Reviewed by: Charity Bishop
demons in the Bible
Is Satan a real person that influences our world today? Is he affecting you? Answer
angels in the Bible
What else does the Bible teach about angels? Answer
What is the Occult? Answer
|Featuring:||Lily Collins … Clary
Jamie Campbell Bower … Jace
Kevin Zegers … Alec
Jemima West … Isabelle
Robert Sheehan … Simon
Robert Maillet … Blackwell
Kevin Durand … Pangborn
Godfrey Gao … Magnus Bane
Lena Headey … Jocelyn
Jonathan Rhys Meyers … Valentine
See all »
|Producer:||Constantin Film Produktion
Don Carmody Productions
See all »
|Distributor:||Screen Gems, Sony Pictures|
“There is a hidden world within our own.”
Fans of Cassandra Clare are no stranger to controversy. Beyond the themes of witchcraft, homosexuality, and incest crammed into her bestselling YA book series, accusations of plagiarism followed her into the publishing world. This big-screen adaptation of the first book in The Mortal Instruments series changes a few things from the novel.
For the most part, Clary (Lily Collins) lives an ordinary life. Her hobby is sketching, and she spends most of her summer free time with her best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan). One evening after attending a poetry reading, they enter a nightclub, where a man is murdered in front of her very eyes! Except… no one else saw it happen!
Within twenty-four hours of this event, Clary’s world is turned upside-down. The young man responsible for the murder turns up outside her favorite coffee shop. Her mother goes missing. And Clary discovers there’s more to life than she first thought. The “murderer” is actually Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), a member of a group known as the “Shadowhunters.” Along with his friends Alec (Keven Zegers) and Isabelle (Jemima West), Jace hunts down and dispatches demons in human form.
As “everything she has ever known” changes, Clary finds herself an unwitting pawn in a powerful series of events that bring her face to face with an evil she never imagined.
When the trailer for this film first appeared, I read the book. I was surprised how familiar it felt until I realized the author initially wrote Harry Potter fan-fiction. She made a few changes to her story and sold it as a franchise. The film makes the similarities even more obvious (with some Star Wars and Buffy thrown in for good measure): the pale-haired Jace is Draco Malfoy, “Valentine” the villain is Voldemort, the enormous castle hidden right in the middle of Manhattan is the Shadowhunter version of Hogwarts, and “rune sticks” are in place of wands.
From a cinematic perspective, the first three fourths of this film are strong, as Clary discovers a unique world, and we experience the magic of the unexpected. The cast is surprisingly good, and she’s a likable heroine with a few quirks up her sleeve. But the story fails to establish its villain, and a few throwaway lines about his desire to “purify the Shadow Hunter bloodline” don’t really resonate; we never sense any true evil in him, so why invest emotionally in attempts to destroy him? Much like the book, the pacing of the film is off, and there are times it drags, particularly toward the end.
Spiritually discerning viewers will raise their eyebrows at the pagan, mysticism, and occult elements, which range from tarot card reading to the Shadowhunters being “children of an angel” (through his blood, not as literal flesh descendants) because their ancestors drank his blood. One minor character is a witch. Demons make frequent appearances, often in grotesque ways (they explode out of human bodies and leave a trail of wreckage in their wake). A warlock is consulted, and the Shadowhunters use mystical runes on their bodies to heal injuries, among other things (like slowing down time).
Jace implies that every religion is useful to Shadowhunters, since under each altar is a weapon storage unit (they break into a Catholic church and raid one). He says he doesn’t believe in God, since he’s seen a lot of demons but no angels. The implication is that faith in anything other than oneself is pointless and that all religions are the same.
Aren’t all religions basically the same? Answer
Content-wise, while there isn’t much language (Clary’s mother takes Jesus’ name in vain when startled, and Simon quips, “No, just me!”, and there are a few mild profanities). There is a lot of violence—as much as a PG-13 rating can handle. Demons and vampires are mowed down with flame throwers and snapped in half with mystical whips, when they are not being stabbed and shot; Clary explodes one into a gooey mess in her kitchen (it then starts to “reassemble” itself for round two).
Homosexuality is referenced, usually in positive ways—an openly gay warlock turns up at a party in a suit, shirt, and underwear and leers at Alec. Clary accuses Alec of disliking her because he “loves” Jace but is too cowardly to admit it (she’s right). Isabelle tells her that homosexuality “isn’t encouraged” in their ranks. Clary wears a super short dress for a big chunk of the film. Jace objects to her having Simon in her bedroom (since he’d like to be there).
GAY—What’s wrong with being gay? Answer
What about gays needs to change? Answer
It may not be what you think.
Something is missing in this film that would have given it a spark. It’s a decent start to a franchise but felt a little… well, mundane.
Violence: Heavy / Profanity: Minor / Sex/Nudity: Mild
See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.