in which teenage girl Clary (Lily Collins) discovers that she is a demon hunter when her mother is kidnapped by bad guys looking for something called the cup. Clary and her best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan) then team up with a small group of demon hunters, among them the impulsive Jayce (Jamie Campbell Bower), to try and rescue mom and keep the bad buys from getting their prize. Along the way they encounter demons and werewolves and vampires and warlocks, oh my.

Rather than add any new ideas of its own to the mix, CITY OF BONES just recycles plot devices and scenarios from the Harry Potter and Twilight books/movies. The dialogue is just as stale, with not a single line spoken that hasn't been uttered in at least a dozen other movies. As for our heroine, she's both annoying and kind of dumb. Ditto for her male counterpart Jayce. And forget about the supporting cast saving the day. Everyone is probably at least competent, but when given crap like this script to work with, only a very few actors can make anything of it. Like Jared Harris, who is reliably solid as always playing a sort of Dumbledore figure in need of redemption.

Speaking of Harris, what's with all the Brits living in New York City? Does this movie take place in the “Little England” section of town? If the movie weren't so relentlessly bad it probably wouldn't have bothered me so much, but when you're staring at a screen bored to tears for over two hours, your brain starts pondering these kind of things. Which, if you were still wondering, ought to answer any lingering questions as to whether director Harold Zwrt manages to save the day with the manner in which he blandly if professionally unspools this tale. 1 out of 4 stars.

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