Hollywood executives are obsessed with finding TNT. I don’t mean they’ve got some silly dispute with their local cable provider. By TNT, I mean The Next Twilight. It must have been exciting for the team behind “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” to obtain the rights to Cassandra Clare’s best-selling young adult book series, The Mortal Instruments. High fives all around! We have the next Twilight!
Musician Phil Collins’ alluring, ingénue 24-year-old daughter Lily Collins plays Clary Fray, a young Brooklyn girl who lives with her mother (“Game of Thrones” star Lena Headey) and hangs out with her best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan), listening to bad poetry in coffee shops. She also finds herself drawing a particular symbol for no apparent reason. Turns out, there is a reason.
Spoiler alert: Clary has grown up believing her father was a deceased Iraqi war veteran and her mother was a struggling artist who hung out with her best friend, a guy named Luke, who’s helped raise Clary. Clary thinks her mother is stringing Luke along, which is exactly how Clary seems to be treating Simon. Bet you have no idea where this is going!
Turns out Harry Potter Clary, unbeknownst to her, has special powers that allow her to see a world that so-called Muggles Mundanes aren’t equipped to see. It’s a world of Shadowhunters, who protect humans from demons, vampires, investment bankers, etc. Clara’s first glimpse into this world is when she witnesses dreamy Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) seemingly committing a murder in a nightclub — something only she can see. For Clary, the world is suddenly a land of confusion. By the way, this scene is later explained by a quick aside from Jace but if you really think about everything that took place in that club, the explanation makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Nevertheless, Clary joins forces with the Shadowhunters, and the real fun begins.
By the way, Jonathan Rhys Meyers (TV’s “The Tudors”) plays a power-hungry Shadowhunter named Valentine. Rhys Myers, normally excellent, acts as if he truly was hungry, because there’s a lot of scenery chewing going on here.
There’s excellent chemistry between Collins and Campbell Bower, the kind of chemistry that I liken to emotional flypaper for the young adult demographic to which these books and movies are designed to appeal. And to be fair, “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is a step above Hollywood’s most recent attempts at emulating Twilight, namely Beautiful Creatures and Twilight author Stephenie Meyers’ The Host. Unfortunately, director Harald Zwart unsuccessfully tries to compress teen angst, love, passion, unfulfilled dreams and action into an overzealous, over-the-top, never-ending finale which seems about as well planned as throwing rocks and sand into a blender in the hope that if you blend it long enough at high-enough speed, you might wind up with a delicious milkshake.
I overheard two telling comments at the screening. A woman in her mid-to-late twenties sitting next to me leaned over to her friend during a scene in which the story’s love triangle emerges, and said, “This isn’t really believable.” Of course, this was after learning the movie’s central premise and witnessing numerous demons being slaughtered and improbable, gravity-defying events. Then on the way out of the theater, that same woman said to her friend, “That was really good!”
And that pretty much sums it up. “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is not a very good film by any stretch of the imagination. However, it does possess a slick, beautiful, young-adult aesthetic and a supernatural, emotional yet nonsensical love triangle that the film’s target demographic goes crazy for.
Two-and-a-half out of five stars.