Making the Grades
Is there anything worse than being called mundane? Apparently not if teen movies are reflective of real life. But it’s not good enough to just be undiscovered royalty or a celebrity-in-waiting. Now everyone wants a super power. Chalk this fantasy up to Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Bella Swan, even Kick-Ass, and a myriad of other teen characters who suddenly discover their alter ego or that of their friends.
Clary Fray (Lily Collins) finds out she is more than a mere human when she begins to spontaneously draw the same mysterious pattern over and over again. Then she starts seeing things her friend Simon (Robert Sheehan) can’t see — things like a man being murdered in the middle of a crowded nightclub.
Only after being whisked away by a hooded character to a castle-like edifice hidden in the middle of downtown New York City does she discover she is the descendent of Shadowhunters—half human, half angel. Like so many heroines in this genre, the fate of the world rests on her dainty shoulders.
However, thanks to a magic spell of sorts, she can’t remember much about her past. And what she does remember isn’t true. (For instance, that picture of the US soldier killed in the Iraqi war is not really her dad.) Unfortunately the only way to unlock her memories is to visit the warlock (Godfrey Gao) who cast the incantation upon her in the first place. To attract his attention she has to dress like a whore—her words not mine.
The story, based on a series of novels by Cassandra Clare and pegged as the possible next Twilight successor, certainly has all the elements to appeal to its targeted demographic, including a love triangle with Clary at the center. Yet the film suffers from many of the same problems as Twilight. First of all the script and acting are unremarkable at best. And it’s no surprise that Clary is willing to dump steady, thoughtful Simon in favor of the more dangerous and sexy Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower) who charms her with his stash of weapons and messy blonde locks. While that plot isn’t new (it’s been around even before Sandy Olsen exchanged pink frills for black leather in order to attract Danny Zuko in Grease), it’s one that makes romance look more like a game of roulette.
Meanwhile, the violence in this film consists of negligible blood, but we still see characters impaled, stabbed, cut with knives and brutally beaten. Seemingly normal humans also metamorphose into horrific beasts and monsters that slash and gash their way across the screen. As well there are scenes depicting an apparent suicide, self-mutilation and brief sexual innuendo.
Forced to look for a hidden goblet that will help restore balance (and provide plenty of storyline for the next movie), Clary is warned to trust no one, even those closest to her. Although the thrill of being anything but mundane (the film’s label for humans) might make Clary feel heady for a while, the advice leaves her with no one to turn to in a place where demons and death wait around every corner. And that’s a message that can make the world look like a big, bad place—even to a teen with super powers.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
Jamie Campbell Bower who plays Jace also had roles in the Harry Potter and Twilight series. What appeal do you think his character has to viewers in this genre? What kind of actors best fit the fantasy image? Can an actor get pigeonholed in a particular role because of their looks?
If you could have any super power what would it be?
What role do parents play in this movie? Can a person choose to make different decisions than their parents did? Why do some of the characters believe that, “to love is to destroy”?