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The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

 

Ever since Harry Potter cast his spell over movie box offices, film studios have fallen over themselves to find a successor.  Dozens of pretenders have attempted to claim the crown with only a few genuinely succeeding.  The key has been to make the established formula different.  Based on Cassandra Clare’s book series, ‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ gamely gives it a shot with a spell-binding display rivalling Potter’s wizardry antics.

 

Clary (Lily Collins) is a teenager living with Mum Jocelyn (Lena Heady).  Her life changes when she witnesses a murder at a nightclub with her friend Simon (Robert Sheehan).  Bewildered by what she’s seen she is further confused when she meets Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower).  Revealed to be a shadow-hunter – a soldier battling an ongoing demonic war – Jace reveals secrets from Clary’s past.  With the fate of the world in her hands, Clary must face the past in order to protect the future.

 

‘The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones’ faces a problem like many franchise-building films.  It has to effectively establish its world while telling a gripping tale – something it only moderately achieves.  This is notable as its thinly drawn characters become lost in a sea of exposition.   Confusion occasionally reigns although it has an agreeably darker edge over its safer counterparts.  Borrowing heavily from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ the story revels in its awesome gothic trappings.

 

Whilst the action sequences are shot with suitable skill by director Harald Zwart, he has difficulty in breaking free of genre conventions.  ‘Mortal Instruments’ follows a predictable path ultimately making it a generic film.  It serves as a vehicle for further adventures denying it a true identity with too much information crammed in despite its long run-time.  The energetic performances help alleviate any disappointment and are consistently watch-able.

 

Not as a bad start as other similarly themed productions ‘The Mortal Instruments’ could have been better.  Its success or otherwise won’t stop other franchises from surfacing as yet another fantasy book series waits to be perused by Hollywood’s eager money-men.

 

Rating out of 10:  5

Elysium

‘Elysium’s script makes a virtue of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’-motif.  This shouldn’t be too surprising given it’s directed by Neill Blomkamp who helmed the similarly themed ‘District 9’.  Exploring the right of privilege within a science-fiction setting, it makes for a stirring and visually amazing social commentary.  Anchored by a strong cast, its topicality and CGI give it an edge missing over other unmemorable productions.

 

Max (Matt Damon) is a factory worker living on a ravaged Earth in 2154.  When he discovers he has cancer, he determines to find the cure in Elysium.  A space station inhabited by the wealthy Elysium hovers above Earth where society’s poor live.  Forging a new identity and aiming to hijack his way there, Max comes up against a formidable opponent in Elysium’s Defence Secretary Delacourt (Jodie Foster).  On the run from her savage police unit, Max’s desperation for survival gives him the fuel needed to overcome any potential barriers.

 

‘Elysium’ is reminiscent of 1970’s science fiction movies.  Taking their cue in actually being about something than a throwaway robot-fest like recent productions, its substance is a major plus.  It draws you into its story of privilege versus poverty without seeming too clichéd or forced.  Aided by some wonderful special effects, the screenplay is filled with solid characters and interesting ideas.

 

Damon and cast perform their roles with ease.  Foster is especially good as an all too real villain with her character exuding a believable menace.  This ties in well with ‘Elysium’s efforts in making the overall story relatable despite its futuristic trappings.  That is also manages to be highly entertaining is a credit to Blomkamp’s fine directorial skills.  There’s plenty of well-staged action with the tension continually mounting until the gripping finale.

 

It isn’t often a really good science fiction film comes along with ‘Elysium’ being one.  Thoughtful, exciting and captivating, it wouldn’t surprise if this made to any genre fan’s ‘all-time favourite’ lists.

 

Rating out of 10:  9