08/20/2013 10:30 | By Simon Thompson, MSN Movies

Movie review - The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones

Will this latest fantasy franchise breathe life into the box office or will it be dead on arrival?

Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones review

Release date: August 21
Certificate: 12A
Starring: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Kevin Zegers, Robert Sheehan, Lena Headey, Jared Harris, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Directors: Harald Zwart

What’s the story?
When her mother disappears, Clary Fray finds out she comes from a line of warriors who protect our world from demons.

What did we think?
Hardcore Mortal Instruments fans will be pleased, yet if you're new to the franchise you may be left feeling a little disappointed.

I love a fantastic fantasy movie. The sad thing is that The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones is not one of them. Sure, it's good enough, but While TMI: COB has one of the best looking casts in the genre (many of whom can actually properly act) and it looks amazing as clearly no expense has been spared here, it is a film that somehow lacks substance.

A lot of stuff goes on, there is back story here by the bucket load, there is some pretty decent action plus there is a lot to look at, sadly, somewhere, at some point, someone forgot to add a good script and inject any real heart into this.

"There is a kiss that does rank up there as a genre gem"

As a result, everything just kind of happens rather than actually wowing the audience.

For those that don’t know, there are six books in The Mortal Instruments series, written by Cassandra Clare, of which five have been published so far  and a sixth is due in 2014. There are also prequel books, The Infernal Devices, and there will be a sequel series, The Dark Artifices, in 2015.

Needless to say, this makes J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter legacy look like a pamphlet. The world of The Mortal Instruments, and everything and everyone in it, isn’t going anywhere for quite a while as, aside from the books, even before this first film adaptation hit cinemas, a sequel was already in preproduction - City of Ashes will arrive in 2014.

"It looks amazing and the cast give decent performances"

Lily Collins plays Clary, a young women who finds out that she has a past and a mystical heritage that she knew nothing about until she witnesses an incident in a club – an incident that no-one human can see. We find out she’s not a human, or a Mundane as they are called here, but she is in fact a mix of Mundane and Shadowhunter (with Shadowhunters being entities that protect our world.)

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Cue lots of ‘How do I know I can trust you’ dialogue, extended family issues and a love story or two (broody Jamie Campbell Bower and geeky Robert Sheehan) and you get where we’re going with this. Sprinkle on some baddies and some double crossing as well as Clary finding out what powers she possess... and what ones no-one ever knew she had... and bingo - Teen angst tied up with a fantasy bow... maybe a nice gothy black one.

Despite being thrilling enough, there is really nothing new here sadly as, even though the setting and the characters have changed, this is just a variation on a theme which leave little else that hasn’t been done in some way before in other fantasy franchises.

What is here, and with the cast in place that does work, it could have been so much more than what we get. It looks amazing and the cast give decent performances, especially when you compare them to the likes of the Twilight movies, but aside from looking great and that feels like it is used to distract us from the lack of originality displayed elsewhere.

There is a kiss that does rank up there as a genre gem, there are scenes in a witch's flat that thrill and also sequences during a final standoff that will excite and draw you in. The movie isn't awful by any stretch but it’s not enough to create any buzz to convert anyone who isn’t a fan already.

Director Harald Zwart is in line to direct the sequel and I really hope that now he has laid the foundations he has more courage to give the next one what it needs - depth, heart, originality and a real reason to go and see it.

Three stars

Verdict: Although hardcore TMI fans will probably enjoy this and think it is the best thing since the last best thing they were obsessed with, for everyone else this is an average fantasy movie with a few exciting moments scattered throughout.

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