Review: The Mortal Instruments, or Not Another YA Movie!

The gpth-chic gang.
The goth-chic gang.

Unlike Harry Potter or (ahem) Twilight, I knew nothing about The Mortal Instruments book series. After watching the adaptation of TMI: City of Bones, I didn’t learn much more, other than Stephenie Meyer is ruining a generation of readers.

A mismatch of Potter’s sorcery, Star Wars’ family conflicts and Twilight’s emotionally impaired characters, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is simultaneously more complex and sillier than the three sagas. As about every other teenage-oriented franchise, it focuses on an ordinary girl who discovers she is actually one of a kind. In TMI that is Clary (Lily Collins, Mirror Mirror), a rebel of sorts who suddenly starts seeing people and buildings nobody else can.

As it happens, Clary is a shadowhunter (just go with it), a part human, part angel mix capable of taking on demonic creatures. The shadowhunters are a dwindling group, but rally around Clary to rescue her mother, a retired member of the cabal. Soon it becomes clear they are fighting a former associate, Valentine (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers,  in it for the paycheck), in his pursuit of a chalice he believes is in Clary’s possession.

This is the simplest way to depict the overwrought mythology, which also involves vampires, werewolves, witches, magic tattoos and a never-ending amount of rules and caveats. Director Harald Zwart (The Karate Kid) fails to deliver this massive amount of information in a remotely entertaining way. He rather let the not particularly good actors present it as if it was their grocery list.

Yet, compared to the awful love triangles, the mythology feels like breeze. The main one involves Clary, a douchey shadowhunter named Jace (Jamie Campbell-Bower, Sweeney Todd), and a nerdy human quickly turned into something else.

Jace’s brother in arms, Alec (Kevin Zegers, who deserves better), is also in love with him. The conflict leads to the worst bits of dialogue this side of Nicholas Sparks. The cherry on top is the suggestion of incest. The leads are so bland, none of these dramas get any traction, not even the brother-sister action.

There are five more Mortal Instruments books. Keep that in mind if you choose to support this concoction.

One lonely, misunderstood prairie dog.

Author: Jorge Ignacio Castillo

Journalist, film critic, documentary filmmaker, and sometimes nice guy. Member of the Vancouver Film Critics Circle. Like horror flicks, long walks on the beach and candlelight dinners. Allergic to cats.