Film Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

CG masturbation, impure and simple—full of sound and fury, signifying nothing—but just try to tweet that to teenagers who’ll line up for anything that smacks of another 'Twilight.'

Don’t you just love it when a new wannabe blockbuster arrogantly swaggers off the Young Adult bookshelf and into the movie marketplace, promising to make a franchise of itself with its telltale title punctuation? The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, Installment One in Cassandra Clare’s popular YA series of novels, ushers us in on the ground floor of the wonderful world of Shadowhunters by hitching its narrative up to a sweet, innocent second-generation case-in-point, Clary Fray (Mirror Mirror’s Lily Collins, the daughter of Phil Collins).

Author Clare’s Clary is oblivious to her do-good lineage until, early on, a band of Neanderthal brutes stumbles into her home after what seems like a hard day on “Game of Thrones” and makes off with Mummy (who happens to be one of the stars of “Game of Thrones,” Lena Headey). The rest of the picture is spent trying to find out if Mummy has been killed or stashed in another dimension by these thugs; assisting her, when not romancing her, are her nerdy beau (Robert Sheehan of TV’s “Love/Hate”) and a blond, bona-fide demon-slayer (Twilight’s Jamie Campbell Bower).

Apparently, director Haward Zwart allowed only beautiful twenty-somethings to audition. The resulting film is top-heavy with them—but none prettier than Collins.

Did I forget to mention this whole thing is played out in present-day Manhattan? I may have, since the medieval cathedrals and arcane settings frequented in the film are presented as something that jaded New Yorkers are blind to—an elaborate, parallel universe we somehow never noticed before. It looks like the art director and costume designer got a tad tipsy on their bulging budgets and lost all logic.

Like the book, the film uses a little of this and a little of that from all the lowbrow genres. At one point a character catches himself saying, “The werewolves are coming to our rescue.” It all adds up to a neutralizing hodgepodge of meaningless action.

City of Bones is one of those movies where the choice of weapons runs from broadsword to laser gun to spear to blowtorch to crossbow to whip to kitchen sink to vampire fangs. Then, the computer-generated images start laying it on hot and heavy, turning snarling dogs into flying octopuses. The movie moves, but you never know where.