First adaptation of Cassandra Clare’ book strikes the wrong chord.
The Young Adult book market is still a booming and since Twilight scored huge box office numbers every movie studio has tried to recapture its success. The Hunger Games emerged as not only a pretty good movie but proved the Twilight effect could be duplicated, so why has every other adaption been so insultingly bad?
The Mortal Instruments is the latest book franchise to get the movie treatment, despite early trailers showing some promise the end results are a cluttered mess of ideas almost none of which manage to land.
Lilly Collins is ‘seemingly normal teenage girl’ Clary Fray who finds out that her mother Jocelyn (Lena Heady), has been keeping a deep dark secret about their true identity. Plagued by strange symbols, Clary witnesses a murder at a night club by the angelic looking Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower). As nobody else saw the slaying Clary begins to question her sanity but her world is turned upside down when her mother is kidnapped and Jace saves her life from a demon attack.
Clary’ new found friend explains that he’s a Shadowhunter, a highly trained warrior angel fighting a battle against demons hiding in plain sight on Earth. Taking the news that she’s actually a half-angel demon hunter in her stride, they journey to the Shadowhunters HQ (aka The Institute) to stop the dastardly plans of Valentine Morgenstern (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).
Whilst it’s true I’m certainly not in the target demographic for this film, I have a hard time believing that teenagers (or even fans of the books) are going to get on with this any better than me. Overall young adult book adaptations are quite new and as a result there’s not that many films. In the rush to try and be the next big thing the studios are churning these out so fast their not giving any time to important things like script development, structure or even plausible dialogue.
The now obligatory love triangle is simmering away with Robert Sheehan playing Clary’s best friend, for all intent purposes he may as well where a sign around his neck that says ‘Clary I Love You’, actually scratch that because if he did she’d likely miss it anyway. Sheehan is a talented young actor and you only have to look at Misfits or Killing Bono to see he’s a rising star, sadly this won’t be the big break he is deserving of.
Even more damming is a plot so convoluted and poorly explained even the characters have a hard time keeping up with what’s going on. The icing on this messy cake is in the thigh slapping performance from Jonathan Rhys Myers as the ‘villain’. Where to start… rather that spend precious words going into the nuances of just how bad he is in this, let’s just say even a Primary School staged panto would have a villain with more depth, believability and less ham.
From a sheer filmmaking perspective The Hunger Games is the best young adult book turned into a film to date, movie studios need to start understanding that young audiences aren’t as easy to please as they think. Quite how Twilight made billions worldwide will just have to remain one of those unanswered movie mysteries.
At the very least the cast of the movie will be spared the same levels of fan-mania that The Hunger Games and Twilight cast were subjected to. So far The Mortal Instruments isn’t playing well with audiences or critics and has yet to recoup even half its modest production budget. Ahead of the release the producers of the movie began development of the second entry (City of Ashes), so confident in launching a successful series they approached Sigourney Weaver to play a key role. Unless City of Bones has a drastic change of fortune this franchise could be over before it’s started.
Earlier this year The Host flopped at the box office despite being based on the book by Twilight author Stephenie Meyer, add to that the poor performance of the Percy Jackson sequel the lucrative young adult market is a difficult combination for studios to get right. Thankfully The Hunger Games Catching Fire is out in cinemas in a couple of months which should once again show the competition how to make a decent movie. It’s a rare thing to find almost nothing redeemable about a film but in this case The Mortal Instruments starts on an off key note and gets more unbearable as it goes on.
The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is out now in cinemas but as it contains borrowed bits from every young adult film made, technically you’ve already seen it.