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Stars: Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Lena Headey, CCH Pounder, Jared Harris and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
Writer: Jessica Postigo Paquette; based upon the novel by Cassandra Clare.
Director: Harald Zwart

Rating: 1.5/5

From its clunky title resembling more a typing class exercise than a sequel- friendly franchise starter through to its gapingly illogical and overwrought climax, Harald Zwart’s adaptation of author Cassandra Clare’s teen fantasy romancer is a shallow, noisy and occasionally giggle-inducing mess.

The latest entrant in the “Who is going to be the next Twilight?” game that Hollywood continues to obsess over (note recent non-starters The Host and Beautiful Creatures), this self-conscious, irony-free plodder reeks of focus-group input, their brief apparently to pinpoint every reusable and exploitable aspect of Stephanie Meyer’s work then up the production stakes to the level of gaudy camp. Other pop-culture reference points include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Wars, Men in Black and, of course, Harry Potter, but any chance that Zwart’s cacophonous melodrama will attain similar lasting importance are nil.

Our every-girl heroine is Clary (Lily Collins), who lives with mum (Lena Headey) in Brooklyn. She’s 13, cute and cool, partial to attending poetry groups with her best-bud Simon (Robert Sheehan) who, naturally, has secret longings for her. With the onset of the sudden self-awareness associated with puberty, she begins to notice symbols, signs and, most worryingly, sword-wielding ‘shadowhunters’ among the good people of NYC. It seems Clary comes from a long line of these human/angel hybrid warriors, who slay the demons that live amongst the ‘mundanes’ (that’s us regular folk, everyone…).

Most charismatic amongst the hunters is the chiselled R-Patz clone,  Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), who is soon in a romantic tug’o’war for Clary’s affections with Simon and most other boy-men demon-slayers she comes across (except for Kevin Zegers’ Alec, who secretly fancies Jace). Having somehow acquired a new wardrobe of fetishistic-influenced combat garb (Clary rightly ask, “Why do I have to dress like a hooker?”), she and her shadowhunter posse (each one ripped and splashed with the coolest in body art, as you’d expect) set about slaying demons, werewolves, warlocks and witches (veteran actress CCH Pounder whoops it up as a black-magic witch in one of the film’s more entertaining characterisations).

Succumbing to all the traps of an origin-story episode that more skilled storytellers would handle with greater dexterity, first-time screenwriter Jessica Postigo Paquette allows herself to be bogged down in lore and detail. This dense intricacy may please fans of the books, but it grinds the film to a near standstill on several occasions; not helping at all is some risibly cheesy dialogue. 

Collins is luminously lovely in the lead role and does what she can to keep her head above the waves of convoluted, nonsensical exposition she and her endless parade of co-stars are forced to lumber through. Her portrayal is infinitely more engaging than Kristen Stewart’s mopey protagonist, representing one of the few elements in which this carbon-copy improves upon its ‘inspiration’.  

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