It seems these days that no great deal of time can go by without a YA adaptation littering our movie screens. With 'Harry Potter' and 'Twilight' out of the way, we now have 'The Hunger Games' and the latest teen fantasy romance, 'The Mortal Instruments'. With six books in the series (not including the 3 prequels and several spin-offs), there’s a lot more eye-rolls and pained groaning to come.
Clary Fray (Lily Collins) is a typical teenager living in Brooklyn. She has her artist mother (Lena Headey), her mother's undetermined male friend Luke (Aiden Turner), and her best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan). When Clary starts drawing symbols and seeing people no one else can see, things go from bad to worse when her mother is attacked and abducted, and Clary learns that she is a Shadowhunter - a half-human, half-angel demon hunter. With this revelation comes new friends - hunky badass Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) and his cohorts Alec (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle (Jemima West). Together, they begin their hunt for the mortal cup, a holy instrument of the Shadowhunters that must be kept out of the wrong hands like Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Myers)... but first they have to find it.
‘The Mortal Instruments’ ticks all the boxes to complete its transition from page to multi-zillion dollar box-office juggernaut. YA fans will rejoice as the casting directors have done their duty with hunky members of the young Hollywood crowd, complete with a range of British accents (both natural and for film purposes), along with a bevy of beauties to keep the lads happy. There’s also romance aplenty (in spite of one slight plot-ushered hiccup that fans of the book are already well aware of), but newcomers will scratch their heads and be left with a slight icky sensation. First-time screenwriter Jessica Postigo has doused the script with some of the most bile-inducing dialogue imaginable; it’s a wonder director Harald Zwart (‘The Karate Kid’) was able to capture a take the actors weren’t dry-heaving in.
Visually strong, the art direction (while painfully cliché) is still powerful and fitting of the genre. Nonetheless, it’s purely style over substance, with loose character development and a flimsy plot, resulting in a disappointingly tedious finished product.