The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a two hour love letter to Hot Topic. Everyone is goth-lite with just enough black leather in their wardrobe to suggest brooding intenseness without the ensuing criminal record. This film is a mess of the worst variety. It suggests an ADD attention span and banks on the oohs and ahhs of the visual effects to distract from the fact that it has no discernible plot whatsoever. It seems tragically misguided from the outset, opting to cater to everyone instead of telling a story. This is a focus group film without an audience.
From what I could gather, the plot centers on teenage Clary who has a gift that she doesn’t understand and a family history that she hasn’t been told. She can see things that others can’t and is becoming aware of a world hidden behind our own. She is permitted into an industrial dance club because she can see a symbol on the sign that normal people can’t. Why she would be let in is a mystery to everyone. While inside she witnesses a murder to the man who let her in. The only problem is that no one else sees it. Her reaction to the event catches the attention of Jace. Jace follows Clary around until he gives her the required exposition to continue the story. It seems that Clary’s mom has been kidnapped and never told her that she was a shadow hunter with a complicated past. Jace leads Clary into a world of vampires, demons, werewolves, and witches so that she can stop the big bad guy from acquiring a cup with unexplained powers and find her mother. There may or may not be love in the air between Clary and Jace. It’s hard to tell with the incoherent mess of a plot. Nothing is explained to satisfaction at any point and the audience is left dumbfounded at every turn.
Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower play Clary and Jace with varying levels of effectiveness. It must be incredibly hard to evoke genuine emotions when those emotions are forced to jump through hoops and turn on dimes to accommodate plot necessities. The characters behave as the script requires with realism being a long lost afterthought. It’s tough to blame the actors for being unrealistic when the film isn’t grounded enough to even know where reality is. The only actor to bring anything to his role is Jonathon Rhys Meyers. Meyers seems to relish the scenery chewing he is allowed and is mesmerizing in the five minutes of screen time he has. The rest of the cast is fine in their roles and immediately forgettable.
Harald Zwart is the man responsible for this mess. He has also directed the Karate Kid remake and Pink Panther 2. He seems to have found his niche of adaptions and remakes that will lead to a fruitful career of middling affairs. There is nothing in The Mortal Instruments that suggests that Zwart has the slightest capability to tell a compelling story. First time screen writer Jessica Postigo offers no help. This film is based on the novel by Cassandra Clare of which I have not read. I don’t know if the massive inconsistencies and plot holes are covered in greater detail in the novel. I certainly hope they are.
The Mortal Instruments is a complete waste of a film. It is a collection of scenes that bear almost no relation to each other. It fails at the very basic structure of film making in that one scene does not lead to the next. The reality of the film changes from scene to scene and plot points are dropped or changed at random. There is absolutely nothing that holds this movie together. It plays more as an anthology film rather than a single story and is infuriating to watch with its lack of any internal logic. It made me long for the days of Twilight when movies could just be bad and not insultingly bad.