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the mortal instruments: city of bones
DIRECTOR: Harald Zwart
CAST: Lily Collins, Lena Headey, Robert Sheehan, Jamie Campbell Bower, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Jared Harris, CCH Pounder
RUNNING TIME: 130 minutes
RATING: 2 stars (out of 5)
Certainly not the first and very unlikely to have been the last studio attempt at launching a Twilight/Hunger Games franchise of their very own, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a bona fide saga all right – just not in a good way.
Based on the first in a best-selling series of fantasy adventure novels by Cassandra Clare, this Canada-Germany co-production is an overlong, melodramatic take on the age-old battle between the forces of good and evil.
All the usual suspects are here, from the conflicted heroine and her rival suitors from decidedly different walks of life to the sinister forces that threaten to tear them apart, figuratively and literally.
But despite the overstuffed assortment of vampires, werewolves, warlocks and demons of all shapes and sizes, The Mortal Instruments seldom feels like anything more than a shameless, soulless knock-off.
Despite that ring of familiarity, the film starts off energetically as Clarissa “Clary” Fray (Collins) begins to realise she isn’t the average teen she thought she was, seeing symbols and people that no one else does.
When her mom (Headey) goes missing after being attacked by a particularly nasty demon, Clary and her platonic, geeky buddy Simon (Sheehan) team up with chronically brooding Shadow hunter Jace Wayland (Bower) to help track her down.
Meanwhile, the aforementioned dark forces are closing in on her, convinced she knows the location of the Mortal Cup, a vessel that could create serious havoc if it fell into the wrong hands.
While director Zwart sets the scene, things get bogged down by the ponderous exposition and stone-faced dialogue from screenwriter Jessica Postigo Paquette that grows sillier by the second.
Among the film’s more smirk-inducing revelations: Bach was not only a great composer but a Shadowhunter himself, who wrote note combinations that would drive demons nuts.
In the face of that sort of nonsense, Collins does her best to remain rooted in her character, conveying a persuasive empathy.
The other characters, including Meyers as the power-hungry Shadowhunter Valentine and Harris as Jace’s tutor Hodge Starkweather, have it tougher, infusing some much-needed dimension, although Pounder manages to make the most of her eye-rolling turn as tarot card-reading Madame Dorothea.
The film is helped by imaginative visual effects and production design, especially during a sequence set in the vampire-filled ballroom of the derelict Hotel Dumort. – Hollywood Reporter