When her mother disappears Clary (Lily Collins) quickly learns that the world around her is not all that she thinks it is. Clary is descended from a line of warriors, tasked with keeping demons at bay, and there is another world around her that she has been protected from.
Fresh from her performance in Mirror Mirror, Lily Collins seems more relaxed and natural. Robert Sheehan, best known for his cheeky/bad guy roles in Misfits and Love/Hate, takes on the role of Clary’s best friend Simon, a nice guy who will almost certainly finish last. Jamie Campbell-Bower rounds out the love triangle, as Jace. Campbell-Bower gives the character a nice edge, but also has some of the corniest lines in the film; some of which work and some of which don’t.
As far as the adults are concerned, Jared Harris takes a leaf from Anthony Stewart Head’s book in his role as mentor Hodge. Although Jace introduces Clary to the hidden world of the Shadowhunters, it is Hodge who educates her. This is a still and contemplative role, well within Harris’s capabilities, so of course he manages it well. Harris’s performance is strong, although the character feels slightly too weak when his importance within the world is taken into consideration. Lena Heady doesn’t have a lot to do, other than look good while floating, Aidan Turner plays both sides of the good guy/bad guy divide to his advantage. Turner proved his strength in Being Human but sadly, does not have a lot to do here either. Jonathan Rhys Meyers hams it up as villain, Valentine. There is little scenery left in chewed through his performance, but Meyers is still hugely entertaining and his heightened performance actually underlines the fact that this is not our world.
Writer Jessica Postigo creates an exciting world on screen, butter strength is obviously in showing the every day. As soon as the Shadowhunters’ world is revealed, it seems that some lines of dialogue may have been best left in the books; what works on the page, doesn’t always work on screen. As well as this, a subplot that heads toward incest could have been handled a little more carefully. The story feels incredibly familiar and, while it is a new franchise being introduced, it is hard to shake the associations with hidden world Tween romances that have gone before.
Director Harald Zwart’s resume includes Agent Cody Banks , The Pink Panther 2 and One Night at McCools. Following in the director’s tradition, the set pieces are huge and exciting, but the relationships between the characters fizzle, and acting quickly turns to over acting. That said, the film is nicely paced and feels relatable, if a little familiar.
In all, The Mortal Instruments: The City of Bones is almost an exciting fantasy action movie. Some parts work better than others and the film is certainly familiar – it feels like a combination of Harry Potter and Twilight – but if this is the new franchise set to win the hearts of Tweens around the world, then at least it is entertaining, if slightly overblown.