This is one of those teen fantasy/romance book series that’s trying to expand it’s success to the big screen. Just like TWILIGHT. Now, I hated hated hated those movies. Not the concept, but the execution. But when I saw the trailer for this, I became mildly intrigued. I DO like fantasy movies, and this one looked to be chock full of demons and creatures and action and fun, so I wasn’t dreading this like so many other critics. I gave it a fair shot. Also, my 10-year-old daughter was really looking forward to it too (for the record, she’s NOT a fan of TWILIGHT).
The movie opens (after a 1992-like generic helicopter shot of a city) with our heroine Clary (Lily “will you please wax my eyebrows” Collins). She is a seemingly ordinary teenager who lives with her seemingly ordinary mom and boyfriend. Clary also has a best friend named Simon who is (obviously to us,but not to Clary), in love with her. After a horrendous poetry reading (do people still do that?), they go to a club where Clary witnesses a murder. But no one else saw it. Simon thinks she was just overwhelmed with the atmosphere of the club. Um….OK…… The next day, Clary keeps seeing the brooding, long blonde-haired hunk killer from the club all over town. No one else can see him apparently. She gets a call from her mom telling her not to come home. A couple of oversized, aging muscleheads kidnap Clary’s mom, and then the bomb drops. This hunky killer (named Jace) informs Clary that she is not a mundane (meaning human). She has powers. Her mother is a warrior who battles demons, vampires werewolves around the world. Now, it’s up to Clary to embrace her destiny, which is to save the world I guess. Simon is also brought along for the ride, which ignites a love triangle, since Clary has the hots for Jace. And then there’s a subplot of one of Jace’s male colleagues having a crush on him. There’s also a villain named Valentine who wants to rule the world. Clary holds the key to destroying him.
Lots and lots of shit going on here. Now, I like this kind of stuff. But it has to be explained clearly. THE MATRIX had lots of stuff happening, but it was presented in such a way that made sense. THE GOLDEN COMPASS on the other hand was hard to follow. Well, that’s the case with this movie. Things happen with little or no explanation. When you’re introducing an audience to a new world, you have to make sure that things are spelled out clearly. But within 20 minutes, the plot is in full force, which made it really hard to grasp the rules of this fantasy universe. So there are werewolves and vampires? Okay. At first I thought it was just a bunch of good-looking sorcerer’s trying to kill each other with lightning bolts shooting out of their asses… but if you say so…. The biggest problem with this movie is that it actually expects you to swallow all this shit they’re slinging at you. It’s not that simple guys. Explain it in a way that makes sense within the universe you have created. Sheesh! The movie seems to be making everything up as it goes along. It’s ridiculous and borderline incoherent.
The acting….. yup…. we’re back in TWILIGHT territory. It’s pretty atrocious across the board. Lily Collins is kind of cute, but doesn’t have the charisma to carry a picture on her own. She’s not a bad performer, just a “blah” one. Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace, I’m convinced, just watched Robert Pattinson’s performance from TWILIGHT, and did his best to emulate it, which he is pretty successful at. Meaning he sucks ass! He just gives brooding glances to Collins and speaks in a monotonous voice while trying his best not to show any emotion with his face. At least he’s not ugly like Pattinson was. Robert Sheehan is supposed to be the ugly nerd in love with Collins, but when he takes his glasses off in the second half (conveniently)…. surprise! He’s better looking than Jace! Fucking stupid! Jonathan Rhys Meyers, whom I am generally a fan of, is just collecting a paycheck here as the villain. There is no effort visible in his performance. Unless you call talking with a scratchy voice effort….which I don’t! Lena Heady is boring as the mom. Jared Harris is underused. Kevin Durand gives a confusingly dopey performance as one of two boneheaded henchmen. Were they supposed to be comic relief? …..because they weren’t menacing at all. Either way, he doesn’t succeed. And then there’s the supposed friend of Simon and Clary’s who reads poetry. He is an offensively dopey looking schmuck obviously played for laughs. I thought we were done laughing at these sorts of characters in 1999. I guess not…..
The direction is mediocre at best. Zwart seems to have no distinct vision, especially when he resorts to inserting generic 2nd unit aerial photography every 5 minutes to transition from scene to scene. The action is not filmed very well either. There was a small sliver of excitement during the vampire battle, but that’s it. Otherwise, the fighting is filmed in a sloppily incoherent manner. I don’t understand why filmmakers want to cut up their action. Is it because they don’t know how to shoot it? Are they self-conscious about it> Well, if they are…. you know what they should do? WATCH SOME FUCKING ICONIC ACTION MOVIES AND TAKE SOME GOD DAMN POINTERS. Sheesh! If I was given the opportunity (not to mention millions of dollars) to make a thriller fantasy adventure, then I would make every effort to make it an actual good movie! What the fuck guys?!?!?!?
The script is pretty bad. Besides the clunky structure, the dialogue is atrocious. I’m talking TWILIGHT bad. There’s a really bad love scene when Jace and Clary kiss and the sprinkler system goes off. All of this while a really terrible Demi Lovato song plays on the soundtrack. Then there are some ludicrous developments that involve incest that just made my head spin. All of these bad things DID make me laugh out loud quite often. I don’t think that was the filmmakers’ intention though….. was it?
Which reminds me…. Okay, so when I saw my press screening of this, it was full of teenage fans of the books, all wearing shirts and symbols of the warriors. But, they were laughing at every single bad thing that I was laughing at. And then I heard several of them afterwards saying that they loved it. My daughter also admitted that the acting was bad, but said she couldn’t explain why she enjoyed herself. It’s just like TWILIGHT. Every fan of those movies will tell you how bad they are, and yet, they admit to loving it. And that made me think. What do I love that everyone else hates….. that would be the STAR WARS prequels. I love them. I recognize that some of the acting is bad, but I even enjoy the bad things in those movies. They entertain and amuse me. That has to be kind of the same way these teens love movies like TWILIGHT. THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES is just like that. It’s just terrible (I’m talking BREAKING DAWN PART 1 bad). But fans of the book will just eat it up. I guess I can’t get mad at them for liking this, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Cause this shit sucks!
There is an audience for this movie, and I’m not it. I gave it a fair shake, but in the end this is a poorly acted, written and directed movie. It has a few decent effects, but big hairy dick deal. To me it felt and looked like a rejected TV series from the CW. So, to wrap this up: Fortunately for Twi-Hards, this IS the next TWILIGHT. Unfortunately for everyone else, this IS the next TWILIGHT. ★ (out of ★★★★)
– Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of fantasy violence and action, and some suggestive content.
– Running time: 2hrs 10min