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[Movie Review] The Mortal Instruments

[Movie Review] The Mortal Instruments

Starring: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Aidan Turner

Release Date: 21st August 2013

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (image source: imdb.com)
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (image source: imdb.com)

Still Wanted: A Decent Twilight Successor

The first installment of The Mortal Instruments is at best laughable and at worst unbearable.

While some of us are impervious to the charm of pale vampires and furry werewolves, we understand the money making incentive Hollywood producers have in the search of the next Twilight. The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, unfortunately, is nowhere near a successor.


Mortal Instruments tells the story of a teenage girl named Clary (Lily Collins) who witnesses an incident that mere Mundanes should not be able to see. Her world starts to turn upside down when she realises that other (not so) fascinating fantasy creatures exist. A cliché love-triangle adventure thus begins.


In a world where Americans with British accents are Shadow Hunters and bearded Motorbike gang members are werewolves, an element of believability is crucial. Producers need to exploit the doubt in our mind – after all, the best lies are told with some truth in it. If word went out about a real magic school located in the UK, how many of us would want to believe it? That believability is the real magic of Harry Potter, or even Christopher Nolan’s film Inception. Having said that, declaring that Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach was a Shadow Hunter with tattoos does not exactly spell believable.


Juggling pressures from the writer, high expectations from fans and the limitations of film production – it is not surprising that only a handful of tie-in movies are successful. The film makers of The Perks of Being A Wallflower and The Hunger Games, for instance, realised that a movie is not an audio book with pictures. Watching a teenage boy writing letters or a surviving girl hiding on a tree with her voice-over as narration does not exactly bring down the house. Mortal Instruments, in contrast, tries too hard to please its book fanbase by following the first half of the book religiously. Compressing over 400 pages into 130 minutes left the cast in 50 different places at once, leaving little time for the audience to digest and follow the plot.


The movie barely gives any regard towards the characters or the world they represent; actors come in and out delivering their lines as matters of fact and addressing the essential issues of the story carelessly. The supposedly fearless and dedicated Shadow Hunter, Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), spends much of his screen time running around with his teenage gang, using the words “Shadow Hunter” and “Demon Hunter” interchangeably, creating severe discontinuity. Even the charismatic and manipulative rebel leader Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) came off as paranoid and lost.


Mortal Instruments seems to be confused about its own genre. At times, the fantasy-drama movie resembles a slasher, a thriller, or even a cheap comedy film. The dialogues were so horribly crafted, with blatant jokes put in inappropriate places, that on many occasions I felt like burying my face in a bucket of popcorn. And just when we thought we’ve seen it all, Mortal Instruments commits a mortal sin by delivering the pick-up line, “I-said-I’d-never-seen-an-angel-but-I-lied”. This reviewer was left speechless.


Despite borrowing all the magic tricks from Harry Potter and the fated love story from Twilight, Mortal Instruments was lost in its search for its own flavour.


While it is doubtful that audiences will return to watch the second movie (in the making), as movie fans we hope that the production team will learn from their mistakes and be able to produce movies worth following in the future.

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