The latest in a growing list of young-adult fantasy literature adaptations, The Mortal Instruments aims at the same audience as previous literary adaptations Harry Potter, the Twilight saga and The Hunger Games.
Located in the heart of New York City and invisible to "mundanes" (ordinary humans), Downworld is filled with battling angels, demons, warlocks, vampires and werewolves. If you're not familiar with Cassandra Clare's popular novels, you'll be thankful for the extensive scene-setting as the alliances, agendas and jargon take some getting your head around.
Lily Collins (Mirror, Mirror) is well-cast as brave, smart young heroine Clary, managing to convince in both the action and fraught romantic scenes. Clary is thrown headfirst into Downworld when she begins seeing leather-clad and tattooed Goths invisible to everyone else. Then her mother Jocelyn (Headey) is kidnapped from their home.
What Clary's mum should have told her is she's from a long line of Shadow Hunters. A dying race, the Shadow Hunters are half-human, half-angel and their role is to hunt and kill demons. It's Jocelyn who holds the key to their survival, a Mortal Cup which has the power to create new demon-slayers, and she knows where it's hidden. Clary must find her mum and the cup before it falls into the hands of Valentine (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), a Shadow Hunter gone bad.
There are same pretty grotesque and disturbing demons on show, although the werewolves don't morph into the live action as seamlessly as the demons or vampires, and a portal to another dimension looks like it's been borrowed from Stargate.
That said, director Harald Zwart (The Karate Kid) has successfully brought to life an olde world in the modern day with a dark, dangerous gothic-inspired aesthetic that suits New York City.
The romance also gets a pass, even if it's a little shaky.
Clary has a couple of love interests, her sweet best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan) and sexy demon slayer Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower).
Though she's in a race to save her mother there's plenty of time for lingering embraces with Jace, including a passionate kiss with enough water raining down to think this has swerved into Nicholas Sparks territory. The effort to appeal to almost everyone means The Mortal Instruments doesn't quite flow for either fans or newbies.
The amount of scene-setting may disappoint those familiar with the story and looking for more, but this is an interesting world and story to explore. And with five more books in the series, we'll undoubtedly get a chance to do just that.
Cast: Lena Headey, Lily Collins
Director: Harald Zwart
Running time: 130 mins
Rating: M (fantasy violence)
Verdict: Sexy, stylish and cheesy - Twi-hards will love it