By the nature of my job, I generally know too much about most movies before I see them. Not so with The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, though. I had zero advance information on the flick and was looking forward to seeing a sneak preview and discovering the film along with the rest of the audience.
Of course, I had supposed a few things. With the movie being released in mid-August, the studio clearly has muted hopes for the production. The summer blockbuster season is almost over and the powers that be can't get more than a week or two of the big money before even the stragglers will have returned to school.
And then there's the title: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Clunky, too many words. Some kind of breathless teenage epic hoping to become a franchise, probably. Time will tell.
Or maybe it won't. Turns out the movie is a mash-up of Harry Potter, Twilight, Star Wars and most any scripted show from the CW, to name the most obvious sources. It opens with mystical shit. Sharp, sophisticated Clary (Lily Collins) can see stuff no other human can (humans are known as "mundanes" by the supernatural community in the movie). She also keeps drawing a symbol, which looks a bit like a rabbit - it must mean something!
There's an attack on her apartment. The dog turns into one of those monster pooches from Ghostbusters and Viking-looking guys - led by Keamy (Kevin Durand) from Lost - kidnap Clarly's mother, who was just about to address the rabbit symbol business with her daughter. Never enough time, eh, mom? "Cat's in the Cradle" and all that. Oh, that Harry Chapin was so wise!
Long story short, Clarly and her boy-pal-who-not-so-secretly-loves-her Simon (Robert Sheehan) end up at a supernatural academy in NYC that only she can see. But wait, that's because Clarly isn't a lousy mundane at all, she's a shadow hunter, which is kind of angelic, I think, but not so much that Clary can't remain caustic and empowered.
I realize, by the way, that at this point the only people still reading this piece are fans of the books on which the film is based and those loyal souls who faithfully read my essays every week regardless of the topic. Hope I'm not annoying you, girls, and thanks for always being there, idealized readers.
Back to the set-up. There's a lot of it and the film spends beaucoup time having various characters lay out the background. So much yakking. Good thing there's some jokes, including a Ghostbuster gag.
Another shadow hunter (Jamie Campbell Bower) gets cozy with Clary in order to set up the requisite romantic triangle. Who will win Clary's heart? More importantly, which androgynous, skinny but surprisingly well-toned boy with no scary body hair will get his shirt off first? SPOILER ALERT! It's Simon.
There are lots of other characters, including adults - one of which is really old! There's something everybody wants for a variety of very important reasons. There are big action scenes to reward you for sitting through all the talking. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones runs a little over two hours. As NUVO's film critic of 17 years, I am proud to have sat through it on your behalf.