TORONTO — Much-hyped fantasy flick The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones just opened but already the sequel City of Ashes is in pre-production in Toronto (where the first movie was shot).
Is it presumptuous on the part of producers or are there enough fans of Cassandra Clare’s series of novels to make City of Bones a blockbuster?
The movie, directed by Harald Zwart (Agent Cody Banks), stars Lily Collins and Jamie Campbell Bower in addition to several Canadians, including Kevin Zegers, Godfrey Gao and Kevin Durand.
Is City of Bones the last big movie of the summer or the season’s final flop? Here’s a look at what some critics have to say:
Bruce Kirkland of the QMI Agency called City of Bones “smart enough to qualify as quality entertainment” and praised Zwart for giving his actors “time and space to develop their characters without sacrificing the big production needs of the fantasy.”
At Collider.com, though, Matt Goldberg was less kind.
He described City of Bones as “a sloppy, shoddy excuse for a fantasy love story” and criticized Zwart for creating “a directionless, meandering slump of a picture that goes on endlessly.”
Goldberg said the movie is “an interminable slog filled with thinly drawn characters, a ramshackle plot, a laughable love story, and perfunctory mythology that never feels magical.”
Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times apparently agreed with Goldberg.
“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is just a sloppy rag bag of ideas cobbled from other stories. It’s Bella and Edward until it’s Luke and Leia and then maybe it’s not,” he wrote. “By then, audiences may have just thrown up their hands anyway, as the films reaches a noisy, cluttered climax that seems to wrap up nothing and simply turns the page to the next story. Chaste and passionless, the pre-fab franchise of City of Bones has crumbled long before it gets there.”
At the New York Times, Jeannette Catsoulis described City of Bones as “excessively busy and occasionally cheesy.”
She recalled how “a tropical garden hookup between Clary and Jace, complete with plaintive pop music and an on-cue sprinkler soaking, provoked hearty guffaws from my fellow viewers.”
Catsoulis opined that “the bustling plot sacrifices clarity for density, and emotional resonance for flirty one-liners” and complained about “the increasingly messy action scenes and an overabundance of main characters.”
David Berry of Postmedia News put it this way:
“The Mortal Instruments seems like just another entry in the get-special-quick franchise of young adult fantasy, with a plot well tread enough to warrant a toll road. But touches of humour and self-deprecation help redeem it somewhat.”
At HitFix, Geoff Berkshire felt Zwart and screenwriter Jessica Postigo Paquette lacked imagination but said they managed to come up with steady action.
“The overriding lack of originality is redeemed somewhat by a healthy dose of sarcasm and a few novel touches,” Berkshire wrote. “But for most of its two-hour-plus running time Mortal Instruments just chugs along as middling entertainment, never completely boring, and never particularly interesting either.”
Michael Rechtshaffen of The Hollywood Reporter opined City of Bones is nothing but “an overlong, melodramatic take on the age-old battle between the forces of good and evil.”
He added the movie “seldom feels like anything more than a shameless, soulless knockoff.”
Ditto Scott Bowles of USA Today, who said City of Bones “can’t decide which franchise it wants to ape: Twilight, Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings.”
He wrote: “It tries to mimic all three, leaving this young-adult novel adaptation with a nasty split personality. Though it has flashes of promise, Bones traces the footsteps of its fantasy film predecessors too closely to blaze anything close to an original narrative.”
While Bowles said the movie is “slickly shot, briskly paced and replete with expensive effects,” he thought Zwart drained it of “anything approaching tension.”
Though Bruce Ingram of the Chicago Sun-Times found City of Bones familiar, he didn’t hate it.
“There’s nothing here that hasn’t been seen before — Clare having swiped big hunks of plot from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Twilight along with a certain well-known shocking revelation from the Star Wars saga — but everything chugs along briskly and reasonably entertainingly until running off the rails a bit with a wildly overcomplicated finale.”
© Shaw Media, 2013