Film Review: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (M15+) (USA, 2013)


Upon the trailer’s release, those who aren’t familiar with Cassandra Clare’s novels – the source material – immediately began comparing The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones to Twilight and Harry Potter. While the Harald Zwart-directed film is a worthwhile addition to the tween fantasy genre, it fails in more ways than one and is unlikely to impress anyone over the age of 18.

Lily Colins plays our heroine, Clary, who has a fairly stock standard teenage life outside of her simple household. A caring mother (Game of Thrones star Lena Headley) and her boyfriend-slash-friend Luke (Aiden Turner), as well as Clary’s own friend-zoned BFF (the brilliant Robert Sheehan from Misfits), are seemingly all that Clary has in her life, so not many heads are turned when she starts drawing and seeing some strange symbol everywhere she goes.

Said symbol is an indication of her non-human blood and the access she has to the realm of the Shadowhunters: heroes who walk among us but cannot be seen to humans (AKA “Mundanes”) unless they want to be. Clary watches her subsequent shadow-hunting love interest, Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) murder some demon in a really lame goth nightclub and marinates on that until Jace catches up with her again to inform her of her destiny. Meanwhile, demons beat up Clary’s mother, to which she decides to go all comatose so they can’t get to the sought-after mortal instrument she has hidden.

After a run-in with a well-designed dog-demon, Clary quickly accepts her ‘chosen one’ status and embarks on an adventure full of unsurprising elements of cliché kid fantasy novels. While there are some impressive visuals, and the production is effectively dark and moody, The Mortal Instruments is a drab dragged-on introduction to what is bound to be a hit film franchise among kids.

The quality of performances flutters often; Bower is the worst offender as the strangely emotional, personality-devoid Jace, who is responsible for such terrible lines as “how swiftly you dismiss our love,” uttered seconds after he kisses Clary for the first time (a scene complete with more cheese than a Days of our Lives episode). On the other hand, funny man Robert Sheehan does wonders with the laughable role he is given and is bound to become a fan-favourite.

Decent action scenes, marred only by the worst soundtrack I’ve heard this year, are scattered throughout, at least placing the film as an occasionally fun watch. However, ultimately The Mortal Instruments falls flat with a lack of originality, a fairly shallow set of characters, and an entire platter of nauseatingly bad dialogue. If you are over 18: approach with low expectations.

Review ScoreTWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE) **

Runtime: 130 Minutes
Rating: M15+

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is currently screening nationwide.


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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is an Editor-At-Large at the AU review, loves writing about travel and hospitality, and is partial to a perfectly textured octopus. You can reach him on Instagram: @chrisdsingh.