Movie Review: The Mortal Instruments — City of Bones

[Note:  I will be spoiling the fuck out of this movie, so if by any chance you wanted to see it, look away now.]

Basically the only reason I saw this was because biomom decided she wanted to go to a movie and I wanted to see a mindless supernatural action romp….and this was really the only movie I was even remotely interested in seeing.

Before we begin, I should note that I have NOT (and don’t intend to) read the books, so everything I say will only apply to the movie from the perspective of someone who is completely new to the series.

Clary Fray is your average American teenager who lives with her artist mother. One evening, while at a nightclub with her friend Simon, she witnesses a murder by a man that no one else can see, not only that, but she is constantly seeing and drawing strange symbols all over the place. Clary’s life quickly takes a turn for the worse as she’s attacked in her home by demons (who are, naturally, all over the place) and must cooperate with Shadowhunters–humans with angelic blood who hunt and destroy demons. Oh, and there’s this other Shadowhunter named Voldemort Valentine and it seems that everyone’s after this thing called the Mortal Cup which the Shadowhunters need to make more Shadowhunters, except Voldemort Valentine is an asshole about it. Shadowhunters make use of magical symbols called runes (which are apparently traced in the air or drawn/etched into the skin by a device that looks like a combination of a wand and magic marker) but it also seems like some are born with certain abilities. Also, runes apparently kill muggles Mundanes because they;re not strong enough to handle them.

Let’s get out our checklists, people:

Dangerous sixteenth (or however old she is) birthday? Check.

At least one dead parent? Check. (And her mother spends most of the movie unconscious or something anyways.)

Main character has extraordinary, rare powers? Check.

Main character has amnesia so she can’t use most of those powers until she pulls them out her ass suddenly remembers them? Check.

Love triangle between badass supernatural bad boy and boring “normal” comic relief? Check,

Fantasy kitchen sink? In the movie we have demons, angels, vampires, warlocks (and a witch) and the Shadowhunters themselves (zombies don’t exist). Check and check.

Basically what we have here is a recipe for your typical YA urban fantasy novel which I can pretty much sum up as “Well, at least it was better than Twilight,” because it was easily head and shoulders over Twilight.  I know that’s not saying much, but at least this movie had honest-to-goodness action sequences where things died and stuff.

Twilight had what? Super fast baseball?

Anyways, this movie basically involves Clary and friends doing a lot of running around in between trying to help her remember shit–oh, look, gay characters–and not telling her what’s going on until she really needs to know and engaging in a sad attempt at a love triangle because let’s face it, love triangles in YA are generally horrible and always work out the same way and why does anyone, author or otherwise, even bother with it? Oh, because “tension”, I see. Anyways, there really aren’t any surprises here.

Oh wait, except it turns out that bad boy Jace is really Clary’s brother, and that onscreen kiss they share is really incestuous and awkward except he’s not really her brother because I checked the wiki.

We have a couple of gay characters–Alec, a Shadowhunter who spends most of his time grumbling because he has a thing for Jace (who is, of course, completely heterosexual) and Magnus, who is the number one Warlock in Brooklyn. Magnus is actually a twofer because he’s a POC (apparently biracial in the books but played by an Asian actor) and there’s also Dorothea, who is a black witch (and who is replaced by a demon who ends up being killed, yay) that’s besides all the extras.

In short, yeah, there’s nothing too exciting here. There were some lines that made me chuckle and the action scenes were decent for this sort of film. See it if you’re really bored or you’ve read the books and want to have your headcanon ruined, but other than that, it’s just another YA series-to-movie thing, nothing special.

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2 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Mortal Instruments — City of Bones

  1. I reeeeeeeeeally wish I could go ‘yay!’ for Alec and Magnus eventual relationship – but Alec’s “wah wah you’re bi so i’m going to be rude to you how dare you sleep with a woman before i was even born” shtick takes a lot of my friendliness toward that part of the series out. Yay, queer characters! Boo queer characters that are presented as catty and also biphobic. (I for one thought most of the characters, in the movie at least, were vapid and waaay too catty and focused on who’s sleeping with who. Like, if things are as unstable with the Shadowhunters as they say they are, why aren’t they focusing on actually getting stuff done?? Why can the romance not wait?? Will this forever be a problem that plagues YA??)

    1. Unfortunately, the romance subplot is practically a genre staple (particularly the more paranormal/supernatural/fantastical the story gets) and love triangles are an easy way to create tension between characters.

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