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In contemporary New York City, a seemingly ordinary teenager, Clary Fray (Lily Collins), discovers she is the descendant of a line of Shadowhunters, a secret cadre of young half-angel warriors locked in an ancient battle to protect our world from demons. After the disappearance of her mother (Lena Headey), Clary must join forces with a group of Shadowhunters, who introduce her to Downworld, a dangerous alternate New York filled with demons, warlocks, vampires, werewolves and other deadly creatures.

Review by Louise Keller:
Angels, demons, vampires and werewolves coupled with an impossible love affair to rival that of Twilight are the ingredients of this grand scale fantasy whose theatrical spectacle, yearning romance and tongue-in-cheek sense of humour make it a winner. The fact that Cassandra Clare's first novel in the series has sold 22 million copies in 36 languages will ensure a captive audience, picking up where Twilight left off.

Another parallel is that of a strong female protagonist in Lily Collins, whose portrayal of Clary, the seemingly ordinary girl who discovers things about herself before becoming immersed in a totally different world, is magnet enough to entice us on the journey with her. Aided by superb production design and imaginative special effects, director Harald Zwart creates a wonderful sense of place as the freefall of denizens from the Shadow World takes place.

Clary sees things that other people do not, which is where the story begins. Central to the plot is the search for the elusive cup that will save the Shadowhunters, a breed of half angel humans who protect the human race from evil. No-one is as they seem; after all demons can take possession of anyone.

Story components are repressed memories, a girl with a treasure map in her head, a gothic setting in which lies the gothic City of Bones, a pack of hand-painted tarot cards and a fascinating blue watery portal that leads wherever you want to go. Who is the mysterious Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, excellent) and what is his relationship to Clary and her mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey)?

Battling for Clary's affections are Simon, the bespectacled loyal friend who acquires perfect vision halfway through the film and Jamie Campbell Bower as Jace, the enigmatic Shadowhunter with natural blond hair and intense manner. There were titters from the audience when Jace reveals a secret about Bach as he plays the piano and that the musical sequences and intervals drive demons crazy. (There is an amusing scene to attest this theory.)

There is swordplay and impressive action sequences including one in which fiery demons become paralysed in limbo, their charred forms still sparking with fire. Zwart maintains the momentum and tension throughout, the film erupting with theatrical aplomb as all the aspects of the plot and character interaction reach their climax. The target audience will love it; I was surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A young woman's journey, vampires, supernatural powers, werewolves, demons, shapeshifters and romance ... it'd be fresh and new if these were New Yorkers - or maybe they are, perhaps Cassandra Clare's metaphors for them. Her novel must be a page turner, as long as people could recognise themselves as one of the baddies - or goodies.

There is a sense of déjà vu, even if it's not exactly like one of those other films with vampires, young women on a journey, werewolves and romance ... or those set in an underworld of beasts, with humans in an eternal battle against them. And mysterious potions, mystic portals, wormholes, blue light towers, force fields, murderous bats, two faced enemies and a gorky young lad smitten but not stirred into romance.

The film tends to get bogged down in convoluted exposition and far too many types of baddie, all competing for the title of Real Badass. The fine actors are smothered in gawky, cheesy dialogue and the effects take over from drama. Scenes don't fit together well, at times going from a chaotic and noisy fight scene to characters in adjacent room/s having a tete a tete.

With mainstream filmmakers hoping to engage the kids and youth markets, films like Mortal Instruments will proliferate and we have to make allowances ... but even so, a dialogue doctor could have been called in to at least save the worst excesses of cliché, especially those that are accompanied by cheesy music cues and matching images. With all the slashing and bashing and screaming, it's two hours that feels like three.

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(US/Germany, 2013)

CAST: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Lena Heady, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Kevin Zegers, Kevin Durand, Jared Harris, CCH Pounder

PRODUCER: Don Carmody, Robert Kulzer

DIRECTOR: Harald Zwart

SCRIPT: Jessica Postigo Paquette (novel by Cassandra Clare)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Geir Hartly Andreassen

EDITOR: Joel Negron

MUSIC: Atli Örvarsson


RUNNING TIME: 119 minutes



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