You cannot imagine my disappointment on discovering that The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones had nothing to do with Star Trek. I was longing to hear McCoy say, “I’m a doctor, Jim, not a demon hunter!”
In actuality, The Mortal Instruments is about a girl who discovers she’s part of a secret race of demon killers. Is it high-flying fun or worthy of the Lake of Fire? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out. (To follow along, click here.)
So who stars in this trailer? The main character, Clary, is played by Lily Collins of Mirror, Mirror and The Blind Side. Her costar is Jamie Campbell Bower, who portrays Jace. His other films include the Twilight Saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and Anonymous. Alec is played by Kevin Zegers, who has also been in Dawn of the Dead, Frozen, and the television show Titanic: Blood and Steel.
The director is Harald Zwart, a man whose previous films include The Pink Panther 2, The Karate Kid (2010), and Agent Cody Banks. I guess that proves he can do well with action scenes, but those comedies in the mix worry me. It’s not so much the fact that they are comedies as the fact that I haven’t heard anything particularly positive about either one.
We see Clary heading out for the day as someone describes her daily routine: “Every day you live your life, ordinary, normal.” Yes, the ordinary, normal college-age girl with a curfew. But despite the fact that her mother tells her to come straight home, Clary gets the bright idea of going into a club that puts the demon in pandemonium. Literally. The sign actually goes through the trouble of putting “demon” in its own line. Inside, she sees a guy kill someone with a sword, but no one else sees the killer. At this point, she should be checking herself into a mental institution, but since this is a movie, we just assume it actually happened.
Clary tracks down the killer, a guy named Jace, and we see a symbol that I think is supposed to be occult-related but actually just looks like a bunny head. Apparently, Clary can see Jace because she’s not a Mundane, or human. Way to boost our self-esteem, Jace. The wizards in Harry Potter may not have held humans in the highest respect, but at least “Muggles” never offended anyone’s potential. “If I’m not human, then what am I?” Clary asks. Oh, which joke to use? Bella Swan, a Democrat/Republican, Chris Brown, the cast of Jersey Shore, etc. The possibilities are endless.
Anyway, Clary panics and calls home, but her mother tells her not to come home. Make up your mind, woman! Do you want her coming home or not? But on Mom’s end of the phone, the door blows in, knocking her against the wall. She would be dead now, just saying. If she were Mundane.
Clary goes home to find the place ransacked. Then she’s attacked by what looks like one of those creatures that sucked on the Millennium Falcon in the asteroid cave, but Jace puts it down. “I’ve been killing demons for over a third of my life,” he tells her. What were you doing for the other two thirds, painting and sculpture? Oh, and little-known fact: cops turn into demons when they take off their sunglasses. Jace kills two of them, and Clary’s friend shouts, “You killed two cops!” “They weren’t cops,” Jace tells him. Did you see them eating any donuts? Did you? DID YOU?! Also, I’d like to point out that this apparent Mundane seems to be able to see Jace. Anyone care to explain?
So Clary goes to a creepy old place called the Institute. What do you want to bet she’s actually in an Institution right now imagining all this? She learns that she, her mother, and Jace are all Shadow Hunters. Question: why would anyone want to hunt a shadow? You’d never catch it. Or are they shadows that hunt? In which case they’re really Vashta Nerada, in which case this movie just got awesome. By the way, this might be explained in the books, but if no one can see the Shadow Hunters, how can they see Clary? If they can see her because she’s half human, how can they see her mother? It had to go back to some point where two parents had a child without one being able to see the other. Creepy thought.
“There’s a map inside your head, Clary,” says Jace. Most people keep their brains there, but you didn’t seem to use yours, so you’ve got a map instead. Also, it seems the only way to get it out is to stick her in this fancy freezer for a while. “You are the key to our survival,” Jace goes on. I think Alec says it best when he says, “She’s gonna get us all killed.” Especially if all she and Jace do is play with fireflies in the woods.
“Time to pick up a few things,” the Shadow Hunters tell Clary. Like the entire arsenal of Genghis Khan. But arming themselves to the fillings, they hit the road and run into an old friend of Clary. “You look different,” he says. You think it might have to do with the way she’s wearing her black demon-hunting leather? And one Shadow Hunter bumps into the guy as she passes. Well, that was pointlessly rude. It’s not like he was insulting Clary or hindering your mission or anything, so you’re kind of a jerk.
“The world is ours to take,” one of the demons declares. With a purchase of $100 or more. A professorial type adds, “Humanity is on the very brink of extinction.” Yeah, seven billion people; they’re practically gone already. “Jace thinks he needs to save the world,” Alec tells Clary, “but you don’t need to encourage him to do it.” Absolutely not. Heaven knows we don’t want anyone saving the world from anything ever. Let the demons and the aliens and the zombies have it. Who cares?
As we get into the action montage of the trailer, a guy gets kicked into a vertical pool of water (don’t ask me how the gravity for that works), a girl pulls out a flamethrower, another guy bows before the rainbow bridge from Thor, and Clary almost gets killed jaywalking. Humanity is doomed. “You have an incredible gift and we need you,” says Jace. “I need you.” Note to self: whenever humanity is on the very brink of extinction, always take time out for sappy romance.
Also, Clary’s incredible gift seems to be toasting demons into ash and embers. That’s a pretty awesome power. She blows up a room with a lighter and hides from the blast in the closet. The Shadow Hunters engage in lots of unnecessary flipping around the dining room. Clary’s friend tells her, “The werewolves are here to save us. I never thought I’d say that.” And the trailer ends as a tattoo on Clary’s palm glows.
So based on the trailer, do I recommend The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones? Eh, maybe. If you just want some demon-killing action that looks cool, this is your movie. If you’re looking for a great original story, this probably isn’t your movie. I know some of the actors in this film are capable of quality acting, but the trailer doesn’t make it look like they have much to work with. It’s the same basic premise we’ve seen done to death: a teenager discovers she has special powers, a dark power surfaces, and she’s the only one who can defeat it. It’s Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Percy Jackson, and at least two out of three have most likely done it better. I’ve heard it compared to Twilight, but I didn’t get that feeling from the trailer. So it’s not a horrible movie, but not a great one either, and one I’ll probably skip.
Unless there’s a Shadow Hunter behind me right now, in which case I’ll watch the film in theaters first chance I get. Now please don’t stab me.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is owned by Sony Pictures.