Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones (2013) (Spoiler Review)

**This review contains spoilers**

Living in New York City, Clary Fray (Lily Collins) struggles to comprehend a strange and bizarre obsession with seeing mysterious symbols in various places. Clary’s mother, Jocelyn (Lena Headey) realizes her worst fears have come to life, but before she has a chance to explain the truth to her daughter, Joeclyn is attacked by an intruder.

One night, Clary pushes her nerdy best friend, Simon Lewis (Robert Sheehan) to go into into a night club after Clary spots the mysterious symbol on the entrance sign again. Inside the club, Clary witnesses a man named Jace Wayland (Jaime Campbell Bower) use his sword to kill a man, but Clary’s frightened screams are met with confused looks, because no one else was able to see the murder.

Clary’s mother is taken hostage after the attack, and Luke Garroway (Aidan Turner), Jocelyn’s best friend, who also lives with Clary and Jocelyn, mysteriously disappears. After seeing the ruins of her ravaged apartment in the aftermath of the attack, Clary is saved by Jace, who manages to kill a demon before it kills Clary. Eventually, Clary learns the truth about her true identity: like her mother, Clary is a a Shadowhunter, a warrior sworn to a life of killing demons and other malevolent forces, who hide in other forms (humans, animals, etc.) on Earth. 

Simon tags along with Clary and Jace, as Clary embarks on a mission to learn more about her past, and rescue her mother. At the secret headquarters for Shadowhunters, invisible to all Mundanes (normal humans), Clary and Simon meet Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle (Jemima West) Lightwood, a brother/sister duo of Shadowhunters, who form a team with Jace, and their leader/veteran retired Shadowhunter, Hodge Starkweather (Jared Harris), who is confined to the innards of the base after a curse was placed on him.

Hodge explains to Clary how her mother stole the Mortal Cup, a powerful and magical instrument, to protect it from Valentine Morgenstern (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), Jocelyn’s former lover, and a Shadowhunter, who turned into a madman. Obsessed with power and control over all Shadowhunters and evil forces, Valentine planned to use the Mortal Cup to complete his goal, but with Clary’s mother incapacitated (to protect the whereabouts of the Mortal Cup, Jocelyn drank a potion that put her into a deep sleep), it’s believed the location of the hidden Cup is buried in Clary’s memories.

After he escapes the clutches of Emil Pangborn (Kevin Durand) and Samuel Blackwell (Robert Maillet), Valentine’s henchmen, and the same men, who attacked and kidnapped Jocelyn,  Luke returns to reveal himself as a werewolf, who works with the Shadowhunters (the Shadowhunters have a pact with the werewolves), because Clary will need all the help she can get to stop Valentine, and save her mother.

Lily Collins was lucky enough to land a spot in The Blind Side, but of  course, she was overshadowed by the critical acclaim for Sandra Bullock’s performance, and Bullock winning the Oscar for Best Actress and various other Best Actress awards. She hit a rough spot with that abomination Abduction (still haven‘t seen Mirror, Mirror), but despite the negative backlash for this film, I think Collins handled herself well in the leading role. With Headey’s character on the shelf for the vast majority of the film, and limited focus on the other  noticeable veteran in the cast (Jared Harris), Collins had the task of carrying the load as the main character. She’s not quite there yet, but Collins showed  some strong signs of potential here. With the story revolving around her, Collins showed poise and confidence as Clary, while showcasing an emotional side during Clary’s hard times throughout the film.

Bower is your typical pretty boy rebel/bad ass, who only shows his soft side to the ladies. Not a bad performance, but nothing too special either. Headey’s character doesn’t receive enough conscious screen time here, so it’s not fair to judge her performance (or lack there of). And Sheehan is believable in his role as the nerdy and awkward outcast. I don’t think it’s fair to judge Jonathan Rhys Meyers Valentine. His character doesn’t make an appearance until the tail end of the film, and no one else is really worth mentioning by name.

The Mortal Instruments delivered a few twists and turns I didn’t see coming. For starters, Jocelyn hiding the Mortal Cup in a tarot card was a unique surprise, because that’s the last place anyone would think of. And Valentine revealing himself as the father of Clary and Jace (real name Jonathan). The shock factor of Valentine’s reveal was strong, because before Valentine told Jace the truth, you could clearly see Jace and Clary were starting to fall in love, and things hit a peak after a Romantic night in a magical garden. Of course, this reveal might remind people of the famous scene in Return Of The Jedi, where Luke realizes Leia is his sister after a talk with Obi-Wan. Add in the awkwardness of Han and Leia being in a relationship, and the look of guilt and shock on Luke’s face, and you can easily connect the dots between both films.

The love triangle between Jace, Simon, and Clary? Yeah, it’s predictable. Simon is tired of being in the infamous friend zone, so he opens up about his true feelings for Clary. But Clary is drawn to Jace, and after that, Clary goes through the dilemma of being attracted to the more desirable guy, and the friend, who’s always been there for her no matter what. You can see it all coming from a mile away. Although, Mortal Instruments adds an unexpected layer to the love triangle, when Clary openly accuses Alec of having feelings for Jace. Alec responds by threatening her life, if she ever mentions the situation again. Some nice food for thought, and I can honestly say I didn’t see this coming.

As far as a critical reception goes, The Mortal Instruments has received a strong, negative backlash. Complaints range from The Mortal Instruments trying to be a Harry Potter or Twilight knock-off, the film borrowing elements from damn near every fantasy/action film over the past thirty years or so, and so on. Well, a lot of that’s true. The Mortal Instruments isn’t completely original, not by a long shot. But at the same time, I think it’s unfair to bash a film for mimicking other fantasy films/stories or borrowing elements from said films, because if we use this criteria to bash other movies like The Mortal Instruments, then we would have a pretty lengthy list of bad movies. And on top of that, it would be damn near impossible to rate any movie that resembles Mortal Instruments with a positive score, IF we use this criteria.

The Mortal Instruments is loaded with enough dazzling visual eye candy to bring out a few “oooohhh” and “ahhhhh” moments, and there’s a handful of  surprisingly entertaining fight sequences throughout the movie. Plus, they’re able to mix in some decent humor every now and then, and fans of the Ghostbusters films should appreciate the wink to the original film. I’ll openly admit this here and now, I went in to The Mortal Instruments with a very negative mindset, but I found myself having a lot of fun with this one as the story developed.

Rating: 6/10

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