Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

By James Colt Harrison

Demons, dragons, witches, werewolves and bats seem to be all the rage in today’s movies. Whatever happened to happy movies with Munchkins and dancing flowers? Movies have darkened and so have the plots. No more cute “little people.” No more colorful gardens of singing plants. What we have now are wild animals jumping out from behind the scenery to scare the daylights out of you. And scared you get in director Harald Zwarts’ spectacular version of the hit book series The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

Author Cassandra Clare ( a fake name if there ever was one. She was born Judith Rumelt in Tehran of American parents in 1973) has written a series of adult-fantasy books that have sold in the millions. This is the first movie version of her books, and there promises to be more. That could be scarier than the books.

Beautiful little Clary is confused as to who she is and why she has powers nobody else has. Clary is played by newcomer Lily Collins, daughter of musician Phil Collins. So that none of her real-life friends at high school know she is in the movie, she wears two mechanically-operated fuzzy black caterpillars above her eyes.

Really bad guys come in and kidnap Clary’s mother and wreck the place for good measure. They rip out walls, throw doors through windows, and turn over old-fashioned davenports. This shows us that her mother Jocelyn (played by the beautiful Lena Headley, who looks younger than her daughter) put up a good fight and probably has a Black Belt in the closet.

Interestingly set in modern day New York, the picture is much brighter and lighter than most “horror” pictures. Clary meets the dashingly handsome blond hunk Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower). He explains she is a Shadowhunter, and a descendant of warriors who are here to protect the human race from demons. Voila! Clary is now special and can follow every word of Jace because he’s hot and tall and can wear leather pants like nobody else and get away with it. Besides, he was in other hit movies such as Harry Potter and all those incessant Twilight sagas.

Jace shows Clary the way to the Downworld, populated by demons, vampires and warlocks, all of which she must learn to fight off without messing up her hair. Fights break out, demons are stabbed and mysteriously turn to dust, Clary is thrown around on her head, and bounces back with her Elizabeth Arden foundation that has nary a scratch. Somehow she has been transformed into a black leather-wearing Miley Cyrus clone, but she still looks fetching.

Clary relies on Simon (Robert Sheehan),her best friend forever. He’s somewhat nerdy but transforms into a handsome curly-haired dude when he takes off his glasses (just like Superman!). He’s hopelessly in love with Clary but she can’t see him for cellophane. She opts for the dangerous bad boy Jace. Being a loyal friend, Simon and Clary help each other when things get rough.

Handsome Kevin Zegers plays the token gay guy Alec. Zegers said in an interview with Patrick McDonald of hollywoodchicago.com that “There are so many more important characteristics about Alec, that to me were more interesting to play than just his sexuality. It seemed a bit silly that because he is gay, that it’s the forefront of who he is.”

British actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, still in tip-top shape, comes in for a few flashy scenes as Valentine, the baddy. He chews the scenery as only a classically trained stage actor can do. But we don’t hate him even though he is evil. We marvel that he can be as flexible as he is while being squeezed like a grape press in those tight, but gorgeous, costumes. There is no doubt he’s a boy.

Director Zwart keeps the action moving along and throws in some humor and plenty of scary scenes for those who love getting jolted out of their seats. It’s a rather likeable film, filled with wonderful production values, imaginative costume designs, and a young cast that shows great potential. If you leave your credibility meter at home, the film is 130 minutes of shear entertainment. Sony Pictures.

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