A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones" will make you yearn for more "Twilight" movies. Based on the first novel in Cassandra Clare's six-book young adult romance/fantasy series, "City of Bones" is essentially a reaction to Stephenie Meyer's sparkly-vampire-vs.-werewolves-with-six-packs saga. But "City of Bones" is even more conflicted about serving up sex-less sex for tweens than the "Twilight" films are. You can see that tension-less tension in a scene where one male love interest keeps his shirt on.
Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower)—a brooding, blonde demon-hunter—does shed his top later in "City of Bones." But when Clary (Lily Collins), the film's main protagonist, gets a wound on her forearm, she jokes that Jace will stanch her wound with his shirt. "If you wanted me to get naked, you just had to ask," he winks. Jace then keeps his shirt on and heals her with rune magic. This isn't the last time "City of Bones" tries to set itself apart from "Twilight." It tries to do the same things that "Twilight" does but it goes about it in even worse ways, with weird ideas about romance and almost-sex. Admittedly, you may want to take the admonitions and speculation of a twenty-something male film critic with a pinch of salt. But if "City of Bones" is going to address hormonal teens, even ones who will be seeing the film with their mothers, then the film really shouldn't make such a big thing of wanting a little canned romance, and some eye candy, too.
Like most YA heroines, Clary is not your average teenage girl. She realizes the extent of her above-averageness after she sees a forceps-like symbol everywhere she goes. Soon after she sees this loaded symbol in the foam head of her cappuccino, Clary's world is turned upside down. Musclebound, leather-clad heavies attack her home and force her mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey) and Jocelyn's boyfriend Luke (Aidan Turner) to run away. Clary looks for answers with two boys who have feelings for her: Jace, a mysterious Byronic boy with runes all over his body, and Simon (Robert Sheehan), a nebbish childhood best friend with flat abs. With the help of Jace's equally secretive friends, Clary and Simon go in search of a magical chalice.
Along the way, they find love, the kind that starts with protests of disinterest, and ends with…well, more disingenuous disinterest. By the end of "City of Bones," Clary is more confused and aroused than she was before. According to the low standards of YA romance that were set by "Twilight," that is progress. Clary isn't much more independent than Bella Swan. In the end, she doesn't make all of her own decisions. When she inevitably has to choose between her two almost-lovers, she rejects one of them as a consequence of a bewildering but convenient and familiar plot twist.