City of Ember


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Rating: PG

Saoirse Ronan as Lina Mayfleet
Harry Treadaway as Doon Harrow
Bill Murray as Mayor Cole
Tim Robbins as Loris Harrow
Martin Landau as Sul
Mary Kay Place as Mrs. Murdo
Liz Smith as Granny
Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Clary
Mackenzie Crook as Looper
Toby Jones as Barton Snode
Catherine and Amy Quinn as Poppy

Special Features:

Other Info:
Widescreen (2.35:1) and Fullscreen (1.33:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
Spanish and French Language Tracks
Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 95 Minutes

The Movie:
The following is the official description of the film:

“Bill Murray, Tim Robbins and Saoirse Ronan star in this heart-thumping, edge-of-your-seat adventure that comes to light in this exhilarating family film based on the best-selling novel by Jeanne Duprau.

For centuries, the residents of the underground City of Ember have flourished in an amazing world of glittering lights and quiet contentment. But when the City’s massive power generator begins to fail, the street lamps start to fade – along with the hopes and dreams of the townspeople. Now it’s up to two courageous teenagers to follow a trail of clues left by the ancient Builders and find a way out of Ember before their world is plunged into darkness forever!”

“City of Ember” is rated PG for mild peril and some thematic elements.

“City of Ember” has a great premise. The story starts out showing an apocalyptic event and a group of scientists creating an underground city to save humanity. Two hundred years later, the city has fallen into disrepair and the inhabitants have long since lost the instructions for exiting the city. Political corruption, blind faith, and hopelessness keep them imprisoned in Ember. All this together sets up an amazing world for the story to unfold in. The impressive production design makes a believable setting that’s an interesting mix of modern technology and ’50s sci-fi.

Fortunately, the cast isn’t overwhelmed by the impressive scenery. Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, and Martin Landau make up the notable supporting cast, but the young actors in the lead more than hold their own. Saoirse Ronan is spunky and earnest as Lina Mayfleet. It’s easy to see how young audiences could identify with her character. She’s well paired with Harry Treadaway as Doon Harrow. Doon is your typical young man that believes he can solve all the world’s problems and wants to break the norm. As the two conduct their quest to unlock the secrets of Ember, you can’t help but be pulled into the adventure.

Unfortunately, “City of Ember” falls apart in a number of areas. If you think about the story too much, you start seeing all sorts of plot holes. For example, what kind of idiot scientists create an underground city with no apparent exit? And when the kids do find the exit, it comes across as a blatant way to tie the movie into an amusement park ride rather than a way a scientist would create to safely transport the last remnants of humanity. This world also has giant monsters that are never explained (we assume they are mutants). There are a number of other problems towards the end that I can’t talk about without spoiling it. Suffice it to say the movie loses most of the credibility it built up in the last 20 minutes of the film. That being said, kids will still probably love it.

Besides the problems with the story, Bill Murray is totally wasted in this film. His role is rather minor and he has no significant impact on the story. He seems more like a way to create some sort of political commentary. Politicians are bad – yes, we get it.

I’d recommend “City of Ember” to kids 8 years old and up. They’ll enjoy the story and won’t pick it apart. I’d also recommend it to adults curious about the story and anyone that likes a good post-apocalyptic yarn. Those viewers will appreciate the production design and all the potential of the story. This film certainly made me interested in checking out the other Ember books by Jeanne Duprau.

The DVD is a major disappointment. The review copy I was sent has no bonus features other than a series of trailers. There’s nothing on the original books, nothing on the production design, no interviews with cast and crew, or even a commentary. Fans of the movie will be quite bummed by this release.