February 5, 2023
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Review: Romance sizzles in fantasy fable

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Harald Zwart

Hidden from the life of humans is the world of mythical beings called “shadowhunters,” a cross-breed between humans and angels who can temporarily mark symbols on their skin, giving them supernatural powers. They roam the world undetected by humans, ridding the earth of evil by hunting and executing demons. Based on the first book of the fantasy series by Cassandra Clare, the film “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is essentially a combination of the “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series, showcasing fantastical creatures, such as vampires, werewolves, witches and monsters. The film adaptation follows the book closely but fails in executing the romance between the main characters.

The shadowhunter saga stars Lily Collins as Clary Fray, the redheaded heroine who is introduced to the underworld of demons and other mythical creatures when her mother is attacked and goes missing. Clary discovers she is a descendant of shadowhunters after having been kept away from the dark world by her mother. Along with her best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan), and shadowhunters Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), Isabelle (Jemima West) and Alec (Kevin Zegers), Clary journeys to uncover her mother’s other hidden secrets, including the identity of her power-hungry, villainous father, Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).

From a visual standpoint, “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” provides decent special effects. The film is commendable in creating the fictitious creatures and the glowing battle scenes that could rival the look of the spells radiating from Harry Potter’s wand.

But the film is mediocre in executing the plot, which was overdramatic and slightly cheesy at times, especially when focusing on the teenybopper romantic exchanges between Jace and Clary. While the plot follows the book well, the dialogue falls flat, such as when Jace and Clary awkwardly exchange cliched one-liners that build up to their on-screen kiss.

It does, however, provide a surprisingly talented group of actors and actresses. The casting for the film is spot-on, especially in the case of Collins and Bower. Collins proves to be a strong protagonist, charming the audience with her ditzy, yet courageous interpretation of the character. Bower, on the other hand, certainly makes it clear that he wasn’t cast as Jace just because of his luscious blond locks, but rather his ability to whip out sarcasm and sharp, icy glares that truly define his character.

“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” provides an intriguing fantasy fable that would have been more successful if the plot had wittier dialogue and a more suspenseful, climactic build.