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Movies Review

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones review - Is it the new Twilight?

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Released on Wednesday, Aug 21 2013

Director: Harald Zwart; Screenwriters: Jessica Postigo; Starring: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Jemima West, Kevin Zegers, Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Meyers; Running time: 130 mins; Certificate: 12A


Movie execs are clamouring like drooling zombies to get a hold of 'the next Twilight'. Most recently, Beautiful Creatures and The Host have both failed in that regard. Now, attention turns to an adaptation of Cassandra Clare's best-selling book series Mortal Instruments, where Lily Collins throws off her Mirror Mirror good girl image to do battle with demons.

"Why do I have to dress like a hooker?" she asks after coming to terms with the fact that she, Clary Fray, isn't just a regular kid from New York; she's a 'Shadowhunter', a supreme being gifted with special powers to combat horrible gobliny things. It's a good question, but this is a film held together by hair wax, leather and bondage straps rather than coherent storytelling.

Talented young Irishman Robert Sheehan (currently in TV's Love/Hate) gets the rawest deal as Simon, Clary's nerdy-yet-cute best friend who winds up dangling half-naked from the rafters when some thuggish biker dudes come looking for a mystical, magical cup that has the power to, like, end the world and stuff, and has been sitting under Clary's nose since childhood.

Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Her mum (Game of Thrones star Lena Headey) has done a tidy job of concealing the truth about Clary's bloodline, right up until the moment - early on in the film - when those biker dudes come crashing into their apartment and leave her dead, dying, dormant or trapped in another dimension - director Harald Zwart (The Karate Kid) isn't big on the details. But hey, at least that keeps a little mystery in the mix.

That's quickly dispelled when Clary is afforded access to the Shadowhunters' fortress situated slap-bang in the middle of Manhattan, invisible to the so-called 'mundanes' (that's you people – rude, eh?) where she begins the, frankly, quite dull process of learning about her roots and coming to grips with the very unexciting ability to make inanimate objects two-dimensional.

Zwart performs a similar trick with Clare's novel, extending to a love triangle where Jamie Campbell Bower (Caius in Twilight) aims to outdo R-Patz in the smouldering looks stakes. He's the Shadowhunter who introduces Clary to a netherworld inhabited by demons, vampires, werewolves and warlocks, but gets a bit snippy when she declines to let him explore her own nether regions.

Collins is, after all, a nice girl and she looks out of place. There isn't much chemistry with Bower, either, although you may feel for Sheehan who bubbles over with passion and has nowhere to direct all that energy. For all three the mission is unclear, and with so little action and the characters so sketchily drawn, the middle part of the film sags like a bag of ectoplasm.

The villain of the piece turns up very late in the day to unite them in a bout of supernatural butt-kicking, but as Valentine - who briefly outlines a foggy plan to restore their kind to power - Jonathan Rhys Meyers often looks like he's trying to remember what he had for dinner last night. (Probably ham). Watching this laziness, you may be starkly reminded of your own mortality.

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