The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones – Review
Mortal Instruments is a hard movie to summarize, but basically the main character, Clary, discovers that she has special powers to fight demons and she joins others like herself as they fight against the demonic. While there is a lot of talk of demons, it was more closely related to Twilight than to the Exorcist or some horror flick about demonic possession.
If you want to look at it from a theological perspective, you’re going to be frustrated (with the one upside that it does at least provide a lot of fodder for discussion). If you want to look at it from the perspective of story craftsmanship, you’re probably still going to be frustrated. If you’re going to look at it from the perspective of mindless entertainment and eye-candy, you might not be frustrated, you might even like it, maybe even love it (it did, after all, get 5 stars, when movies like The Butler and Jobs were only given 2.5 stars—go figure) especially if you’re in your teens.
That being said, lets take a minute to look a little closer at some of the theological elements, because whether they get it right or get it wrong, they do at least bring a lot of interesting and weighty elements to the surface of this movie.
The Spiritual Realm/Angels/Demons
- There is a spiritual realm that is happening all around the physical realm. Most people never see it. Clary is able to see it because of her family heritage; she’s a shadow-hunter. Shadow-hunters are actively involved in fighting against the demons.
This is something the movie actually sort of gets right—not the whole shadow-hunter part, those are fictional of course, but the idea that there is a battle going on around us that is in the spiritual realm is absolutely biblical (see Ephesians 6:12). And though there aren’t shadow-hunters, we, as Christians, are called to wage war in the spiritual realm against the forces of evil (which includes demons). And, even though we probably won’t see the angels and demons clearly as Clary can, (although to be sure some Christians have, at specific times, been able to see the spirit realm) we do have a heightened sensitivity to it as we walk with Jesus.
- The movie mentions angels a couple of times, notably that historically angels helped man in the fight against demons and that shadow-hunters were “created” by drinking an angel’s blood from a cup. Jace however has never seen an angel and makes it clear he is doubtful of their existence, or at the very least their helpful involvement. He doesn’t feel he can trust in anyone but himself. Finally, in the last scene, Clary mentions that she doesn’t know how to see the world anymore. She no longer sees cars and streets, now she sees angels and demons. (This brings up some of my frustration with the story telling…at no point does Clary see an angel in the movie, but now she says she sees them when she looks at the world…but whatever.)
Angels may be mentioned a time or two, but there is really no guidance for how we are to think about them, not in the context of the story, and certainly not in the context of theology. They supposedly were around historically, but their current existence and/or involvement is dubious, at best. The Bible says that they are involved in the “unseen battle” and we have instances of their struggle with the demonic (see Daniel 10:10-14), as well as the promises that God will command his angels concerning us (Psalm 91:11), so that we don’t have to be like Jace, feeling that we can trust no one and we are all alone in our struggles against the powers of darkness. We are not.
- As far as demons goes, the movie is right in that they can possess any living thing (with the exception of Christians, who have asked Jesus to take possession of their hearts—the movie leaves out that one.)
- Nephilim are briefly mentioned in the movie. It is something that is mentioned in scripture and widely debated as to its meaning. The popular translation in the culture, literature, movies, media of the day is that they are half-breeds between angels and humans (something akin to a demi-god).
Dr. Craig Smith explains the debate and the sheds some light on it Biblically here.
- Jesus isn’t mentioned in the movie. Ever. I don’t think, anyway. He definitely isn’t a contributing factor and certainly isn’t a point of worship or focus. So, in this fight against the demonic forces, man (or at least shadow-hunters who are half human) are fighting it on their own. They have no Jesus to turn to or to trust in. They think there might be some help from angels, but the very one who says He commands the angels concerning us, the angel’s creator and commanding officer is completely omitted from the picture. This is problematic. Angels aren’t at our beck and call, they are at Jesus’. Could be why Jace says they have never come to help him…he forgot to ask Jesus for their help. Not to mention the little fact that Jesus defeated sin, death and the forces of darkness (i.e. Satan and his minions) when he died and rose again. It doesn’t make sense to fight against the demonic without turning to the only one who has ever defeated them for help.
- Jace says that all religions band together in their fight against the demonic, and when he says all religions he is including witches/witchcraft and palm readers and the like. He and Clary get a fortune teller to use her tarot cards to help them in their fight against the demonic.
How can you trust something that is from or at least partners with the demonic realm to give you an honest answer about demons, especially when it’s known you’re out to kill them? This is both theological and practical nonsense. The Bible is very clear that witchcraft, fortune telling, etc. are demonic and God forbids it. According to the movie however, the witch is just practicing a different, but equally viable religion, and all religions are equal and, at least in the war against demons, partners. This is so completely wrong it made my hair stand up.
Questions for Discussion:
- Are you aware of the spiritual battle going on around you? How might you look at things differently if you believed (or were more aware of) the spiritual realm and the influence it had on the physical realm?
- Do you believe that angels are real? Do you believe that they are involved in your life?
- What do you know about the Nephilim? What are they really, according to the Bible? (Not sure? Read here.) And how many books/movies do you know of that reference them?
- How do you feel / think about demonic possession? Is it a real thing? Have you ever encountered it? Do you think it’s more or less common than most people think?
- Have you ever wanted an angel’s help? If so, how have you asked for it? Did you pray to the angel directly, or did you ask Jesus to send one to help you?
- Do you think you are all alone in your struggles, or do you ask Jesus who overcame all sin and death and evil for His help?
- Do you think all religions are basically equal?
- What do you think about fortune tellers, witches, palm readers, etc.? What do you know about what the Bible says about them?
- The movie says that “all religions are sisters in our battle” (i.e. against the demonic). Do you think all religions are sisters in that battle? How do you think Jesus would answer that question?
Click here for a list of quotes from The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones.
by Stacey Tuttle