News Column

'City of Bones': Potter's Field

August 21, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 21--FAN FICTION hits the big screen in "Mortal Instruments: City of Bones," whose own bones contain the telltale DNA of popular books and movies.

The movie is based on the work of tribute writer turned YA novelist Cassandra Clare, who, in "Bones," synthesizes J.K. Rowling, Stephenie Meyer and (for the random dude who might wander into the screening) George Lucas.

The movie's heroine is Clary (Lily Collins), who awakens sometime after puberty to discover she has hidden powers, which means she is no longer a "mundane" ("muggle" being protected by copyright).

So, she has some of Harry Potter's powers, and some of his problems. Clary's the target of an evil fellow with a three-syllable name that starts with V, whose minions are preparing the way for his slow materialization and return.

She also (big "Twilight" sigh) has two guys in love with her -- a sexy demon-chaser (Jamie Campbell Bower) she likes back and one (Robert Sheehan) she considers just a friend.

As for George Lucas, that's a plot point, although you won't have to wait three movies for the big reveal.

There is a reason, of course, that fan fiction is popular -- fans like formula. But there are some new things here. Clary moves the action to an urban setting, and this opens the door to more and different kinds of characters. One is gay, and complicates the geometry of Meyer's famous love triangle. Also, the werewolves and vampires still hate each other, but they leave the woods and have a big disco fight in a hotel ballroom.

Director Harald Zwart does some borrowing of his own, from David Cronenberg, to give the movie's demons a pulsating, body-horror creepiness that elevates them from dreary digital construction.

The movie's not great; it's obviously not original. But it's not over-dull, it's crisply edited and it's willing to laugh at itself.

Though probably not as often as the audience.

Blog: philly.com/KeepItReel

Online: ph.ly/Movies

GARY THOMPSON Daily News Staff Writerthompsg@phillynews.com, 215-854-5992

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