Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

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Not suitable under 13, PG strongly recommended 13-15 (Violence; Scary and disturbing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
  • a review of Mortal Instruments: City of Bones completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 26 August 2013.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 13 Not suitable due to violence, scary and disturbing scenes.
Children aged 13 to 15 Parental guidance strongly recommended due to violence and scary and disturbing scenes.
Children aged 15 and over OK for this age group

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: Mortal Instruments: City of Bones
Classification: M
Length: 130 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is the first in what is likely to be a series based on books by Cassandra Clare. The story unfolds as sixteen-year-old Clary Fray (Lily Collins) becomes entangled in a series of strange happenings. Firstly, Clary finds herself subconsciously drawing mysterious rune-like symbols, which put Clary’s mother Jocelyn (Lena Headey) on edge. Secondly, while visiting a nightclub with her best friend Simon (Robert Sheehan) Clary sees a trio of strange looking people, who are invisible to all but Clary, who attack and kill a young man.  

The following day Clary receives a frantic call from her mother and races home to find the house wrecked and her mother missing.  Clary is confronted by a Rottweiler dog that turns into a demonic creature bent on killing her. Luckily for Clary she is rescued in the nick of time by the invisible young man she saw committing murder the previous night. It turns out that Clary’s invisible rescuer Jace (Jamie Campbell) is a Shadowhunter, a half human, half angel, whose job it is to hunt down and destroy demons.

To help Clary understand what is happening, Jace takes Clary and Simon to a sanctuary where Clary meets a group of young Shadowhunters led by an ageing Shadowhunter called Hodge (Jared Harris). Clary learns that she too is a Shadowhunter with supernatural powers and that the world is full of supernatural beings including demons, vampires, werewolves and witches. Through Hodge, Clary learns that an ex-Shadowhunter named Valentine (Jonathan Rys Meyer) is responsible for her mother’s abduction.

Determined to rescue her mother, Clary teams up with Jace and the other Shadowhunters to confront Valentine. 


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Supernatural beings and powers

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

The film contains intense sequences of fantasy action violence, at times somewhat brutal, using swords, knives and spears.  There is torture, the depiction of some deaths and some blood and gore. Examples include:

  • In a nightclub we see two men and a woman wearing gothic clothing, black leather face masks and tattoos covering arms and necks. A young man approaches the young woman and a metal bracelet in the shape of a snake becomes animated, slithering down her arm and wrapping itself around the man’s arm. One of the gothic men approaches, grabbing hold of the young man while the other gothic man, carrying a sword, slashes the man being held across the throat. The dying man writhes on the floor with a thin red bloody line across his throat and the metal snake slithering around his arm.         
  • Two young men, wielding a sword and a spear, burst into a woman’s apartment. The door is blown off its hinges and across the room with the woman thrown through the air to land hard on her back. One of the men picks up the woman and throws her against a wall and she crashes to the floor. The woman gets up and attacks the two men attempting to stab one with a knife and bashing the second across the head with an iron frypan, the woman then repeatedly slams a refrigerator door into the man’s head until she knocks him unconscious. The woman then attacks the second man with an iron frypan hitting him over the head and escaping into the bathroom. Later, unable to escape, the woman drinks the contents of a small bottle and falls unconscious.
  • In one scene depicting torture, we see a man bound to a chair by manacles being questioned and taunted by two men who repeatedly punch him in the face.
  • A young man, who appears unconscious, is seen bound in chains and left hanging from a ceiling. The image resembles a crucifixion.
  • During an extended fight between several Shadowhunters and dozens of vampires Shadowhunters stab vampires through the chest with swords and slash their throats. One Shadowhunter uses a vampire gun that has a barbed spike to pierce the vampire’s chests. Towards the end of the battle we see a number of werewolves crashing through windows and attacking the vampires.  A vampire’s hand smokes and burns when it is exposed to daylight.
  • A young man burns images into his arm with a supernaturally powered blue light.
  • A demon kills a werewolf by using its clawed hand to stab the werewolf through the chest.
  • A young girl kicks her father through a transport portal that appears as a vertical circle of shimmering water. The man tries to walk back through the portal and we see his arms extending through the water, but the young girl touches a device which causes the water and the man’s protruding arms to freeze.


Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are scenes and characters in this movie that are likely to scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • In a scary transformation, a young woman is confronted by a snarling Rottweiler dog. The top of the dog’s head splits open to reveal a large deep bloody wound and the dog grows a mouth full of fangs.  Tentacles grow out of the dog’s body and it changes into a horrible creature which crashes through a bathroom door in an attempt to attack the young woman. The young woman pours a flammable liquid over the creature and sets it on fire. Gruesome globs of transparent jelly-like flesh, including an eyeball, slide across the floor before the dog is reconstituted.              
  • A police officer’s face has a black skull-like appearance with a mouth full of oversized teeth and glowing eyes.
  • One scene depicts a number of scary beings that have pale bald heads with heavily sunken dark eyes and mouths that are stitched closed with large ragged looking stitches.
  • The vampires have bald heads, blue veined pale faces and mouths full of protruding fangs.
  • There are numerous werewolves appearing both in wolf form and as men with mouths full of wolf-like teeth and snarling expressions.
  • A woman transforms into a demon. Her eyes turn yellow, she has black teeth, veins protrude from her face and a tentacle-like appendage bursts out of the back of her neck.
  • Flocks of large crow-like birds transform into demon creatures   

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group are also very likely to be disturbed by the above mentioned scenes and by the following scenes:

  • We see an image of an angel with the vein on its wrist cut open and blood pouring out of the cut into a cup, and hear how humans drank the angel’s blood from the cup to give them supernatural powers enabling them to hunt demons.
  • One scene depicts a little girl standing in a street. The girl’s eyes roll back into her head as a werewolf grabs her in its jaws. They disappear off screen but we hear sounds of the girl screaming and bones being crunched. 

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group are also likely to be disturbed by many of the above mentioned scenes and characters.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group may also  be disturbed by some of the above mentioned scenes and characters.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • iPhones
  • iMac laptops
  • brand name cars
  • tattoos

Sexual references

The film contains some low-level sexual references and innuendo. Examples include:

  • We hear a character say “that blond was totally flirting with you”, and hear the response “I’m saving myself for someone else”.
  • A demon asks a werewolf if he wanted to” hump” his legs, and “smell my derriere”.
  • A man says that a young woman is dressed like a hooker and looks like someone whose phone number should be on a bathroom wall.
  • A man wearing short shorts and eye makeup refers to another young man as the “hot one with blue eyes”. 
  • A young woman tells a young man that he should admit to being in love with another man.

Nudity and sexual activity

  • infrequent images of women dressed in tight fitting and revealing clothing
  • shadowy images of a woman changing her clothes behind a screen.
  • a young man and woman kiss passionately on the lips

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • A woman drinks a substance that causes her to fall unconscious.
  • A man spikes a young man’s drink with blue drops causing the man to gasp and gag when he drinks it. We later hear that the young man was poisoned.
  • A young man tells a young woman that they pump hallucinogenic gas into the air at nightclubs.
  • A man injects himself with blood, causing convulsions.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  •  “Jesus”, “hell (use on several occasions)”,” smell my derriere”

In a nutshell

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones is an action fantasy film similar to the Twilight Saga films but coming a poor second to that series. The film is based upon a series of fantasy novels by Cassandra Clare but has a confusing plot and stereotypical characters.  The film’s violence, scary characters including vampires and werewolves, and disturbing scenes including transformations make it unsuitable for under13s and some older children. Parental guidance is strongly recommended for younger teens who may be attracted to the film by the attractive actors, or who are familiar with the books. 

The main messages from this movie are:

  • The world remains the same - it is people who change.
  • Working as a team makes individuals stronger.
  • Families are important and worth fighting for. 

 Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include courage as displayed by Clary’s mother Jocelyn, Clary herself, Simon, Jace, Alec and Isabel on multiple occasions throughout the film, as they risk their lives to protect others.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Clary’s mother has repeatedly lied to Clary in order to protect her from the forces of evil. Is it justifiable to lie to those we love if we consider it to be in their best interest?