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Clare's phenomenally popular novels are jam-packed with character development, plot twists, and thorough supernatural world building. But aside from some humorous zingers and visually appealing set pieces, the first movie based on her book franchise doesn't live up to the expectations of her large fandom. The main problem is that while all of the subplots and secondary characters -- not to mention an intricate cosmology about angels, demons, and other creatures of the light (or darkness) -- make complete sense in a 500-page novel, director Harald Zwart and screenwriter Jessica Postigo have trimmed altogether too much in some ways and not enough in others, creating a movie so convoluted and unresolved that it doesn't work as a stand-alone film.
Lovers of the series will appreciate that secondary characters like Simon and Isabelle (Jemima West) were cast perfectly; Sheehan is brilliant as Clary's nerdy, funny, devoted, and smitten best friend, Simon, while West is exactly the gorgeous, kick-butt warrior Clare describes. And High Warlock of Brooklyn Magnus Bane (model-actor Godfrey Gao) is every bit as magnetic as in the series. But overall, the leads leave much to be desired, and their love story -- so epic in the books -- seems laughably cliche in this adaptation. There's already a second film planned, so the filmmakers will need to drastically streamline the story and give more screen time to supporting players for it to work.