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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

“City of Bones” is Typical Teen Romance

Published: September 6, 2013
Section: Arts, Etc.

“The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” is a movie somewhat inaptly named, as it has nothing to do with bones or a city of them. The plot of the movie is based around one of the mortal instruments, a golden chalice coveted by both the angels and fallen angels. The movie centers around an underage girl named Clary (Lily Collins) and a Shadowhunter named Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower).

Clary believes that she is a normal girl—she walks around town with her best friend and boy toy, Simon (Robert Sheehan). Simon is, from the first instant, clearly infatuated with Clary, a fact she seems to be oblivious of. The opening scenes of the movie are characterized by some awkward interactions between Clary and her mother, who seem to have a strained relationship from the start. Clary begins to draw strange figures as she daydreams, figures whose meaning she doesn’t know. An aura of foreboding centers on these figures as Clary’s mother stares at them in worry, and Clary wakes up one morning finding her entire room wallpapered with her drawings.

From this moment on, Clary’s entire life changes: her mother is kidnapped and Clary witnesses a murder in a club, a murder that no one else sees. The man who committed the murder then follows her and Simon into a coffee shop, and brings her out into the alleyway behind the store. When Clary finds out that her mother has been kidnapped, she heads home in a rush to find an adorable Rottweiler sitting upstairs. As she tries to edge around it, it mutates into an enormous half-dog, half-octopus tongued creature that consistently re-forms after being hit, stabbed or burned.

Finally, after she is saved by the mysterious man whom only she can see, Clary learns of the existence of an entirely new world that dwells within her own—a world of demons, vampires, witches and, most importantly, Shadowhunters—a cadre of half-human, half-angel warriors who hunt down the evil forces.

After being taken to the Shadowhunter University, Clary begins to learn of her own past in a manner that is all too predictable for a story about a somewhat socially incapable teenage girl—her mother put a block on her memory to make sure that she would remember nothing magical, and this makes Clary feel even more at odds with her mother, who is still missing and she presumes to be dead. She does not seem too upset that her mother is missing, however; This becomes a subplot that Clary returns to every once in a while when she gets distracted from her typical “High School Musical” love triangle. The love triangle itself is absurd from the beginning, as it includes a wide-eyed, 26-year-old, muscled man covered in strange tattoos and a scrawny, annoying and incapable best friend who seems to believe that just because he was always Clary’s friend, he has right to be in a romantic relationship with her.

The love triangle itself takes an awkward twist, as we find out that Clary’s father is the evil Shadowhunter of doom whom everyone warned her about. Clary’s father tells her that her Shadowhunter crush is in fact her brother and that she had awkward incestual hook-ups, something that seems to be more common after Game of Thrones showed that you could make incest appealing. However, the entire premise of this claim, which is known by the audience to be false (because it is declared a lie by the leader of the Shadowhunters), really has no basis. At the very beginning of the movie, Jace states that he is naturally blonde, whereas Clary’s entire family is dark haired. This might be a hint that they can’t be related, but Clary is too busy staring at his tattoos to notice.

The tattoos actually turn out to be various runes used for power and protection. The runes are not explained, however, beyond this point. No one knew where they came from, how to use them, or what they meant. They just existed as part of people’s bodies. At one point, Clary decides to draw a rune on herself, a rune that no one else had ever seen; there was no explanation as to how she knew what to draw or how to draw it.

While the movie was enjoyable to see, it is not worth going out and buying, or seeing again.