The City of Bones is based on the first of The Mortal Instruments series of books by Cassandra Clare, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the film adaptation. I was especially impressed by Lily Collins, who played Clary, the young female protagonist.
Clary always thought she was just like everybody else until she started drawing a mysterious symbol. From there, everything she thought she knew is changed.
She goes from being a “mundane” (a human) towards becoming something else entirely. She is joined by her best friend, Simon (Robert Sheehan), who appears a fairly run-of-the-mill kind of guy, but he actually handles all the supernatural stuff fairly well… for a mundane.
The story is set in a world with a hierarchy of different “races”, “Shadowhunters”, “Downworlders” (werewolves, vampires, faeries, and warlocks), and “mundanes” (humans).
Through flashbacks and testimonies, we learn that many years ago there was a treaty, called The Accords, supposed to allow all the different “races” to co-exist peacefully.
One powerful Shadowhunter, Valentine, is not for harmonious co-existence. He is a cruel, single-minded dictator who continues to push elitist ideas. A class/ “race” hierarchy is prominent in the films as well as the books. Shadowhunters, created by the mixing of angel and human blood, are at the top, though they also serve as protectors by hunting demons.
Luke, a werewolf, and Jocelyn, a Shadowhunter and Clary's mother, led an Uprising, a rebellion against Valentine. Unfortunately Valentine escaped, and many Downworlders were slaughtered by Valentine’s followers.
In the times of the story, there’s an unspoken “you-don’t-bother-me-I-don’t-bother-you” deal between the races, but there’s still tension, resentment, and dislike between the races, even though there’s no explicit all-out war.
We discover towards the end of the film that Valentine still desires to “purge” the world and dreams of a pure Shadowhunter race who will serve as his own personal army. He will only succeed in this plan if he gathers all three of the Mortal Instruments: the Mortal Cup, the Mortal Sword, and the Mortal Glass (but that’s literally another story).
Clary tries to dissuade him from this crusade, but Valentine is too far gone and continues to plot this massacre and pursue the Instruments, even after he disappears. In the final few scenes, we see Clary still with the Mortal Cup and reunited with her mother, Jocelyn.
Along the way, Clary falls for Jace (Jamie Campbell Bower), an impulsive, cocky, aloof, sarcastic Shadowhunter. Jace works with siblings Isabelle (Jemima West) and Alec (Kevin Zegers).
Isabelle is smart, courageous, and an amazing fighter. Her confidence is grounded in her abilities, while Jace is more arrogant. Alec is shyer and less confident.
Much like when I was reading the book for the first time, the movie at once drew me in. The tension and fighting between the different “species” was superbly handled.
I won’t mention any other specifics because I don’t want to give away spoilers, and because I really want you all to watch this film and to read the series.