The Mortal Instruments
THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES. Starring Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Lena Headey, Jonathan Rhys Myers, CCH Pounder, Kevin Zegers, Jared Harris. Directed by Harald Zwart. 130 minutes. Rated M (Fantasy violence).
Teen fantasy. That’s the phrase we’re looking for. The Mortal Instruments series is new teen fantasy. After the success of the Harry Potter films, with the introduction of the Twilight series, with the continued popularity of The Hunger Games (and more novels and films in the offing), there seems to be a hearty appetite amongst teenage audiences for this kind of fantasy. While it will appeal to teenagers, it may not appeal so much to their parents.
The Mortal Instrument series has been written by Cassandra Clare. Once again it is a female author who has been able to come up with this imaginative world. However, it is not very clear to those who have not read the books what the mortal instruments actually are and how they function. We are taken to a mysterious institute with a burial place for demon-hunters which is called the City of Bones. But not much more explanation of these themes, though lots of explanation of the background of the characters.
Taking a glance at some comments from the readers of the book, we find that the general impression is that the film is a good adaptation and a number of fan-readers recommending it.
So, what is this particular fantasy about? Somewhat disconcertingly for those not in the know, it opens in contemporary New York City, not a fantasy world. It looks as though it is going to be a domestic story. We have a concerned mother, a teenage daughter with the touch of rebellion, and geeky kind of boyfriend, and a poetry reading from a pretentious young poet, a visit to a nightclub.
But, somehow, behind the surface of New York, there is a parallel world. Perhaps not quite so much parallel world. Rather, an alternate world, because, if you have the gift, you can see the alternate characters and interact with them. And, of course, there is deep evil in this alternate world.
The story is all about demon-hunters. The mother, it transpires, was one of the greatest but she is pursued by the demons themselves, wanting to protect her daughter, who we soon learn has the powers, and pretty potent powers at that. Enter a gallant young man, Jace, the hero demon-hunter for the film (Jamie Campbell Bower). He has a group of friends who fight with him. After rescuing our heroine, and Clary is her name, Lily Collins, he takes her to a vast supernatural institute which is masked from ordinary view but, again, is right there in New York City.
We have met the demons. We have met the demon-hunters. We find a sage older man in the institute (Jared Harris), who is able to reveal some of the secrets. In the meantime, at the rather suburban-looking home of Clary, there is a mysterious woman downstairs (CCH pounder) who has tarot card powers.
The quest is to find a mysterious cup, which will help the demon race survive, when Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), has it in his power.
The film is longish, immersing us in this double world, puzzling about what the outcome ultimately will be, or how it will be worked out. And then the film pauses… because the sequel is in preparation!
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out August 22 2103.