The Movie Waffler New Release Review - The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

A teen discovers she is the latest in a line of demon hunters.

Directed by: Harald Zwart
Starring: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kevin Durand, CCH Pounder, Jared Harris

New York teen Clary (Collins) has begun seeing a mysterious rune on various buildings in the city. One such is the emblem of a nightclub that she blags her way into one night. Inside the club, Clary witnesses a murder, but it seems nobody else in attendance noticed the killing. The next day she arrives home to find her mother, Jocelyn (Headey), has been kidnapped and is attacked by an angry demon-like dog. Clary then meets Jace (Campbell Bower), a strange young man who only she can see. He informs her of the fantastic secret life her mother has been protecting Clary from since childhood and introduces her to a dark magical world that co-exists with our own.
If there's one pop culture phenomenon unique to this century it's the young adult fantasy novel. Kicked off by J.K Rowling's 'Harry Potter' novels, it's a fad that seems to have considerable legs and is hugely responsible for the resurgence of the publishing industry. The old line was once "I'll wait for the movie" but now, while more and more films are struggling to recoup their budgets, books are selling like never before. In my youth, anyone caught reading a book instantly became a target for ridicule. Today that's been reversed. Any teenage girl who hasn't read the latest 'Twilight' installment will likely be stuck for conversational topics with her peers. Such is the cultural reversal that the latest figures show the publishing industry is currently worth three times that of it's movie equivalent.
Of course, Hollywood always likes to get a piece of every pie so it's become customary to see adaptations of these various series. Some have been hugely successful ('Harry Potter', 'Twilight'), others not so much ('City of Ember', 'The Host'). What they all have in common is a certain impenetrability for anyone who doesn't have an investment in the relevant literary series. 
I went into this first installment of the 'MI' series expecting to be bored senseless by it's blending of the romance of 'Twilight' with the fantasy of 'Harry Potter'. How wrong I was. Five minutes in I was completely hooked. This is 'Harry Potter' with a sense of humor. Here is a film that will appeal to eighties horror kids like myself as much as to teenage girls who like to swoon over skinny young English actors. 
The script, by the unknown Jessica Postigo, has all the wit you'd expect from eighties quipmeisters like Shane Black ('Lethal Weapon') and WD Richter ('Big Trouble in Little China'). Postigo is well aware of how ridiculous and plagiaristic the entire affair is so, rather than weaving an intricate plot that will have adults yawning after the first act, she keeps things simple and gives us a character-based comedy. The banter between the young cast resembles the sort viewers of my generation grew up with. Collins and Campbell Bower use their sexual tension to riff off each other like Ford and Fisher, Douglas and Turner, or Russell and Cattrall. Every time you think the film is about to go down the moody, po-faced 'Twilght' route we get another great witty quip and a wink towards the grown-ups in the audience.
Imagine a John Carpenter movie aimed at teenage girls (the plot borrows heavily from 'They Live', with a plot element borrowed from 'Star Wars' thrown in for good measure) and you'll get some idea of what you're in for. The summer of 2013 may have arguably been Hollywood's worst but with this and 'Iron Man 3', it's been book-ended by two of the wittiest mainstream movies to come along in quite some time. 'The Mortal Instruments' is one of the most unoriginal, plagiaristic, coat-tail riding movies of the year. It's also one of the most fun.

Eric Hillis