Starring Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan
Buffy the Vampire Slayer has brought down a plague on all our houses. This groundbreaking masterpiece of Television is essentially responsible for the craze of ‘choose your boyfriend’ fantasy action films that now clutter our multiplexes. After all, before there was Bella and Edward, Lena and Ethan and now Clary and Jace, there was Buffy and Angel, fighting for their love against vampire horders and supernatural devilry. But while I can’t say that the romance was my favourite aspect of this show, it felt so much more earned than those from Twilight or City of Bones. This new generation of romantic fantasy has excised the scary, the sacrifice and the darkness from their worlds. They’ve become airless habitats where the evil is limp and bears no consequence, so ultimately the happiness of their characters means nothing.
For what it’s worth The Mortal instruments: City of Bones tells the story of Clary (Lily Collins) a seemingly normal New York teenager who complains about her mom being too clingy, hangs around with her severely friend-zoned guy pal Simon (Robert Sheehan) and texts a lot. Until her mother disappears after she is attacked by a couple of supernatural goons (including Kevin Durand AKA Keamy from Lost OMG) and Clary discovers she is the descendent of a rare breed of supernatural being known as The Shadowhunters. Half human half angel, they stalk the earth hunting demons, vampires, werewolves etc all in the name of ‘keeping the balance’ or some shit. Anyway, the main point is that one of them is called Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) and he’s English, blonde and dreamy.
Part of the problem with these fantasy romances devoid of threat is you have to spend so much time on exposition and world building your particular fantasy set up when ultimately it doesn’t matter. You don’t care about the fantasy world, you care about the romance, so you inevitably get a whole bunch of information spewed at you that gets no pay off. It’s all an excuse, and feels as such. Throughout, Mortal Instruments has a serious by-the-numbers feel to it, everything feels so limp and half-cooked that at times the movie has a hard time giving a shit about itself, let alone asking the audience to attempt something similar.
The performances range from the bland to the forgettable with no-one really given a role they can sink their teeth into. The film flat out wastes Lena Headey, who tends to do her best work in this kind of environment and has arguably the best face for close-ups in all of cinema, and Mad Men’s Jared Harris is stuck playing Dumbledore-light. Collins fails to make an impression as the lead and Campbell Bower only fairs slightly better. Sheehan is OK, but again there isn’t much to his character. When the best performance and most dynamic character belong to my personal favourite bad actor Jonathan Rhys Meyers, then you know it’s slim pickings.
This film has bombed quite badly in the US, as did Beautiful Creatures, so it’s beginning to look like, financially speaking at least, that Twilight was lightning in a bottle and this kind of film might go away soon at least from the big screens. If this genre wants to avoid death before its even been properly born, I’d suggest rewatching Buffy and trying to invest these films with some stakes. Maybe then the passion you want will feel less phoned in and more earned. Otherwise fantasy romances, you’re not long for this world.