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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones | Lily Collins, Lena Heady, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones | Lily Collins, Lena Heady, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan | Review

As if life weren’t tough enough for a teenage girl these days, Clary (Lily Collins) has to find out the hard way that she is a shadow hunter (demon slayer) with mystical powers inherited from her mother Jocelyn (Lena Heady).

First, she can see objects and entities that others can’t; then she is attacked in her own home by a slimy creature that morphs from a vicious Rottweiler.  Her mom has disappeared, armed demons are after her for a hidden Mortal Cup, and a blond shadow hunter named Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) has caught her eye, much to the chagrin of her best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan). Shadow hunters are part angel, part human warriors you see, so Simon’s chances with Clary shrink (along with viewer satisfaction).

From there it all gets frenzied and convoluted, with a literal cast of thousands if you count the invading birds that turn to burning-ember demons.  All of that comes rather late in the game for a plot that has too many players and storylines but does justice to none of them.

There’s a watery portal in a cathedral-like sanctuary in the middle of New York City.  There’s a witch (CCH Pounder) living downstairs from Clary’s apartment.  There’s the relentless pursuit of the Mortal Cup, a magical glass goblet; even Clary has no clue of its whereabouts.  Oh yes, and there are lots of vampires and werewolves running around.

Based on the first book of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, the film seems like it was directed by several people, each with their own version of the story.  The dialogue can cause the eyes to roll; the attempts at humor might please tweens.

CGI special effects can be breathtaking, but without anything else going for it the overly long, 130 minute film is merely a confused mish-mash of activity, leaving more loose ends than a frayed tablecloth in its wake.  A sequel is inevitable, and perhaps the powers that be will learn from this outing to pare down the villains to less than 100, say, or reduce tedious, annoying dialogue (one character actually spouts a Jack Nicolson line from 1983’s Terms of Endearment).

The large cast, of varying ages, is talented well beyond what they’re required to do here, and the entire project seems like it should have been a lot better than it turned out to be. Author Cassandra Clare was one of the co-writers, and yet fans of her book complained about the plot departing from the original work in a disappointing manner.  Wonder what happened there.

Director Harold Zwart (The Karate Kid 2010) allows his film to have too many battlefields and too many foes to be effective, which seems to be a pitfall these days when a large CGI budget dictates that there must be more quake than quality, and more creatures than creativity.

Perhaps one of the next Mortal Instruments will be able to fix the problem.

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