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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones by Harald Zwart (dir)/Jessica Postigo (wr)
Review by Drew Bittner
Screen Gems / Sony Movie  ISBN/ITEM#: B009AMAKWM
Date: 02 September 2013

Links: IMDB record /

Clary Fray is just an average girl in New York...until a strange compulsion to draw an unusual sigil, coupled with the power to see things her best friend Simon cannot, overturns her world violently.

Welcome to being a Shadowhunter, Clary.

Cast List:
Lily Collins -- Clary Fray
Jamie Campbell Bower -- Jace
Robert Sheehan -- Simon
Godfrey Gao -- Magnus Bane
Lena Headey -- Jocelyn Fray
Aidan Turner -- Luke
Jared Harris -- Hodge
Jonathan Rhys Meyers -- Valentine Morganstern

Based on the bestselling novel by Cassandra Clare, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is a lush immersion into Clare's urban-fantastic world of demons and those few who hunt them.

Clary (Collins) is a girl who is on the verge of being a woman, if her mother will just allow her some freedom. But when she is out one night with Simon (Sheehan), she gets a glimpse of something terrifying--a clubgoer stabbed to death by a boy Simon cannot see. Tracked down later, the murderer identifies himself as Jace Wayland (Bower) and tells Clary that the "victim" was a demon. He and his friends, Alec and his sister Isabelle, are the last few active Shadowhunters in New York...and they are slowly losing the battle against darkness.

It turns out that Clary's mother is also a Shadowhunter, and Clary has accidentally given her mother's enemies a way to strike at her. Jocelyn (Headey) is attacked and hospitalized, but she has managed to hide a great treasure that the demons and the Shadowhunters alike want to find: a grail that can supposedly imbue ordinary humans with the supernatural powers of the Shadowhunters. A legendary Shadowhunter named Valentine (Meyers), long thought dead, is on the trail of this cup as part of his master plan--a vision that horrifies all who learn of it.

Clary discovers that she shares a singular power with her mother, one that might allow her to retrieve the grail from an improbable resting place--but once that secret is out, it becomes a race against time and a battle between Shadowhunters to see who will control its terrible power. Unless Clary and Jace can stand against darkness, and withstand a shattering secret dredged from the past, New York City will be overwhelmed by an invasion of demons and a reign of terror from which it will never recover.

Akin to recent films such as Beautiful Creatures, Mortal Instruments has a cast of young, talented actors who really sell the mingling of unnatural and commonplace. Collins is a terrific Clary, effectively portraying the girl's loss of innocence as her world is summarily overturned, yet rising to the occasion when her friend Simon is taken by vampires or Alec is gravely injured and only the wizardly Magnus Bane (Gao) can help.

Bower is a great foil for Collins, and the two have excellent chemistry. He's adept with Jace's deprecating one-liners, walking a fine line as Jace's conflicted feelings imperil everyone. Similarly, Jared Harris is superb as Jace's hermit-like mentor Hodge, once a legend among the hunters but now a recluse contemplating the magical portal in their invisible castle's basement.

Meyers, as the villainous Valentine, veers away from other villains he has played, showing a nuanced performance as a man who has a clear vision and will do literally anything--including making deals with his kind's most bitter enemies--to make it happen. The story would not hold together without a strong antagonist, and Meyers makes it work.

With lush effects and loads of fast-paced action, the movie will surely please more than the many legions of Clare's fans around the globe. Hopefully a sequel will explore the next phase in these characters' lives.

Recommended.

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