It has been ten months since the release of Breaking Dawn – part 2, final instalment of the Twilight saga, over two years since Harry Potter faced The Deathly Hallows, and a terrifying ten whole years since Buffy Summers sealed the Sunnydale Hellmouth for good. In that time, studios have sought a new franchise to appeal to that all important demographic, the teenager. For those left orphaned and bereft by the departure of Edward and Bella, look no further: City of Bones is the movie tailor made for you.
Clary Fray (Lilly Collins, Snow White in Tarsem‘s Mirror, Mirror) is a typical New York teenager, raised by her mother Jocelyn (Dreddand Game of Throne’s Lena Headey) and friend of the family Luke Garroway (Being Human’s Aidan Turner). Trying to discover the meaning of a symbol which she has seen in dreams and is now encountering in her waking life, Clary and her best friend Simon Lewis (Misits’ Robert Sheehan) find themselves in a night club where she is witness to a murder.
When Jocelyn is abducted the next day and Clary receives a terrified voicemail from her, she begins her journey into an unknown world of magic, angels and demons. To find her mother and discover her past Clary must now ally with mysterious order of the Shadowhunters, protectors of human kind.
Mediocre performances abound, but are still preferable to those found in Twilight, as the City of Bones is not so steeped in the misery of those characters. Clary is no passive Bella, waiting to be rescued; quite capable of jumping, fighting and quipping while Simon is having time of his life fighting demons and vampires. Sadly Lena Headey spends most of her time in a coma, as Queen Regent Cersei Lannister in action could only have improved the film.
Marketing City of Bones to an undemanding teen audience, it is apparent the studio hope such young and inexperienced people can accept kitsch for romance and forgive the gaps in logic, but even here it misses the target. The demonic Rottweiler which could have been taken from John Carpenter’s The Thing could cause nightmares for the younger viewers while the numb romance will render older viewers as insentient as Jocelyn.
The idea of a secret world beneath the known is common in literature, China Miéville’s The City & The CityandKraken, and in cinema with theUnderworld and Harry Potter series, yet in City of Bones where the hidden should be shown as a contrast to the real world, instead the supernatural walks the city streets too easily, as though there was magic everywhere all along and Clary simply hadn’t noticed.
Invisible to human sight, the Shadowhunters have no need to conceal their activity or their Hogwarts style Institute but the other creatures of magical world are visible, yet werewolf attacks go unreported, a broad daylight attack on a fortune teller does not warrant police attendance, nor do exploding properties draw the attention of the fire services. This disregard for establishing the basics of believable storytelling speak of lazy writing and a disrespect for the audience.
The magic lacks originality or any sense of integrity, with the Shadowhunter order created by an angel but composed of spoiled teenagers and lacking any religious trappings. If the werewolf and vampires are better thought out, it is because they have been lifted wholesale from True Blood and 30 Days of Night, yet alongside the partyboy High Warlock of Brooklyn, the elements are mismatched and clumsy.
To say the style and atmosphere is inspired by Twilight, True Blood, Harry Potter, Constantine, Blade and Buffy the Vampire Slayer is to generously acknowledge the line between homage and plagiarism; perhaps another comparison would be Frankenstein, as the film often feels like little more than the still warm corpses of other people‘s ideas stitched together.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is currently on general release