The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Directed by Harald Zwart
Starring Lily Collins, Jamie Campbell Bower, Robert Sheehan, Kevin Zegers, Lena Headey, Kevin Durand, Aidan Turner, Jemima West, Godfrey Gao, C.C.H. Pounder, Jared Harris, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
Released on August 21, 2013
Running time: 2h 10m
Genre: Teen, Fantasy, Adventure
Much like I Am Number Four, I went into this movie completely blind. I have yet to read the book that this movie is based on, but if it’s anything like this movie, I will not be in for a pleasant experience. Because this movie is terrible. Now, you might expect me to tear this movie a new one for not being faithful to its source material. But here’s the thing: I’m not reviewing the book – I’m reviewing the movie. And the movie is poop.
It’s a rare occurrence to see something as fascinatingly bad as The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Rarely have I seen a movie that switches between any of the six emotions you feel while watching a bad movie so quickly. Rarely have I seen a movie that can switch between boring, infuriating, hilarious, annoying, bewildering, and WTF in under a minute. Add that to a story that clumsily amalgamates every single trope from every teen fantasy novel ever, Twilight’s approach to sex and its main character that never makes her own decisions and has to rely on shirtless eye candy to save her, derivative, undeveloped characters, a terribly written script, and worthless acting, and you have a movie that literally is that bad. It is literally so bad that it’s actually impressive.
I did have a high school friend who was a fan of this series. I don’t exactly remember much of what she said concerning this series, as it has been more than a year since this conversation. The only thing I can remember is that this plot involves demon hunting.
Let’s get this show on the road.
We are introduced to Teenage Girl Who Seems Just Like Every Other Teenage Girl but Is Actually Special for Some Reason – I mean, Clary (Collins). I’ve only ever seen Lily Collins in Abduction alongside Taylor Lautner, and that movie was awful. She has a Typical Boyfriend – sorry, Simon (Sheehan) and a Typical Single Mother Because the Father Is Absent/Dead/Evil – excuse me, Jocelyn (Headey). Why does Jocelyn have a British accent while Clary is clearly American? Strangely, Lena Headey is amazingly miscast. Headey does best playing icy, strong characters with dark complexions and personalities, such as Queen Gorgo in the 300 duology, Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones (which I will not see), Ma-Ma in the amazing Dredd, and Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. She is incredibly out of place filling in the role of a caring mother. Case in point, though she did well, she was incredibly miscast in The Purge, which came out just a few months prior. Jocelyn has a boyfriend named Luke.
Clary has lately been drawing this strange symbol at odd times. Sometimes, the symbol just appears on its own, like in her coffee foam or on the sign of a goth nightclub. Jocelyn is obviously concerned. Clary has also been seeing people dressed like Eighties Goths trying to look badass and dark and brooding. They look at her funny, either like she’s prey to be caught or like she’s somebody really freaking important. Why do they not stick out like sore thumbs in any crowd? She keeps seeing this symbol and keeps seeing these people.
One night, Clary and Simon go to some poetry reading get-together thing. The current reader thinks that using big, flowy words equals good writing, and apparently he is accompanied by percussion. We learn that not only are the filmmakers trying to make Lily Collins look extra pretty by slathering her with makeup, but that Clary is too stupid to figure out that Simon is head over heels for her. This might work once, but this idea is milked over and over again throughout the course of the movie. It gets ridiculous the more it’s seen. After Clary sees the freaking symbol in her coffee foam, they go to some odd goth nightclub because she sees the damn symbol on its sign. They get in because some Guy wearing obvious light blue contacts convinces the security guard to allow them in. They go in and fake dance to awful music for a bit as Clary spies on Guy. Clary’s name is actually revealed to those in the audience who hasn’t read the books when Simon addresses her by name. A woman in a white dress (West) tries to seduce Guy until he sees her tattoos on her chest. He tries to run off, but a snake-like armband that the woman wears comes to life and wraps around Guy’s neck. A leather-clad guy wearing a hood (Bower) comes out, unsheathes a ritualistic knife, and slashes Guy’s throat. Guy falls to the ground, not bleeding for some reason, and thrashes around until he dies. Clary screams, alerting them to her presence. They don’t do anything to her, though, and Clary and Simon leave.
The next morning, Clary wakes up late. She notices black chalk on her hands, and she looks around her room to see hundreds of drawings of the damn symbol all over her room. What the hell is up with this symbol? I’m sure it’s explained in the book, but come on. This is supposed to be dramatic, but it comes off as kind of funny. But what has led up to this mental breakdown? What reason do we have to fear the symbol? What is up with this movie’s pacing if crap is starting to hit the fan this early into the movie? At least in the Harry Potter universe, J.K. Rowling at least gave us time to get to know Harry as a character and to sympathize with him in his situation. Here, we know literally nothing about Clary. What reason do we have to fear for her and her mental stability?
After Jocelyn discovers the drawings that are still plastered all over Clary’s room and insists that she tell Clary about something only to have Clary brush her off, Clary leaves with Simon to hang out at Java Jones (did Starbucks really not allow you to use their name in your movie? That’s just sad.). Clary shows Simon her drawings of the symbol, and tells him that she’s losing her mind. Again, there’s been no buildup to this mental instability, as we have no idea what normal life is like for Clary. The basic plot idea for pretty much any story whatsoever involves a social everyman forced into unfamiliar and challenging situations and territory. But here’s the problem with City of Bones’s story so far: we have no idea of what exactly “familiar territory” is.
Anyway, Clary sees the hooded guy from earlier, and we get a decent look at the guy’s face. Everything about his complexion, from jaw to lips to cheekbones to eyes to eyebrows to hair, screams “I’m pouty!” And anyone with two brain cells to rub together can easily tell that Clary and this hooded guy are going to eventually hook up. Had this move actually been good, I would be saying that this hooded guy’s aura screams “badass”, but I got no such luxury, because he is destined to be the obvious love interest who’s dark and brooding and is soooo muscular and has a chiseled physique and ice tray abs that’ll make all the teenage girls in the audience get really effing wet. Scoff. Anyway, only Clary can see this hooded guy. Simon makes a Close Encounters of the Third Kind reference. Though Clary initially hid behind Simon when she first saw the hooded guy, Clary inexplicably gets up, goes out into a back alley, and confronts the hooded guy. Wait, wasn’t Clary terrified of him? Why is she talking to him if she was terrified of him? The hooded guy explains that Clary isn’t a Muggle – sorry, a mundane (that’s totally effing creative and not just a cheap replacement), and that she’s not from the human world. Because of course Clary’s special.
While Clary talks to the hooded Benedict Cumberbatch wannabe whose name is unknown to those in the audience who haven’t read the books but I’ll call him by his actual name Jace for convenience, back at home, Jocelyn is accosted by two guys in black leather outfits and their Rottweiler. And the one with the awful hairstyle is played by Kevin Durand, again not realizing that he’s better than playing roles in crappy adaptations of young adult novels, such as I Am Number Four. Why do Durand and his pal need to wear awkward black leather outfits and sport awful hairstyles and a litany of symbol tattoos? These characters are not addressed by name, so I’ll address them by the names they were credited to. Their names are Blackwell and Pangborn. Durand plays Pangborn. They’ve come to Jocelyn’s apartment looking for a cup. What cup are they looking for? It will be explained later, but not quite to the point where it becomes consistent, comprehensive, comprehendible, or anything more than the movie’s MacGuffin. As Blackwell and Pangborn attempt to subdue Jocelyn, Jocelyn seems to be putting up a pretty damn good fight. Blackwell and Pangborn have knives, swords, and various other sharp implements, but Jocelyn seems to be getting the better of them with just a frying pan. Nice. But for some reason, the movie interprets the situation as Jocelyn losing the fight, as she retreats into the bathroom. She calls Clary, but Clary ignores the call, as she’s talking to Jace. How convenient. Jocelyn then calls Simon, but Simon inexplicably hits Ignore. How convenient. While Jace and Clary talk, even Jace realizes that Clary is too ungodly moronic to realize that Simon is so obviously head over heels for her. Jocelyn calls Clary again. Jace points out that Clary should answer her effing phone, and Clary does so. Jocelyn quickly tells Clary about some eeeeevil bastard named Valentine … whose name is so unthreatening that it’s actually kind of adorable, and tells Clary that he’s after “the cup”. What cup? Jocelyn hangs up, and, back at her apartment, she pulls out some wooden box with the letters J and C on it, opens it, pulls out some ornate lightbulb-shaped vial, and, as Pangborn bursts through the door, she drinks the Jolly Green Giant jizz in it, knocking herself out and pissing off Pangborn. This somehow gets the cup out of the hands of Valentine? Huh? That’s not even the cup? What even is that vial? What was that green liquid?
Clary ditches Jace and runs back to her apartment, bumping into nearly every person she can along the way. Cut to Luke entering a padded room. Clary gets back to her apartment building. She goes in to look for her mother, and is faced with Blackwell and Pangborn’s Rottweiler. Blackwell and Pangborn have apparently disappeared with Jocelyn. The Rottweiler attacks Clary, but it is apparently very stupid, as Clary can hide behind the wall next to a door and the Rottweiler will not notice her until it’s well in front of her and Clary can give it the slip and close the door behind her. The top two panels have been conveniently knocked out, so we can see the Rottweiler’s eyes turn a grayish shade of white and its face begin to mutilate. Ooooooh! It’s a DEMONIC Rottweiler! And the CGI they use to transform this Rottweiler is awful. If you want to get a good idea of how to properly transform a dog into a horrific creature, then I implore you to watch John Carpenter’s 1982 movie The Thing. The practical effects used in that movie outdistance the deplorable CGI in City of Bones by the distance Secretariat won the Triple Crown by (thirty-one lengths). Seriously, the CGI in this movie can go eff off. Anyway, as the demonic thing chases Clary around the house, Clary suddenly gets the most obvious idea ever. Get some flammable and explosive household implements and blow up the stove while the demonic thing is on top of it. And she shields herself from the blast by hiding in the fridge with the door half open. The demon blasts apart into foamy gel. How does Clary survive the blast? The flames from the explosion reached well past the fridge door; how is Clary not at least burned? How is nothing in the kitchen burned? How are there only flames in a few places in the kitchen that were clearly lit just before the shot started? Anyway, we then get a brief slow-mo sequence that lasts about ten to fifteen seconds that I think is supposed to represent Clary’s state of mind, but just looks tacky and feels unnatural and out of place. Clary gets out of the fridge to see the foamy gel reforming itself into the demonic thing. Uh-oh! No, no, no, Clary, don’t just sit there in the fridge and stare at it, then get out of the fridge and walk away slowly. Run. And of course, right as the demonic thing looks like it’s just about to munch on Clary’s giblets, Jace appears out of nowhere, shanking the demon with a sword. And even though this demonic thing survived an explosion, somehow a sword stab to the back kills it. Wow. Jace pulls the sword out of the now-dead demonic thing and oh my gosh, why are you wiping the bloody sword on your sleeve? That’s going to ruin the leather! Jace tells Clary that that was a demon.
Jace, here’s why that thing is not a demon. You killed it. You cannot kill a demon. Demons are not monsters. Rather, they are evil human spirits. You cannot kill a spirit. You can only kill a body. Only God Himself could ever possibly kill a demon. The worst thing you as a human can do to a demon is send it back to Hell. Even demons like Leviathan and Behemoth only take monstrous form; they are not actually monsters. But the demons in this movie are just monsters, rather than evil spirits that seduce people into doing evil deeds.
Jace also tells Clary that demons have the power to possess any living creature. Really? Then how do Clary or Jace know that the other isn’t a demon? Jace says that he saved Clary’s life, as if that’s actually a legitimate excuse. REAL demons would absolutely save a life if it went toward serving a larger, more evil purpose.
After the name Valentine is mentioned again (still not a threatening name, and still a guy we know nothing about), Jace and Clary go downstairs to talk to Dorothea, a witch. Why the flying hell would they be talking to a witch? Legitimate witches, rather than the caricatures we think of them as, serve the Devil and practice the black arts! Dorothea asks to do a tarot card reading for Clary, and despite Clary saying that she doesn’t believe in that stuff (even though she just saw a literal demon), the reading takes place. Clary runs her hands over the facedown cards, and one magically raises up into her hand. And if you look closely, you can see the magnet that was used to achieve the effect. That’s just cheap. Clary turns the card over, and it’s the Ace of Cups. But Jace notices that the cup on the card looks exactly like something he calls the Mortal Cup. What is the Mortal Cup? It’s one of The Mortal Instruments. What’s a Mortal Instrument? I have no idea. A halfhearted description of what the Cup is and what it can do will be heard once we get into the second act, but as for the rest…you’ll just have to read the books, because when this movie bombed at the box office, the sequels were scrapped. I guess I’ll just have to read the books to determine just what the rest of the Mortal Instruments are, what they do, and what their purpose is.
Jace also explains to Clary that she’s a shadow hunter, just like her mother. What’s a shadow hunter? Shadow hunters apparently hunt demons…while dressed in tacky black leather outfits. Uh…classy? Jace and Dorothea also explain to Clary that her mother must have put some magical block on her mind that has caused her to forget all of her childhood. Clary says that she doesn’t remember the stuff her mother wanted her to forget. Clary, that’s the effing point. Also, I think that symbol you’ve been drawing would beg to differ. Also, of course Clary has to have a dark past.
Clary and Jace go back upstairs into her apartment for some reason. Clary hears an intruder, picks up a fire extinguisher, sneaks up behind the intruder, and whacks him across the shoulders. The intruder falls to the floor and reveals himself to be Simon. How Clary couldn’t identify Simon from behind is beyond me. Simon is fine, and Clary inadvertently reveals her own insanity while trying to explain the situation to him. Jace is somehow able to be seen by Simon, and he explains that he is a demon hunter. Simon makes a Ghostbusters reference. This is twice now that Simon has broken the unspoken rule of not referring to a better movie in your own crappy one.
CLARY: This is so confusing.
ME: Tell me about it.
Jace picks up a photo featuring a man in is thirties in a military uniform and asks Clary who he is. Clary says that that’s her dad. I get the feeling that part of the plot is going to involve Clary learning that that’s not her real dad. After Jace finds the now-empty vial that Jocelyn drank the Jolly Green Giant jizz out of, Clary asks him what it is, and Jace says that it’s nothing good, the scene ends. No. No. Nonononono. Do not cut that scene off early. Tell me what that vial’s all about and where Jocelyn got it.
Clary, Jace, and Simon go to Luke’s…store? Thrift shop? I don’t know. Simon stays out front to keep watch. Clary and Jace enter, noticing burn marks on the padded room. They go upstairs. They hear Blackwell and Pangborn beating up Luke, who is tied up in a chair. This is the scene in which Kevin Durand shows off his inconsistently thick fake Cockney accent (If he naturally has such an accent, then I stand corrected). Jace and Clary hide behind a bookshelf. Jace pulls – what else can I call it – an ornate golden magic wand out of his boot. The end glows blue, and he presses the glowing end against the bookshelf. And it creates a one-way peephole with a diameter a little larger than a basketball. Get used to this magic wand – it’ll be used for more BS reasons in future scenes. By the way, if you noticed Jace’s ring and thought that the letter on the ring was clearly supposed to be an M rather than a W, then congratulations, you’ve successfully predicted the plot twist at the climax. Anyway, Blackwell and Pangborn are beating the tobacco juice out of Luke to try to get him to spill the beans on the location of the Cup. Luke doesn’t know. Pangborn says that Luke really doesn’t want to make Pangborn angry. You wouldn’t like Pangborn when Pangborn angry! But throughout this interrogation, Luke seems to be struggling to keep some sort of animalistic transformation from happening. Seeing this, Pangborn starts goading Luke into changing and making a lot of dirty jokes about being a dog. Is Luke a werewolf or something? When Pangborn threatens Clary and Jocelyn to try and force something out of Luke, Luke says that he couldn’t care less about Clary or Jocelyn. Gee, I wonder if Luke is lying to save them. Clary starts quietly dragging over a bear trap to use as a weapon, not seeing that it’s chained to the wall. And she’s obviously going to give herself away in three…two…one…yup. She knocks over something ceramic, shattering it on the floor. Blackwell and Pangborn attack them, but Clary gets Blackwell’s arm caught in the bear trap so he can’t chase after them when they book it out of there, and Jace overpowers Pangborn and locks him in Luke’s padded room. Outside, a police car inexplicably pulls up, and Simon tries telling the officer what’s going on. Clary and Jace show up, and then the cop reveals her demonic visage.
So, whenever a person in this movie reveals that they are possessed by a demon, his or her eyes roll back in their head to show the whites, and their faces contort demonically through awful CGI that might scare a five-year-old. This happens every time, and the terrible CGI is amazingly noticeable and is cringe-worthy to behold.
Jace pulls out his glass sword (of what use would that be?!) and kills the demonic cop and her partner who is also demonic.
Remember how Jace said that these demons can possess any living creature? Well, when you kill these demon-possessed people, you are not killing the demons. Rather, you are simply sending them back to Hell. But you are not only sending these demons back to Hell. You are killing their hosts. You are literally killing human beings. How in the name of all that is holy are you able to justify that? Why doesn’t the Catholic Church just train you to be exorcists? That’s all you have to do! Just exorcise the demon(s) from the host body(ies) and the threat is averted! Remember, Jace, you only said that these demons can possess any living creature. You did not say that they can take human form.
Simon balks at the idea of Jace having killed two cops, but Jace says that they weren’t cops. Yes they were. Sure, they were possessed by demons, but they were indeed cops. You know full well that you’re not only sending the demons back to Hell, but you’re killing the host bodies as well. That’s murder. After Clary briefly breaks down, Jace takes Clary and Simon farther downtown. Simon is still miffed about Jace killing two cops. They even discuss that as they ride the subway downtown on a particular subway car that plenty of people in it. That’s not idiotic at all.
Jace takes Clary and Simon to I-Forget-Its-Name Institute, or should I say, Discount Hogwarts, which is located somewhere in New York City but us Muggles – I mean, mundanes – can’t see it because reasons. It appears as a ruined building to us, but through Clary and Jace’s eyes, it appears via awful CGI. The three step inside Discount Hogwarts, where Clary promptly collapses to the ground. Jace notices that she has a “demon bite”. When and where did she get said demon bite? The only way this demon bite nonsense could make sense is if whenever whatever demon bit Clary, the demon transferred itself into Clary. Find a freaking exorcist, Jace! Actually, let me round up a few of my fellow Melchizedek Priesthood holders and we’ll do it ourselves. Jace is actually addressed by name for the first time, by Simon (how does Simon know that the hooded guy’s name is Jace?). And then Clary and Jace have this little exchange:
CLARY: Is this the part where you start tearing off pieces of your shirt to bind my wounds?
JACE: If you wanted me to take my clothes off, you should’ve just asked.
Now she’s wet!
A guy and a chick about Jace’s age show up. Jace pulls out his magic effing wand and presses the glowing end against the demon bite. And it starts healing it. Why the eff not? Clary then passes out. Hey, at least the makeup team did well at making her suddenly look pale. By the way, you might want to wipe up that floor later.
Clary wakes up the next morning in Discount Hogwarts’s Hospital Wing (where’s Discount Nurse Pomfrey?) to see Simon and Jace at her bedside. She’s glad to see them, but she looks at where the demon bite used to be and sees some sort of symbol tattooed into her arm over the bite. Simon explains that these tattoos are runes. Each of these individual and nonsensical Deus Ex Machinas can do pretty much anything. They can make you in/visible. They can make you strong. They can heal you. They’re about as numerous as the spells in the Harry Potter universe. They’re clearly there for the sake of plot convenience. So what exactly is the symbol – sorry, rune – from the beginning?
Isabelle, the chick from Clary’s collapse, shows up. It’s only when we get a good look at her snake armband that we realize that this is the chick who was involved in the ritualistic murder earlier. She says that Hodge would like to see Clary. Who is Hodge? He’s Discount Dumbledore. As Clary goes to meet with Hodge, we meet Alec (Zegers), the other guy, who tells Clary to stay away from Jace. Why? Clary meets with Discount Dumbledore (Harris) in the library. Gasp! Jared Harris! An actor who’s actually effing good! YES! Unfortunately, much like Lena Headey, who is also amazing, Harris’s role is also limited to a glorified cameo. And as the meeting begins, so also begins a massive amount of exposition that will be forgotten by the end of the movie.
First. Discount Dumbledore tells Clary that the supernatural legends are all true. So skinwalkers, wendigoes, fleshgaits, Bigfoot, shadow people, and even the Slender Man and the SCP Foundation exist? They should, by Discount Dumbledore’s logic.
Second. Simon examines some of what I can only describe as a brief museum of exposition, where Isabelle explains to him that vampires, werewolves, and warlocks exist, and such are all crammed into the group known as “downworlders”. Sounds about as unwieldy as grouping all sexual identities into the group LGBTQAAIP (silent F). Simon also gets a good look at a replica of the Mortal Cup. Isabelle also tells Simon that Jace saw both of his parents murdered in front of him. Because of course. I know that that’s supposed to be tragic, but this trope is in every single young adult fantasy series these days. Isabelle respects Jace, but Alec hates him. Can’t we just agree on something for once?
Third. In front of a statue of an armored angel, Discount Dumbledore finally (FINALLY) tells Clary and the audience what the Mortal Cup is. In a knockoff of the origin of the Holy Grail, the angel Raziel (who actually exists in Jewish theology as a keeper of secrets) poured his blood into an ornate cup. Those who drank from it somehow became half-angel and half-human, gaining the powers of a shadow hunter. This angelicism somehow became hereditary, as the descendants of those who drank from the Cup retained these angelic traits. BS. Such are the shadow hunters, and they are those who fight the eternal, unwinnable war against the demonic forces. And the Cup is essentially this movie’s MacGuffin. Also, apparently, demons don’t die easily, according to Hodge. Strange; they seem to be killed off pretty damn easily so far. Question: since there are clearly angels in this universe, where exactly is God in all of this?
Fourth. Discount Dumbledore tells Clary about Valentine (Meyers. Hey, it’s Henry VIII from The Tudors!). Valentine is apparently a corrupted shadow hunter. He swayed many shadow hunters to his cause, the motivations of which don’t make much sense. He stole the cup and attempted to experiment with it to create more shadow hunters and attempt to be able to control demons. He had a child with Jocelyn, one of the shadow hunters he converted to his cause. This child was Clary. Jocelyn saw that Valentine’s experiments were really effed up and meddled with forces beyond Valentine’s control, and so she fled with Clary. Here’s my problem. The heavenly legions of angels are fully and completely incorruptible. You would think that those who are half-angel would also be incorruptible. If any human had the tiniest fraction of angelicism to him or her, the angel part would win out. How has Valentine been corrupted? Also, since we’re dealing with legitimate demons here, where exactly is the Devil in all of this? Oh, wait, I forgot. This author seems to have done all she can to distance herself from Judeo-Christian demonology, despite using the angel Raziel in the series’ lore.
Fifth. Discount Dumbledore tells Clary that Jocelyn had the Cup and hid it somewhere, and says that Jocelyn’s not the only person who knows where the Cup is. He’s obviously implying that Clary knows where the Cup is, but Clary is too moronic to get the hint. But Clary’s not the only one at fault here. There are words in the English language available for Discount Dumbledore to tell Clary that she knows where the Cup is.
Jace takes Clary to some mausoleum in some graveyard somewhere in New York City in an attempt to remove the block on her mind. Some dude with a gray face, black eyes, a stitched mouth, a gray hooded cloak, and the tackiest of electronically distorted voices shows up and takes Clary and Jace into the mausoleum. It’s very large on the inside, and it contains hundreds if not thousands of coffins. Jace describes these as the corpses of every shadow hunter, and that one day they will join them. They enter into a large circular chamber with pillars all over and an upside-down statue of Raziel hanging from the ceiling. A dozen or so of what Jace calls the “silent brothers” surround the circular chamber. Clary goes into the middle of the chamber. A beam of light forms at the tip of the sword held by the Raziel statue, and it comes down onto Clary. Clary remembers some of her childhood, but the rest is blocked. She collapses onto the floor. Jace runs up to her. And then something happens that made me think WTF?. This will take more than a sentence to explain, so it will be in italics. Clary inexplicably draws blobs in the dust on the floor. When she wakes up, Jace tells her that the block on her mind is stronger than they had anticipated, and that they may be able to remove it if they can find out exactly who placed it there. But then Jace inexplicably thinks that Clary drew out the negative of the name, and so Jace inexplicably draws lines between certain blobs in an inexplicable manner, and determines the name from what he has drawn. The name he has deciphered is Bane, as in Magnus Bane. Call me stupid if you wish, but I can smell the BS from here. Seriously, I have rarely seen such a contrived way to move the plot forward.
Jace and Clary return to Discount Hogwarts, and Hodge and the others are made aware of the situation. It turns out that Magnus Bane is a frequent partier, because there just so happens to be one tonight. How effing convenient. In preparation, Isabelle gives Clary an outfit to wear. Apparently the attire for attending Bane’s parties is pretty specific. Clary walks out onto the set complaining about her outfit. And I can totally see why. Why the eff does Clary have to wear a dress that barely covers her ass and almost shows a little cleavage? Isabelle ties Clary’s hair back into a ponytail and leaves one sprig hanging. She also gives Clary thigh-high leather boots. Clary states the obvious: that she looks like a hooker. And I agree. Why does Clary have to dress like a freaking hooker? Admittedly, I would love to have mind-blowing sex with Lily Collins, but seriously, come on. Jace thinks Clary looks beautiful. Well, of course he would.
Clary, Jace, Isabelle, and Simon go to Bane’s party. Clary has déjà vu, because of course she would. Jace knocks on the door, and when a grapefruit-sized peephole opens up, Jace pulls out his magic effing wand and writes some sort of symbol or signature or whatever in midair in the peephole, and the doorman lets the group in. Apparently a lot of people have shown up to the party. Jace makes Clary look even more sultry by having her let her hair down. Magnus Bane himself (Gao) comes out to greet them and why the eff is he not wearing pants?! Why is he wearing makeup? Is he sexually confused? Upon doing a little research, I learned that Magnus Bane is bisexual. Which would explain him hitting on Alec after beckoning Clary to come into his…bedroom. No, no making with the sexies happens. Even though we’re fifty minutes into the movie, Bane tells Clary some BS I forget, tells her that her KIA military dad is not her real dad and that he’s just a guy who died fighting in Iraq, and removes the block on her mind. Meanwhile, out in the thick of the party, a group of clearly homosexual dudes are clearly attracted to Simon. One of them pours obvious blue food coloring into Simon’s drink while Simon’s not looking. Isabelle notices this too late, as Simon has already drunk some. Simon chokes and passes out, and the dudes abduct him. I have no idea where Jace or Alec have been during this, but when Clary and Bane exit the bedroom, Isabelle, Alec, and Jace go up to Clary and say that Simon has been abducted.
Get ready for an entirely pointless section, starting from when Simon was abducted. It goes from here (The group somehow knows that Simon was abducted by vampires. They go to the nearest church and break in using Jace’s magic effing wand that is somehow also a skeleton key. Apparently every church ever contains equipment for vampire killing. Jace gives Clary a “vampire gun” which shoots out a short, spiky metal implement that is intended to be used for piercing the heart. We learn that Jace is apparently an atheist, despite the fact that literal demons exist in this movie’s universe. Clary, Jace, Alec, and Isabelle somehow know where exactly these vampires hole up, as they go to the abandoned Hotel Du Mont, which has had an R graffiti’d over the N in Du Mont, making the name Hotel Du Mort. Very effing funny. Nitpick: were you guys using your invisibility runes? Because that taxi had to stop to let you cross the street. What exactly do people think when they see how ridiculously dressed you people are? We get another taste of some sort of rivalry between Jace and Alec. Why? Also, Luke is seen by us but not by the group. How did he get unchained? How did he get past Blackwell or Pangborn? Anyway, as the group walks through the hotel looking for Simon, the camera pans up to the ceiling, showing a horde of vampires walking on it. Somebody thought it’d be a great idea to rip off that scene from Cloverfield, when the characters are in the subway and the cameraman turns on his night vision and sees the little creatures crawling on the ceiling. The group gets up several floors and see Simon hanging over a big hole in the floor. He’s still alive, but the group can’t reach him from where they are. So Jace and Alec grab a wood board and hold it across the hole. Clary takes off her boots and walks across the board to get to Simon. The group frees him, and Clary somehow gets her boots back on in a millisecond. By the way, treat Simon’s lack of a chiseled physique as a sign of things to come. The group sees themselves surrounded by vampires. They run off, only to get trapped in some sort of banquet hall. Jace, Alec, and Isabelle attack the vampires while Clary tries to shield Simon. And in the instant when Jace, Alec, and Isabelle attack the vampires, the soundtrack turns from generic to insufferable in a millisecond as a terrible [metal? Dubstep? God knows?] song plays. This fight scene is awful. The overall choreography is terrible, and the fact that there are easily enough vampires to overwhelm the entire group is rendered moot when we only ever see Jace, Alec, or Isabelle fighting maybe five vampires at the most at a time. One particular sequence is particularly funny: while Clary is shielding Simon as they crawl under a table, Jace kills a vampire (or does something) on top of that same table, and his sword stabs through the table, just a few inches to the left of Clary’s face, eking a scream out of Clary. Does that mean that had Jace stabbed downward a few inches to the right that he might have killed Clary? That’s freaking funny. Another sequence that is also funny involves a single vampire going after Clary and Simon. Clary subdues said vampire with a blow to the head with a big thick plastic plate. No! A big thick plastic plate! My one weakness! I personally think that said plate was supposed to be made of candy glass and shatter on the vampire’s head, but the shattering didn’t happen and the editor used that take anyway. Another sequence happens when another vampire attacks Clary and Simon and she kills it with the “vampire gun”. And she shoots the metal implement not into the vampire’s heart, but just below his right lung. Wow. Ultimately, the fight against the vampires does not go well, as Clary, Simon, Jace, Alec, and Isabelle are again backed into a corner. Jace all of a sudden acts like somebody’s coming to help them. As if on cue, a horde of werewolves burst through the windows and start killing the hell out of these vampires. But for some reason, the five are too stupid to understand that these werewolves are there to help them. They somehow get outside, but some vampires follow them. The sun is rising, but the vampires are apparently too stupid to figure that out. Wow. One particular vampire targets Clary, but a werewolf pounces on it and kills it. And then for some reason, Clary gets a knife from Jace and throws it at the werewolf, shanking it in the shoulder. Clary, that werewolf just saved your ass. Stop being so effing ungrateful. Since the group is several stories aboveground, they climb up to the roof. But a vampire grabs Clary’s leg as she’s pulling herself up onto the roof! No need to worry, let a big honkin’ dude who’s really friggin’ hot pull you up just enough so that the vampire’s hand touches the sunlight and burns and the vampire lets go. Clary, as one would expect, falls onto Jace in such a position that she’s literally less than an inch away from making out with him. Now she’s wet! No actual sucking of faces happens, but the scene is still really uncomfortable for guys and a major turn-on for chicks. You can easily tell that Clary and Jace are going to hook up eventually. I could complain that Clary and Jace have zero chemistry that threatens to turn into negative chemistry, but I’ll save that for a future scene.) to here. This scene was entirely pointless, and it lasted (I kid you not) ten minutes. Wow.
The group returns to Discount Hogwarts and places Simon in the Hospital Wing. Clary is inexplicably wearing normal clothes now. Where did she get them? Did she borrow them from Isabelle like she did that slutty outfit? Alec confronts Clary, saying that she and Simon almost got them all killed, and that she needs to stay away from Jace. But when Clary starts to tell him off, the movie’s biggest WTF moment happens. Clary, with no indication whatsoever, and with the movie having had absolutely no leadup to this at all, insinuates that Alec is homosexually attracted to Jace. Alec confirms this by shoving Clary up against a wall and telling her to never say such things again. Seriously, what’s the point of having a gay character if they’re never built up to be so and their gayness is never mentioned again? You did hear that right, by the way. Alec’s gayness has had no buildup and has come completely out of nowhere, it’s only ever mentioned in this scene, the only emotion we can feel is “WTF?”, and when the scene is over, no one ever mentions Alec’s gayness again. Wow.
Simon awakes from resting to see Clary at his bedside. She is secretly drawing a sexy picture of Jace with angel wings. Simon puts on his glasses, of which one of its lenses is shattered, and inexplicably seems to have had his vision problems fixed. WHAT?! How did that happen? Movie, explain how this happened! Clary shares a moment with Simon. Simon says that he’s always been there for her. Clary says that she thinks of Simon as a brother. Jace, off to the side in the Hospital Wing’s doorway, is clearly jealous and leaves in a huff. OOOOH, JEALOUSY! OOOOH! Clary happens to see Simon’s bare shoulder, and notices two tiny, distinct marks there. I don’t care if the movie acts like those are vampire bite marks, because those are clearly not. Vampires bite on the neck, not on the shoulder where the deltoid muscle is located. By the way, we’ve never seen these bites before, and Simon’s apparent vampirism is never mentioned again, especially in a future scene in which Simon can walk outside in daylight and not burn. Simon lays his head back and somehow falls asleep in about five seconds. I wish I could fall asleep that fast.
Clary leaves the room and goes into the library, where Jace is at the piano playing a Bach prelude. He starts playing it, then just pounds the keys a couple of times and stops. Clary remarks that Jace is playing like his heart just got broken. Jace confirms this. OOOOH, JEALOUSY! OOOOH! Again, I could ask when Clary and Jace have ever shared any chemistry, but I’ll save that for a later scene. Clary tries to explain, but Jace changes the subject and explains that Bach himself was a shadow hunter. I’m not kidding. Johann Sebastian Bach was a shadow hunter. He apparently learned that demons in disguise really hate the sound of two crossing tones, so he put it in all of his music. Wow. Jace opens up a large circular metal door to reveal…a portal? What? To where? To anywhere you want to go. But there’s a catch to going through the portal! You have to have a clear picture of where you want to go or else you will be trapped in limbo forever! This portal is essentially a sideways pool of glowing blue water. Jace takes out a blob of this portal water. It conveniently hovers over to Clary’s face. Jace shows what the portal can do by sticking his hand into this water and having it come out of the blob next to Clary’s face, lightly touching it. Again, I could ask when Clary and Jace have shared any chemistry, but I’ll save that for a future scene. Jace then says that they have a very important birthday to celebrate: Clary’s. Clary asks how Jace knows, and Jace tells her that he learned when it was while he was stalking her watching over her over the past who knows how long.
Up until the end of the pointless vampire BS, the movie’s been moving along at a pretty damn fast pace. But it is in this past scene that the movie has begun to slow to a crawl. We’re spending so much time here in the second act that could have been much better utilized in the first act to allow us to get to know our characters before crap goes down.
It’s suddenly night now, and Clary and Jace are alone in Discount Hogwarts’s greenhouse. OOOOH, LOVE TRIANGLE! OOOOH! Jace tells Clary a childhood memory of his. His father gave him a hawk to train. Jace’s idea of making it trust him was stroking it until it trusted and loved him. His father, like a craphead, was pissed at Jace for teaching the hawk to love him rather than obey him. So the father killed the hawk. Why the hell is this story here? To make more pointless drama at the climax. We’ll get there eventually, and you will have forgotten about the hawk story by that point. As Clary and Jace continue talking, a terrible pop song starts playing as Jace gives Clary a glowing blue stone which he calls a “witch light”. After a brief almost-makeout tease, Clary and Jace move to the circular stairwell that leads to nothing I can see. After about ten more seconds of continuing to tease the audience, Jace kisses Clary, and they begin the sucking of faces. Now she’s wet! This scene only ever goes to make the dudes in the audience ask, “When have they ever shared any chemistry?”, and make the chicks in the audience get really effing wet. But seriously, I have never felt an attraction between these two characters. They have no chemistry. They have shared only one scene that could ever hint at potential romantic buildup. And yet, despite the lack of buildup and chemistry, this hooking up and making out still happens. How cliché. The sprinklers turn on, because of course they do, preventing the kissing from progressing into some light petting. Strangely, neither the clothing nor the hair of Jace or Clary seems to be getting at all wet. Interrupting this sucking of faces is Simon getting up from his bed and knocking Clary’s sketchbook off the table. It opens to reveal Clary’s sexy drawing of Jace. OH! OH DRAMA! OHHHH! Clary and Jace are then seen walking down the hall past Simon’s room, still not wet, presumably to go to Jace’s room and start making with the sexies. But just as they conveniently stop in front of Simon’s door and kiss again, Simon opens the door to see them doing the deed! UH-OH! Simon goes ballistic, and Clary tries to defuse the situation by saying that they were just sucking face. Oh, because saying that you were just kissing rather than making with the sexies is going to make the situation SO MUCH BETTER! Jace and I both call her out on her BS. Jace walks away, saying that Clary kissed him. Clary and I both call him out on his BS. Clary goes into Simon’s room, where he says that he’s overstayed his welcome and needs to leave. When Clary questions him, Simon finally (FINALLY!) realizes that Clary is Bella-from-Twilight stupid, and has to actually spell it out for Clary that he’s been in love with her since God knows when. Simon leaves after Clary only just barely comprehends what’s been said. Clary, your unhealthy, dangerous, scary levels of ignorance and stupidity didn’t just break Simon’s heart. It tore it out of his chest and shoved it up his penis hole. YOU ARE A HELPLESS, HOPELESS MORON.
Briefly cut to Jace, shirtless, tattooing runes onto himself. This is purely for the sake of letting the chicks get a look at Jace’s chiseled physique so they can get really friggin’ wet, and letting us know what Clary obviously has in store for her in the future.
Clary is in the library, drawing each of the runes in her sketchbook, having apparently forgotten about Simon. She is drinking coffee (?) out of a china cup. She briefly sets it down to sketch another rune, but when she goes to pick it back up to take another sip, she finds that she cannot. I don’t know how to describe it in a manner other than this: the china cup, coffee, and its shadow have become part of the page. I have no idea how this happened, but Hodge comes in, sees what’s happened, and tells Clary that she has powers just like her mother. Oh, so she has POWERS, does she? Clary literally reaches down into the page to retrieve the china cup. This somehow triggers something, as Clary tells Jace that she all of a sudden knows exactly where the Mortal Cup is. HOW?! Oh, I swear, if it’s in that tarot card in Dorothea’s apartment, I will kill something.
Clary, Jace, Alec, and Isabelle go to the apartment complex where Clary lives. All but Clary are invisible to the rest of us Muggles – sorry, mundanes. And Clary is dressed up like a freaking biker. She encounters the terrible poet from the poetry reading scene near the beginning that we all forgot about. Clary and Jace go to Dorothea’s apartment, while Alec and Isabelle go up to Clary’s apartment, which is apparently directly over Dorothea’s. Alec pours a small pile of iron shavings on the floor. Why? Dorothea tells Jace that she doesn’t allow weapons in her apartment. Jace complies and of course he was going to have a crap-ton of weapons on his person. It’s a gag. It’s funny, right? Ha ha ha ha HA! Clary and Jace are let into Dorothea’s apartment. The iron shavings upstairs seem to be following Dorothea. Okay, so now we know that Dorothea’s a demon in disguise and that crap’s going to hit the fan downstairs, but does this mean that demons are…magnetic? Explain, movie! Jace starts playing some Bach on the piano while Clary goes through the tarot cards. I TOLD YOU SO! And because this happened, I will now kill…a mosquito. I’ll squish it until it’s flatter than paper! I’ll burn it, I’ll drown it, I’ll stab it, I’ll kill it, I’ll eat its children! As Jace plays the piano, Dorothea becomes increasingly agitated, telling Jace to stop. Jace is clearly aware of Dorothea’s demonic possession, but he’s continuing to play the piano to draw out the demon in Dorothea while being completely unprepared to deal with her. Clary, clearly not realizing that Dorothea is obviously possessed by a demon, finds the card with the Cup on it (OOOOH, REINCORPORATION! OOOOH!), AND LIKE A FREAKING MORON, pulls the obviously plastic Cup out of the card. And of course an angelic chord has to be sung in the soundtrack. Hallelujah! For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth! Hallelujah! The kingdom of this world is become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ! And he shall reign forever and ever! King of Kings, and Lord of Lords! Hallelujah! Hallefreakinglujah! And when Dorothea notices the Cup, she immediately reveals the demon inside her. And her face scrunches up as her eyes roll back in her head to show the whites. And again, awful CGI. Dorothea attacks and subdues Clary and Jace. Dorothea walks out of the apartment complex only to encounter Simon. HOW DID HE KNOW TO GO THERE?! Also, remember Simon’s vampire bite? Well, Simon is walking outside. In direct sunlight. AND HE’S NOT BURNING. This bastardization of vampire nature is on the same level as Twilight and Bloodrayne. But Simon sees Clary in the window. Simon grabs a shovel and smacks Dorothea on the head, breaking her neck and bending it to her right. Dorothea goes back inside the house. Alec and Isabelle finally come downstairs to deal with Dorothea. Some sort of proboscis-like thingy bursts out of Dorothea’s neck and gives a nasty bite to Alec. Jace finally grabs one of his glass swords (WHY?!) and kills Dorothea. Again, Jace, when you kill that demon, you are not killing the demon. You are only sending it back to Hell. The only thing you are killing is the host body. Do you not remember what you yourself said earlier? Clary and Simon reconcile. But it is Simon that does the apologizing. Simon’s sorry?! Why isn’t Clary sorry? She’s the one who ripped Simon’s heart in half, not the other way around! Plus, Clary should have been making out with Simon, as they have actually shared screentime and close moments. Isabelle tries to heal Alec’s wound with her magic effing wand. Hers is red. But it fails.
The group returns to Discount Hogwarts and places Alec in the Hospital Wing. Isabelle whines that Clary nearly got them all killed. Clary goes to Discount Dumbledore and gives him the Cup. Strangely, Discount Dumbledore’s eye whites are yellow. He starts talking about this curse that something called “the clave” put him under that doesn’t allow him to step outside or even open a window (even though there were clearly windows open in earlier scenes). Suspicion builds as the music starts telling us that there’s a plot twist coming up. Our instincts say, Discount Dumbledore’s working with Valentine, isn’t he? The plot twist is revealed, as, predictably, Discount Dumbledore opens the portal doors, and Valentine himself steps through into the room. And this guy looks ridiculous. He’s shirtless save for an unzipped leather jacket, and has several obviously prosthetic and laughably awkward braids coming from the back of his head. How is this our villain? He looks like a stoned, shirtless biker who just wandered onto the set and the crew decided to film him to see if they could get a few good takes out of him. Valentine takes the Cup from Discount Dumbledore. When Discount Dumbledore asks him to lift his curse (how is Valentine supposed to do that?), Valentine tells him to eff off. He walks over to Clary, and explains his plan: he wishes to purify the shadow hunter bloodlines. Clary and I both point out that this is flagrantly similar to Adolf Hitler’s Final Solution. And then, seemingly at random, Valentine pulls out a knife, slices his hand, and pours some of his own blood into the Cup and demands that Clary drink it. Why? Is he a wannabe Jesus who’s trying to forcefeed Clary a bastardization of Communion? When is he going to cut off a slice of his own skin? Valentine makes increasingly over-the-top demands that Clary drink his blood, and then pulls one of the most desperate The-Empire-Strikes-Back-wannabe plot twists I have ever seen: Valentine reveals that he is Clary’s father. At this point, this exact twist has been done so much to death that it’s no longer as devastating or memorable or important as it was back in 1980. Valentine shows a vision to Clary of her comatose mother just beyond the portal. Clary takes the Cup, acting like she’s going to drink the blood. But she quickly puts the cup back into the card and runs into the portal. Remember that Jace said that if you didn’t have a clear picture of where you wanted to go, you would be trapped in limbo forever? That throws the rest of the plot of the movie into question! DID IT REALLY HAPPEN? Well, you can forget all about that. Clary just runs in there willy-nilly. The entirety of Discount Hogwarts shakes. Cut to Isabelle saying that someone must have gone through the portal. Well, why didn’t Discount Hogwarts shake when Valentine came through?
Clary is ported to some shop in a rundown part of New York City. A little blond girl in a pink dress walks up to Clary and reveals that she is demonically possessed. Luke, in werewolf form and accompanied by a FREAKING JUMPSCARE, pounces on and kills the demonic girl offscreen. We can’t show the death because it would be bloody and because we have to keep the movie PG-13! Luke steals some clothes because he’s naked after transforming back into a human because he just happened to pounce on the little girl and kill her inside a clothing store. What a convenient location. Clary is pissed at Luke for what he said during his interrogation by Blackwell and Pangborn earlier. Luke takes her into some abandoned building. As he does so, we can’t help but notice a massive storm cloud swirling over Discount Hogwarts in the background. Luke admits that he said all of those things earlier to protect Clary and Jocelyn. Because of course. He’s also not sore at Clary for shanking him earlier. Oh yeah, the werewolf in the scene with the pointless vampire BS that saved Clary’s ass only for her to stab it? Yeah, that was Luke. WOW. Luke calls his buddy Alaric and tells him to round up the gang. Apparently they’re a group of fellow werewolves. What are they doing all hanging out at what I presume is a gas station convenience store? Alaric’s gang joins up with Luke and Clary and they head back to Discount Hogwarts. Why are these werewolves even in the movie? To serve as expendable extras at the climax, purely for the sake of having a body count, of course!
Back at Discount Hogwarts, it seems that Valentine has double-crossed Discount Dumbledore on their deal for Valentine to lift Discount Dumbledore’s curse in exchange for the Mortal Cup. Well, what did Discount Dumbledore expect? He made a deal with a bastard! Of course the bastard was going to double-cross you! The clave is mentioned again (what the hell is the clave?). It was also around here that I found myself thinking, Who on all of God’s green Earth would neuter their son by naming him Valentine? What are Valentine’s motivations for carrying out this plot? Why is he evil in the first place? What’s keeping him that way? What influenced him to strike out on his own? He certainly didn’t form some Satanic cult; he was trying to make more shadow hunters. Why is creating more shadow hunters even a bad thing? In the war against the demonic forces, you need all the help you can get! What exactly was his purpose for making more shadow hunters? If they weren’t hunting demons, then what were they doing? Are they in league with the demons? Why would they do that? How could they ever think that that could ever possibly end well? Why does Valentine as a villain just make no sense? While Discount Dumbledore tells Valentine not to lie by telling “them” that “they” are both Valentine’s children, Valentine starts sticking spears and swords into the floor at random. Why is he doing this? Well, when the camera pans over to look at the spears and swords from above, it turns out that these spears and swords form – gasp! – A PENTAGRAM! AAAAAH! Wait, so this movie’s mythos has been doing its damndest to distance itself from Judeo-Christian demonology, but it expects us to accept its usage of a pentagram as a Satanic symbol.
Magnus Bane shows up in the Hospital Wing for some reason. He uses his majik powurz to pull Alec back from the precipice of death. And then he leaves.
Discount Dumbledore goes up to some room with a glass roof that we’ve never seen before. He pulls on some handle to retract the roof. And a pillar of red light shoots up to the sky. Discount Dumbledore sabotages the roof-retracting mechanism to keep it open. So what? Valentine is trying to start the apocalypse? This presents another problem. Why? Why would Valentine be starting the apocalypse? Clearly that pillar of red light is meant to summon demons, but Valentine specifically said that the demons are looking for him and that they are not happy. So why would Valentine be doing this?
Jace walks into the room where Valentine and the portal are. Valentine starts telling him that he is Jace’s father. Jace tries to counter by saying that his name is Jace Wayland and that there’s a W on the ring that he wears. But Valentine grabs his hand, removes the ring, and turns it upside-down to reveal THE MOST OBVIOUS THING EVER: an M for Morgenstern. Also, his name is not Jace. His name is Jonathan Christopher Morgenstern. For those of you in the audience too stupid to figure out where the nickname “Jace” came from, just wait until Clary gets back. She’ll spell it out for you. And Jace takes all of this surprisingly well, in fact, too well. He never loses his bored expression and demeanor. Oh, and we also learn that Valentine is an anarchist. Because of course he’d be super right-wing.
Simon and Isabelle go downstairs to the basement. They fight off a few demons, whose CGI is effing ridiculous. These demons basically look like a single hot coal in a somewhat humanoid shape, and they have a few rows of human teeth. And they wonder who let them in. Well, let me tell you. When somebody on the inside has let the demons in, think about it. By process of elimination, there are six of you, five of whom are accounted for. Just a thought – maybe the demon summoner might, just might be the one who wasn’t with you. And by process of elimination, that person is Discount Dumbledore! They get to the end of a hall to discover Jocelyn floating there, comatose. Hold on. You mean to tell me that Jocelyn was in the basement of Discount Hogwarts this entire time, and that anyone at Discount Hogwarts would have been able to find her this entire time? *slams head against wall* Blackwell and Pangborn (whose hairstyle is still laughably awful. If anyone knows how to get that dead skunk off his head, please do Kevin Durand a favor and do so) break in and carry Jocelyn upstairs. Simon and Isabelle hide as they see shadows coming down the stairs. Gee, I wonder if it’s going to be a fakeout and it’s actually the werewolves. It is. Eff. But apparently there are demons crawling on the ceiling, as they start yanking werewolves upward and presumably killing them. Yes; drag them offscreen, but don’t actually show their deaths because we have to keep this movie PG-13. Clary, Simon, Isabelle, Luke, and Alaric ditch the rest of the werewolves to go hide in a particular room. The demons try to break into this room while other demons massacre the rest of the werewolves. And just as the demons are starting to break into the room, this happens: Sudden slow-mo. Buildup music. Clary reaches down into Isabelle’s boot and pulls out her magic effing wand. She draws a rune onto her hand. She raises her hand toward the demons and shoots a blast of light out of this rune on her hand. And the demons all freeze in place. No one else has ever seen this rune. No one knows how Clary knew to or knew how to draw it. Wow. That is a lot to buy, movie. It’s like the screenwriters realized that their heroine was useless and moronic and needed her to do something powerful to prove why she’s the protagonist, since her alleged talents have almost always led others into mortal peril. I have no idea what these screenwriters are even trying to do with this character. In these days of rampant third-wave feminism and the constant demand for unrealistically strong female characters and unrealistically stupid male characters (don’t believe me? Just watch the new Ghostbusters), I am surprised that this movie has escaped relatively unscathed, as this movie’s allegedly strong female protagonist is hopelessly stupid, completely useless, and always has to have a super-hot guy with a chiseled physique come to save her. Where are you, feminists? Anyway, Simon and Isabelle go to the room where the pillar of red light is coming from to close it, Luke and Alaric stay down in the basement to fight the demons, and Clary goes to find Jace. Alaric is killed, and Luke is heavily wounded.
Clary encounters Jace and Valentine in the library. Jace and Valentine tell Clary that – GASP! – CLARY AND JACE ARE SIBLINGS! Uh…ew. Actually, how did Valentine and/or Jace accept this idea? Clary’s American accent and Jace’s British accent clash more than Cassidy’s hair and Cassidy’s tan from The Gallows! And they look so different from each other! Clary’s a brunette with brown eyes, and Jace is an Aryan poster boy for Deutschland! And Discount Dumbledore even said earlier that Clary and Jace being siblings is a lie! Put two and two together, you morons! Get a DNA test! What’s the point of this crap? Oh, and for those of you who are too stupid to figure out where Jonathan Christopher Morgenstern got his nickname of Jace, Clary spells it out for you after we see a split-second flashback to Jocelyn’s box with the Jolly-Green-Giant-jizz-filled vial in it, and that this box apparently had the letters J and C on it (why?).
CLARY: J.C. … Jace.
Valentine embraces his daughter from behind and sniffs her hair. … EWW!
Simon and Isabelle go up to the room where the pillar of red light is coming from. Apparently this pillar is just a beacon of light to the demons, as they are coming en masse. And guess how Isabelle fights them off: with a flamethrower. Uh, how does Isabelle plan to use fire to kill creatures that are clearly made of fire? And believe it or not, this actually works! Simon tries to pull the handle that Discount Dumbledore pulled earlier to close the roof, but he can’t because it’s been sabotaged!
After an exchange between Clary, Jace, and Valentine, Jace yanks a single polearm out of the pentagram and starts fighting with Valentine. Uh, Jace, don’t stop at taking a single polearm out of the pentagram. Take the whole damn thing apart. As Jace and Valentine fight, Clary apparently just stands there and watches them fight. Why doesn’t she take apart the pentagram? Why doesn’t she run off with the Cup? And this fight choreography is pretty lame. It’s clearly meant to be over-the-top, but here’s the thing: to be over-the-top, it needs to be good first. In The Adventures of Robin Hood from 1938 which starred Errol Flynn, during the final fight between Robin and Sir Guy of Gisborne, the choreography was so good that it even had room to be flashy. This fight between Jace and Valentine is flashy, but it’s not good. It’s full of what I can only describe as “butterfly” techniques, and there’s just barely too much parkour. You know, why do shadow hunters need to use melee weapons? Why not guns?!
The fight against the demons in the pillar of red light room is going decently well, despite Isabelle saying that she can’t hold them back any longer. Discount Dumbledore shows up in the room because…he’s good again?
Downstairs, Pangborn encounters the wounded Luke. Pangborn is initially going to kill Luke, but Luke mentions that Pangborn had earlier wanted to see Luke change into his werewolf form. Pangborn agrees, and Luke transforms into a werewolf and easily kills Pangborn. Pangborn didn’t see that coming? What the hell?
Valentine has Jace in a headlock next to the portal. Jace grabs a blob of the portal water. It hovers next to Valentine’s head. Jace punches into the portal, and his fist comes out the portal water blob and onto Valentine’s face, releasing the headlock.
Simon and Isabelle fight off the demons as Blackwell fights with Discount Dumbledore. Discount Dumbledore’s weapons are essentially a single circular blade in each hand with a handle in the middle. If he throws one of these blades, it will return like a boomerang. This is how he kills Blackwell, with Blackwell apparently not seeing the blade coming. Discount Dumbledore fixes the mechanism to shut the roof. The roof is shut, and the pillar of red light is extinguished. Simon and Isabelle retreat, giving Discount Dumbledore the flamethrower. He is swarmed by demons and is killed.
The fight between Jace and Valentine stops when Clary holds the Cup partway in the portal, telling Valentine that she’ll drop it and send it somewhere that only she knows. Valentine begs her not to. Clary removes the Cup from the portal and gives it to Valentine. As Valentine talks, Clary slowly maneuvers herself so that Valentine is between her and the portal. She’s going to push him in, isn’t she? She does. But Valentine reaches out, grabs Clary, and starts dragging her in. But Jace stabs his magic effing wand into the portal water, freezing it, and shattering it. Valentine is sent somewhere random, and Clary is saved. The room somehow becomes covered in snow. Clary reveals that she faked Valentine out and gave him the replica Cup from earlier, and that they still have the real Cup. And I guess the demons just…leave?
Casting aside the large number of dead werewolves, Clary, Luke, and Simon take the still-comatose Jocelyn to the hospital. Clary banishes Simon to the friendzone.
Jace takes Clary to her apartment. Clary draws a rune on her hand with Isabelle’s magic effing wand, and uses this rune, which can apparently influence telekinesis, to clean up her apartment. Is there a Wi-Fi rune? Clary and Jace talk briefly about how they are siblings and can no longer love each other the way they say that they used to. Jace says that Clary should return to Discount Hogwarts. Clary initially refuses, and Jace leaves. But maybe seconds later, she decides to go back to Discount Hogwarts anyway. Jace is waiting outside on a motorcycle. Clary awkwardly wraps her arms around Jace from behind as she sits on his motorcycle. They ride off into the day, presumably returning to the institute. Place your bets on how long they last before they say “screw it” and engage in incestuous sex in a sleazy motel. Oh, just wait for the next movie. Then you’ll discover that you’re really not siblings and you two can spend all the time you want making with some mind-blowing sexies.
When the Eragon movie was coming out, I read the book in preparation. I found the book to be overlong, overblown, and pretentious, and a definite Lord of the Rings wannabe. The movie sucked even harder, and I was a less happy person after both. In an attempt to view this movie from as objective a perspective as possible, I intentionally didn’t read the book, and I went in completely blind.
I don’t want to bash the books that this movie is based on, because not only is the series is beloved by many, but I have not read them. I’m not going to judge these books by their movie. But those books had better be damn good.
The story is so horribly written, being just a haphazard mishmash of every single trope of every single young adult fantasy series ever. Words like “clave”, “accords”, “mortal instrument”, “witch light”, and others were tossed around without explanation. The weapons are ill-defined, just doing whatever the characters needed them to do at any given time, be it tattooing runes haphazardly all over the body, killing demons, making peepholes appear in bookcases, healing demon bites, writing symbols in midair, etc. They’re basically wands from Harry Potter. Is Jace’s wand made of ash and dragon heartstring, and Isabelle’s made out of elm and phoenix feather? We were expected to believe that the Mortal Cup was essentially a ripoff of the Holy Grail, even though we never received an explanation about how it works save for creating new shadow hunters. After all the buildup with no clarification, I started thinking that maybe the powers of the Cup would be demonstrated at the climax, clarifying just what a Mortal Instrument is. No such thing happened. I cared about the Cup as much as the rest of the characters – which is not at all. Clary was presented as our protagonist even though we have absolutely no reason to care for her, let alone root for her. We knew nothing about her save for her being prone to idiotic, reckless, potentially deadly behavior. Lily Collins is a lovely young woman. But that’s all she is in this movie: a pretty face. She is so bland and uninterested in what she is doing. She has no onscreen presence, let alone charisma. The other characters suffer as well. Jace is the standard romantic lead with a habit of dropping sappy lines and rescuing Clary, purely for the sake of making Clary and the girls in the audience get really wet. Simon is nerdy and without masculinity. Isabelle likes slutty clothes. Hodge is sketchy. Luke’s a family friend for some reason. And Valentine is…evil. Beyond all that, there is nothing. That’s all these characters are.
The romance between Clary and Jace felt uncomfortably forced. There is no buildup. No chemistry is shared. We’re never shown why Clary or Jace would ever be attracted to the other. And their sucking of faces in the greenhouse was ungodly awkward.
Aesthetically, the movie isn’t that bad, apart from the awful CGI. The camerawork isn’t half bad, the editing and lighting does its job, and the acting, while being pretty bland, isn’t painful at all. Unfortunately, this movie’s obvious weakness is its horrendous writing.
The acting isn’t awful, but it’s clear that everyone’s phoning it in. None of the actors do badly, but they just don’t have enough talent to carry this movie. The only actors that could have done so were Lena Headey and Jared Harris, but their screentime was restricted so much that they were completely unable to showcase their obvious boatloads of talent. And after having seen Jonathan Rhys Meyers play King Henry VIII in The Tudors, it is uncomfortably awkward to see him play Valentine Morgenstern. Heck, he’s basically playing the same character: an immature sociopath.
The fight scenes at the end went on for way too long. This time could have been better spent on character development so that we actually cared if anyone died.
The movie has one particular loose end that needs to be addressed: Simon’s vampirism. Even when Clary clearly saw his bite, she never bothered to tell him about it. I spent a good part of the movie waiting for the effects of Simon’s vampirism to manifest. But the only thing that really happened was that his eyesight problems were fixed. Oh, and he was able to walk outside, in daylight, in direct sunlight, AND NOT BURN.
One final thing before I go. One fun fact that requires no explanation and explains so many of this movie’s poor writing choices.
Before she took on the pseudonym of Cassandra Clare, Judith Rumelt made a name for herself on the Internet writing Harry Potter fan fiction.
That explains a lot.
Final verdict: .5 out of 5 stars.