Movie Review: “The Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones” – Out of Tune

Written by Tommy August 28, 2013


I was pretty surprised that “City of Bones” was bad: I was expecting just a six out of ten, harmless fantasy thing, but nope. The movie is flat out bad. Its plot is a mish-mash of tired cliches and bizarre twists, plot elements are introduced and then completely forgotten, and that’s not even getting into the weird/lame romance and vague racism and homophobia.

So in a plot ripped from every thirteen year old’s Deviant Art account, average teenager Lily Collins discovers that, unlike the popular kids at school other “mundane” humans, she’s secretly a half-human half-angel who is destined to protect the Earth from demons. It’s up to her and her team of hunky leather-clad friends to save the world.

Subpar Subversion

This is a movie that’s unoriginal and it knows it. Because of this, it tries to subvert the classic tropes that people are expecting. This would be admirable if it didn’t end up fulfilling the tropes anyway. These kinda YA movies usually have a bland, helpless protagonist who is saved by a hunky guy, so they purposefully put in a scene where she MacGuyvers up a way to protect herself from a monster. And you’re like “Oh yay she saved herself.” Then the monster comes back and she’s saved by a hunky guy (who, needless to say, has a tragic past and is full of angst.) Then later on, she’s wounded and hunky guy is trying to help her, and she goes “Let me guess, this is the part where you rip your shirt off to bandage my wounds?” But then that’s pretty much what happens. Then, when she discovers her destiny as a demon hunter, they dress her up in the traditional sexy black leather outfit of their ancient, holy order. The character goes “This costume is ridiculous!” in a nod to the viewer, but she wears it anyway (through the whole movie). They fulfill all the cliches you’d expect, but try to brush it off with a wink to the audience to trick you into thinking it’s subversive or ironic.


This is an official promo poster. Screw you, movie.

Hunks, Hearts, and Headaches

Worst of all is the absolutely abominable love story. Don’t get me wrong here, I’m not trying to be all “eww gross kissing,” but it is seriously dumb in “City Of Bones”. I defy you not to laugh out loud when Lily and Hunky Guy start making out, and at that exact moment sprinklers kick in, and also at that exact moment an embarrassingly 80’s song starts playing. It’s like a parody of a young adult movie. Even worse is the messages this film puts forward like the enabling of friend-zone BS. Multiple times in the story, characters get mad at Lily for “stringing along” her dorky friend by… being friends with him? And later on a character confesses his love for her by saying “I was always there for youuuu” like he earned her love by talking to her a lot. It’s played up like some romantic, tragic moment, but it’s just dumb Nice Guy malarkey.

So by this point everything’s been obvious and cliched, but at least it’s been familiar and safe. Then the twist hits. A twist that is so baffling in its construction that even now I struggle to deduce what the point of it was. It makes everything weird. And gross. Before this the movie would have been a perfectly fine movie for a young tween to go to, but after the twist they’re going to be creeped out.


Little Things

I’m running out of space to talk about this, so let me just go rapid fire through some of the other niggling things I don’t like about “City of Bones”. First, it has an absolutely terrible villain. You only see him in flashback through the story, he does absolutely nothing to threaten out protagonist, then when he shows up it builds up like some dramatic moment, but its just some guy with braids. Second, this movie has really weird racist and homophobic underpinnings. The only black character (heck, the only non-white character), is a stereotypical mystical Haitian witch-doctor type, and the only (openly) gay character is a comically hyper-sexualized flirt who wears tiny pants and high heels. It’s very off putting. Third, this movie brings up what would be important elements, then doing absolutely nothing with them. One character confronts another and says “admit it, you’ve always loved him!” Then the other character storms off, and that whole conflict is literally never mentioned again. I guess it’s just sequel baiting or something, but gimmie some resolution.

So yeah, “City of Bones”: it starts off as boring, safe, and harmless, then halfway through dips into crazy town, and all the way through is just dumb. I guess if you know a kid who really likes the books you can see it. But even then, yeeeeesh.

My Rating: 4.0/10


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What a Cool Guy.

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