The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In New York City, teenager Clary Fray (Lily Collins) begins seeing a strange symbol, worrying her mother Jocelyn Fray (Lena Headey) and her mother’s friend Luke Garroway (Aidan Turner). Later, while attending a nightclub with her best and only friend Simon Lewis (Robert Sheehan), Clary witnesses the murder of a man by the hands of Jace Wayland (Jamie Campbell Bower), whom appears only Clary is able to see. Meanwhile, Jocelyn is abducted by two men, Emil Pangborn (Kevin Durand) and Samuel Blackwell (Robert Maillet), but not before leaving a message for Clary to warn her that someone named Valentine is coming after her. Jocelyn then drinks a potion which leaves her in a comatose state. Returning home, Clary is attacked by a demon, but Jace appears and kills the demon. He reveals himself to be a Shadowhunter, a warrior trained to slay demons hidden on Earth, such as the man in the nightclub. Jocelyn was a Shadowhunter as well, and Clary has inherited her powers, including the ability to use runes.

Clary and Jace visit Clary’s neighbor and friend of her mother, Madame Dorothea (C. C. H. Pounder), a witch who deduces that Pangborn and Blackwell are after the Mortal Cup, one of the three Mortal Instruments given to the first Shadowhunter by the Angel Raziel, that allows normal humans to become half-Angel Shadowhunters. Simon, now able to see Jace, joins them as they leave to meet Luke in his bookstore. There, they discover that Luke is being interrogated by Pangborn and Blackwell, stating that he cares nothing for Jocelyn, and is after the Mortal Cup himself. The trio then escapes to the Shadowhunters’ base of operations, the Institute, where Clary and Simon meet Jace’s fellow Shadowhunters, Alec Lightwood (Kevin Zegers) and Isabelle Lightwood (Jemima West), and their leader, Hodge Starkweather (Jared Harris), who reveals that Pangborn and Blackwell are working for Valentine Morgenstern (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), an ex-Shadowhunter who betrayed the race of the Nephilim and sought to steal the Mortal Cup to gain control over all Shadowhunters and demons.

Believing the key to find the Mortal Cup lies within Clary’s mind, Hodge instructs Jace to take Clary to the City of Bones, where fallen Shadowhunters are laid to rest, to meet Brother Jeremiah (Stephen R. Hart), a member of the Silent Brothers who probe Clary’s mind and uncover her connection to a powerful warlock, Magnus Bane (Godfrey Gao). Clary, Jace, Simon, Alec and Isabelle meet Magnus in a nightclub, where he reveals that Jocelyn has hired him to block knowledge of the Shadowhunters from Clary’s mind. Their conversation is interrupted when Simon is kidnapped by vampires, leading to a confrontation in a nearby hotel. Their group is nearly killed until the werewolves (that share a truce with the Shadowhunters) intervene and rescue them.

Back in the Institute, Clary shares a moment of romance with Jace during a romantic evening with him in the Institute’s greenhouse, sharing a kiss. Simon confronts Clary about it and Jace gets angry and confused when she refers to it as just a kiss. Simon pours out his heart to Clary and Simon leaves the room leaving Clary feeling guilty.

Clary discovers that the Mortal Cup is hidden inside a tarot card painted by her mother, so the group returns to Madame Dorothea’s apartment to retrieve it. There, they discover the witch has been replaced by a demon sent to steal the Cup. It is killed by Simon and Jace, not before critically wounding Alec, while Clary retrieves the Mortal Cup.

The group returns to the Institute only to find that they have been betrayed by Hodge, who takes the Mortal Cup from Clary and summons Valentine Morgenstern. He reveals himself to be Clary’s father and persuades her to join him in his cause, but she refuses and escapes with help from Luke, who is revealed to be a werewolf. Luke tells Clary that she has a brother called Jonathan, and returns to the Institute with her and his pack to fight Valentine, who uses a forbidden spell to open a portal and summon an army of demons to New York. Simon and Isabelle manage to close the portal with help from Hodge, who sees the error of his ways and sacrifices himself to kill Blackwell. Meanwhile, Magnus arrives to heal the injured Alec, and Luke kills Pangborn.

Clary and Jace fight Valentine, who reveals that they are siblings, and that Jace’s real name is Jonathan. He once more attempts to convince them to join him, but they refuse again and push him through the portal with a false Mortal Cup, and after a brief struggle the portal is destroyed by Jace. Jocelyn is rescued but remains in a coma at the hospital, where Luke accompanies her. Clary assures Simon that although she does not love him back, somebody will. Clary heads back home and uses her powers to repair the damage done to her apartment. Shortly thereafter, Jace appears, confessing that he needs her and wants her to come back with him to the Institute. Without much thought, she agrees to go with him.


Harry Potter has come and gone, becoming a part of cinematic lore. Since then, Hollywood has been struggling, and I emphasize that word, to find the next young adult novel that will go on to make them lots and lots of money. The Twilight franchise, much to the chagrin of many who weren’t in the demographic worked, but they’ve also come and gone. The Hunger Games books have proven they can make some bank, but they aren’t going to be around forever, so what else is out there? Well, apparently The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.

What is this about?

After teen Clary Fray witnesses a murder at a New York nightclub, a sinister stranger named Valentine attacks and kidnaps her mother. Endowed with supernatural vision, Clary recruits a band of youthful human-angel hybrids to help rescue her mother.

What did I like?

Effects. The CG demons and werewolves were pretty impressive, especially the demon dog that attacks our heroine. I went into this film expecting some cheesy effects and was pleasantly surprised that wasn’t the case. I can’t recall if this was released in 3D, but I’m sure if it was, people would be gushing about how great these creatures looked.

Bach. Johann Sebastian Bach is far from my favorite composer. Apparently, when his music is played, it affects demons. At first, I though this was a nice little bit of comedy thrown in there, as well as some demon hunter history, but it turns out that Bach actually was a hunter, himself. When they show the portrait of him above the piano, you can faintly see the tattoo he is covering above his wrist. Did I mention that my college mascot was a Demon? Perhaps that is why his music affect me so. Ha!

Tone. While watching those Twilight movies, all I wanted to do was slit my wrists. That isn’t a commentary on the films themselves, but rather a statement regarding the morose tone they maintained throughout the entire franchise. Truly, it wasn’t as bad as something like Requiem for a Dream or Black Swan, but man, those films are not happy. Luckily, this film (and perhaps the books?) don’t go down that path. Sure the leading man is a bit of a downer, but on a whole, the film won’t depress you, depending on how you feel about the villains, of course.

What didn’t I like?

Mix and match. One cannot help but notice the amount of genres that seem to be shoved in here. Pretty much if you can name the sci-fi franchise, it is in here somewhere. This would’ve worked, but this seems to be more done to make the film appeal to the male demographic, rather than move the film forward. Yes, guys want to see action and such, but not at the expense of good filmmaking.

Comedy. Usually, I am the last one to bitch and moan about jokes thrown in here and there, but the jokes that are force-fed to us all fall flat. Whomever it was that wrote the jokes obviously did not know how to write a joke. I appreciate the attempt at comedy, I really do, but if you can’t do it right, then don’t do it at all.

Casting call. The cast isn’t horrible, just full of more “pretty people” that you would see on the CW. As it turns out, looks don’t mean talent. Many of the cast come off as wooden and stiff. Jonathan Rhys Meyers, as good an actor as he is, is just chewing up scenery and going over the top with his character. If he would have scaled it back just a little it would have worked better.

Having not read the book, I think The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones could go on to become a successful franchise, if they listen to the criticisms people have with this film and make those changes moving forward (a sequel is planned for next year). Do I recommend this film? Well, if you’re into goth night at Hot Topic, you’ll love the look of it, but as far as the picture itself, I hesitant to give it a recommendation because it isn’t good, but it isn’t bad. It just exists. I may need to read the book and watch again, maybe that will help my decision. For now, I say give it a shot. What harm can that do?

3 1/3 out of 5 stars


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