You see movies from a certain production company enough, and you start to form an opinion of their output. This leads to prejudging the films they put out and possibly passing up the one or two gems they do actually spit out. That’s what I did with Walden Media. They basically ruined fantasy films for me. I now roll my eyes every time I see something being “produced by Walden Media”. I really didn’t like either one of the Narnia films and The Water Horse was a complete bore. I did enjoy The Seeker: The Dark is Rising and thought that it was very underrated. The Spiderwick Chronicles was a pretty entertaining film, as well. You can now add City of Ember to the good list. It’s unfortunate, but City of Ember has somehow been lumped in with all the child fantasy films that have been being churned out over the past couple of years. It’s mistakenly put in the same category as The Golden Compass, Inkheart, Bridge to Terabithia, Eragon, Stardust, and others. It’s actually quite different.
The story revolves around “the people of the City of Ember [who] have flourished in an amazing world of glittering lights for generations–underground. Built as a refuge for humanity and powered by a massive generator, this City will only sustain for 200 years. Now Ember is falling into darkness as the generator fails. Despite growing concern for the future of their beloved City, Ember’s students find themselves confronting the next step in their lives. A rite of passage for all graduates, it is Assignment Day, the day on which the Mayor himself will stand before the graduating students as they choose, by lottery, how they will spend their lives working for their society. Lina, praying with all her might to be a messenger, is devastated to be assigned to the Pipeworks, the vast network of pipes underneath the City. Her classmate, Doon Harrow, who wants more than nothing else to work in the Generator, panics when he pulls the messenger assignment. Doon offers to swap assignments with Lina. She is thrilled and grateful and eagerly changes jobs. Thus, an unlikely friendship is born. Lina finds herself zipping all over Ember, delivering important missives to even more important people, including the mayor himself. At home she cares for her aging and forgetful grandmother, and her baby sister Poppy. When an old metal box is discovered in their closet, Lina’s grandmother is overjoyed. Completely sure that the contents of the box are of the utmost importance, she is completely bereft of any memory as to why. Lina manages to jimmy the lock open, and discovers some cryptic papers inside. Unable to piece the papers together, but sure that they are important, Lina resolves to decipher their meaning and enlists Doon’s help. As blackouts in the City become more frequent, Lina and Doon realize that the information inside that box could lead to the salvation of their City and their fellow citizens. Now racing against the clock, the two follow the clues, cleverly maneuvering around corrupt politicians and unsavory characters hoping to keep them from their goal: restoring the light in the City of Ember.”
It’s pretty dark in a safe and kid-friendly kind of way. It grabs your attention right away and won’t let you go. The whole idea of an entire underground city being run on only generator power for 200 years really is fascinating. The sets and atmosphere of the film successfully give you a claustrophobic feeling. It’s also thought-provoking and makes you ponder what life would be like if we had to go back to doing things without technology and other electronic items we take for granted now.
This is definitely not a magic packed wanna be Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter film. It’s more of a “this could really happen” film. A sort of cautionary tale, maybe. Believe me, this is not anyone’s fantasy. It’s more of a nightmare that quite possibly could become a reality.
Tim Robbins is great as the wise and inventive father who encourages his son to find a way out of their underground plight. He commands the screen like he always does when he performs. Martin Landau is hilarious as a veteran worker in the Pipelines who seems to have a bad case of sleep apnea and is only concerned about his immediate job duties and pays no attention to his surroundings. Bill Murray is equally comedic and despicable in his role as the self-centered Mayor of Ember. Harry Treadaway and Lucinda Dryzek also do a great job in the roles of the two children that are the hunt to find a way back to the surface of the world.
Overall, the film is very well done and paced. It keeps you on the edge of your seat and makes you think as well. It gets even more exciting when they actually attempt to get to the surface. I applaud Gil Kenan on doing such a superb job on his second successful movie – the first being Monster House. Not bad for his sophomore release.
Source: Yahoo! Movies