The ingredients of successful young-adult fantasy franchises have, with repetition, become immediately apparent: easily identifiable heroes and immersive, magical world-building. For every multi-film Harry Potter phenomenon there's a handful of Golden Compasses or Eragons, indicating that the target demo, adolescents, are savvy consumers. They know that the best of these series construct deeply felt mythologies around characters fans feel like they could somehow be. The first adaptation of Cassandra Clare's The Mortal Instruments novels, City of Bones, does neither, playing onscreen as an endless parade of derivative genre tropes, even tedious and convoluted when it dares to break the formula-- there may or may not be an incest subplot. Lily Collins headlines as Clary Fray, a teenager who quickly discovers that she and her mother, Jocelyn (Lena Headey), are shadowhunters, those of angelic blood who hunt demons. Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower), another shadowhunter, comes to her rescue when Clary discovers that her mother is missing. Simon (Robert Sheehan), Clary's best friend, is a mundane, a person unable to see these magical realms. Together, the trio begins the usual epic adventure of good vs. evil in which ancient worlds collide and Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Jared Harris engage in swordplay. The nomenclature varies slightly, but there's little new or exciting in City of Bones. For strong female role models and unique fantasy settings, stick with The Hunger Games. The adaptation of the second book has already been announced, but the series already seems as if it has outlived its mortality.
Director: Harald Zwart
Writer: Jessica Postigo Paquette and Cassandra Clare
Cast: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Aidan Turner, Jemima West, Godfrey Gao, CCH Pounder, Jared Harris and Jonathan Rhys Meyers