Man, I know that we're beginning to face a problem with this recent fad of making corny, young adult girl literature, but I for one would never have expected to see something this cheesy by classic detective literature novelist Michael Connelly. ...Oh no, wait, this is an adaptation of Cassandra Clare's "City of Bones", it's just that I got confused because Connelly also wrote a book called "City of Bones", Lily Collins looks too much like Jennifer [u]Connelly[/u], and this story, like a detective narrative, is, in fact, about people on the hunt for evildoers. Don't worry too much, people, because the movement of teen girl cheesification of cool horror mythologies is clearly coming to an end, because you know that you've started to run out of material when you have to resort to cheesing up the monster/demon hunter mythology, you know, about as much as it can be cheesed up. I don't know, "Blade" did kind of secure this subject matter's coolness, and to tell you the truth, "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" kind of helped, because as stupid as it was, it was pretty cool, unlike this film, even though I will give this flick credit for actually attempting the accents that they didn't even try to don in "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters", with the exception of Lily Collins, that is. I understand that Collins' character is a New Yorker, even with an English mother, and that Collins' natural English-American accent is thin to begin with, but she might want to think about digging up the British roots sometime soon, in order to remind people that she at least comes from a family that had more integrity than her in the entertainment industry. You know there's a problem when Phil Collins keeps more consistent with integrity, and let me tell you, this film doesn't exactly help, and I'm not just saying that because it steals elements from so many young adult fantasy stories that it's bound to rob flicks with integrity and without integrity. Actually, maybe that is what I mean, for although the final product isn't exactly polishing Collins' resume, it carries a couple commendable attributes, whether they be stolen or not.
Atli Örvarsson's score is pretty formulaic, but it's more heartfelt than it probably should be in a film so lazy, offering a near-gothic neo-classical style that captures both the tone of this dark melodrama and your ears with some beautiful compositions, while your eyes go caught by Geir Hartly Andreassen's cinematography, whose gritty coloring is sometimes amateur-feeling and often hard to make out, but consistently handsome, to some degree or another. Andreassen's visual style is particularly attractive behind subtly sharp art direction by Anthony A. Ianni that offers decent production values and visuals, even when the visuals are incorporated in post-production, rather than immediately before Andreassen's lens. Well, the effects aren't that outstanding, and even carry faulty occasions, but they're generally pretty decent, being generally adequately convincing, with design concept that are pretty clever, especially when they compliment some actually pretty decent action sequences. Stylistically, the film isn't too shabby, and that's the best thing that I can say about it, yet it's not like substance is completely fall-flat, being trite, but mostly in execution, for the basic story concept itself has some refreshing and complex, if a tad unsubtle and soapishly cheesy approaches to darkly whimsical subject matter that builds an intriguing mythology behind a promising plot. Sure, the plot is flawed, even on paper, but potential is there, and I find that hard to deny when director Harald Zwart actually wakes up, offering a storytelling performance that is often cold and mess, yet has moments of bite to style and meditativeness. Now, this meditativeness is often a huge problem, because if nothing else ruins this film, it's not so much messiness, but rather extreme blandness, which is admittedly challenged enough by sharp style and promising subject matter - sometimes done some genuine justice through direction - for the final product to border on decent. I may earn myself some heat for going so far as to say that, but for me, this comes really close to likable, yet even to me, it ultimately falls short as mediocre and misguided, even with its characterization.
I suppose ambiguity is not simply recommended, but needed in this character study that is built on some sorts of complexities, but characterization feels seriously lacking, with lazy conventionalism to exacerbate a lack of genuineness, which can also be found within the cast's portrayals of the thinly drawn characters. The acting is not as bad as they say, but whether it be because of a lack of acting material or mediocre direction, it's frequently underwhelming, if not simply mediocre, with weak occasions to particularly reflect a lack of acting inspiration, which I can kind of understand, seeing as how it's hard to sell material like this. I've heard a lot of complaints regarding the comic relief, and I myself surprisingly found a fair bit of it reasonably amusing, if a little typical, but it's still often pretty fall-flat, or at least jarring when it breaks dramatic tension, which, to be fair, is limited to begin with, not just by the underdevelopment, but by histrionics that reflect storytelling laziness about as much as familiarity. As I said earlier, there are conceptually refreshing element to this story concept, so this project has the potential to be relatively unique, but the final product is generally downright trite, building its mythology with too many hallmarks of other mythologies, and building a plot with an abundance of pratfalls. The film is hopelessly predictable, as well as lazily drawn, and quite frankly, Harald Zwart's direction is not strong enough to compensate, for although his meditativeness is sometimes genuinely effective, when a little bit of flare comes into play, storytelling is generally too lacking in flare to be even mildly engaging, unless, of course, you would consider your attention being called more towards other glaring storytelling issues a factor in engagement value. To tell you the hard truth, I didn't find this film to be as flawed as they say, so what really undercuts the final product is simply directorial coldness, which results in unfocused meandering that, while sometimes punctuated by genuine bite, is distancing something fierce, and about as recurring as any flaw. Of course, it's not like lazy direction is even close to this film's only problem, because even though laziness is a much bigger issue than all-out messiness, the final product is all too frequently misguided to sustain enough of your investment to escape mediocrity.
To breaks things down to their bare "bones" (I'm sorry, but forget it, I'm tired of talking about this film, so I may as well get a juvenile giggle), good style is powered by sharp score work and cinematography, as well as decent effects, while potential to this reasonably intriguing subject matter is done enough justice by highlights in direction for the final product to come pretty close to decency, only to fall short under the pressure of the underwhelming acting, underdeveloped, uneven, histrionic and all-around trite writing, and generally cold direction that make "The More Instruments: City of Bones", not too far shy of fair, but ultimately downright mediocre as yet another forgettable beat in the recent young adult dark fantasy fad.
2.25/5 - Mediocre