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FILM ONLY REVIEW
With life on Earth about to end as we know it, a city s built underground where a select few are going to be living for 200 years until it is safe to leave. Instruction by the builders of the city are left in a secure box and sealed and will only be accessed when the 200 years is up. The box is given to the mayor of Ember and it s to be passed over when their reign is up. Unfortunately the 7th Mayor died before passing the box on so it is now left abandoned in a cupboard with no one knowing of its existence.
In Ember the 200 years has passed but life is still continuing there, the generator is breaking down and the city is running out of food. A boy called Doon is trying to get to the generator as he believes he can fix it but unfortunately he has not been lucky. His friend Lina finds the box in her house and soon discovers the map and instructions so the pair set about trying to leave the city and make it to the outside but they are in for a hard task as it is illegal to leave the city.
Will Lena and Doon be able to follow the instructions and make it to the outside world and save the city of Embers people or will they all be destined to stay in the crumbling Ember forever?
The trailers for this film made me think it was going to be a good children's action film and I have to admit I do like these types of films as they make for good family viewing but this one for both me and hubby was a bit of a let down. The storyline was good but neither or us think it was maximised to its full potential and so much more could have been done with it and the acting from the children could have been stronger and better.
The role of Lena was played by Saiorse Ronan and she for me looked lost, she was quite wooden at times and there was no chemistry between her and her friend Doon. I liked how she was a strong person looking after her younger sister due to having both parents killed and for me this was the best and strongest part of her role. She did not give any definition with her lines and she seemed to just say them without any enthusiasm and for me she looked quite uncomfortable throughout. The role of friend Doon was played by Harry Treadaway and he was slightly better. He seemed more sure of his character and had a more confident take on the way he wanted to play him. He was easy to get to know and like but I felt like he and Saiorse may not have liked each other off screen as there was no chemistry between either of them.
We had a few good supporting actors including Bill Murray who took the role of the Mayor of Ember, he gave a good performance although I would have liked to have seen more of him in the film but he did bring a nice different character to the story. We also had Tim Robbins starring and Liz Smith playing the role of Granny, she was great and brought some humour to the film.
The film was set underground so everything was quite dark and dull. The sets were all dull and no one wore anything bright and colourful which for me was a shame. I think this did help to remind us throughout that they were living underground but a bit more colour would have made it easier to watch. The film is set in the future but we seemed to go back to basics with the homes and stuff they were filled with. There were no real gadgets and for me it was like gong back to the 1920's. Some of the things did help remind us that it was the future when the two leads started following the instructions but for me it seemed irrelevant. The sets were well made and looked realistic and so too were the costumes and makeup.
We did have quite a few special effects in the film and they were good up to the point of the last 20minutes when they started to become very stand out and not blended into the film very well. Some of the scenes on the boat ride were awfully made and spoilt the flow of the film for me. The music was not at all memorable and after only watching this film last night I cannot remember a single track which was used.
As this is a film only review there are no bonus features to speak of. The running time of the film is 90 minutes and I did find this was quite long enough. The film has a PG certificate and I do agree with this as I think the film is very well suited to the 8-10 age range. The DVD can be bought from Amazon for under £5 now and I would not advise paying any more for it.
Overall I am going to give this film a neutral 3 stars as both me and hubby felt it was lacking in everything overall but the younger market which this is aimed at will really enjoy this and not really notice the bad effects and just enjoy what they are seeing.
When the inevitable nuclear holocaust occurs I plan to be watching it all a mile underground in my lead lined super palace. I will store so many tins of beans that, although the smell will not be pleasant, I can survive indefinitely on the nourishment of legumes and the delicious wetness of bean juice. Perhaps a lucky few will be invited down with me, but they must prove their worth via a series of devious tests and, more importantly, through their lack of smell. As important as getting into the super palace in time will be getting to the surface if it becomes safe once more. As generations of the super pod people (as we will come to be known) thrive, they must rise once more. What would happen if they forgot there was a world outside?
The city of Ember lies deep beneath the Earth. It is inhabited by generations of people who have known nothing more than this city. Once a person comes of age they are given a job that they must do for life from boiler repair person, courier, or even the mayor. Lina and Doon are two youngsters who are about to embark on their adult responsibilities. When Lina stumbles across a mysterious box she begins to question whether there is a world outside their own. With the power cuts that plunge the city into abject darkness becoming more regular, perhaps it is time for someone to discover what is beyond the dark zone. Can Lina and Doon survive the dangers that lie both within and without the city?
My favourite children's films are always ones that are dark in nature and play with a youngster's sense of fear. I grew up loving the likes of 'Time Bandits', 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory', and 'A Nightmare before Christmas'. These films are dark, but also strangely compelling and in many ways 'The City of Ember' fits nicely in with them. Director Gil Kenan's debut was the great 'Monster House' and he takes the ghost ride feel of this CGI film and brings it to this live action picture. There are so many great ideas in the film that they should impress any child with a vivid imagination.
The city itself is a brilliant construct. Deep below the Earth, it is illuminated by thousands of lamps suspended from a ceiling no one can see. A giant hydraulic system powers the entire city, and as the film is set hundreds of years after the people originally fled, it is in great disrepair. The parallels between Ember and the latter day USSR are numerous. The Communist ideals that the city works under are falling to pieces just like machinery that cannot be repaired as there are no new raw materials. The film was at its most evocative when Kenan explored the city itself and treated it like a sick and aging animal.
I loved the ideas behind the film, but some of the other elements just did not hold up. The story of two youngsters looking for an escape was far too obvious for my liking and it gave the film a juvenile appeal that was not in keeping with the various ideas on offer. I saw elements of 'Brazil' and 'The 5th Element' in the film, so to have a jarring coming of age element, just did not work. This is not to say that the young cast did not work well. Saoirse Ronan as Lina was especially good. However, it was the adult roles of Bill Murray and Toby Jones that really stood out.
In terms of look, director Kenan is not quite able to meet his vision due to budget restrictions. There are so many ideas in the film that getting all of them to appear in a moderately budgeted kid's film was always going to be difficult. What you are left with is an impressive set that lacks the sense of scale that the film deserves. There are hints in some areas, such as the giant engine room, but the majority of the film is shot on sets that look a little too stagey. The BluRay aspect does little to improve the special effects, and actually undermines the CGI work a little. What HD does do well is highlight the impressive use of colour that Kenan put in the film with various shades of yellows giving the film a Jean-Pierre Jeunet feel.
'City of Ember' was a financial failure and critical flop on its release and has quickly descended into the realms of the unknown. This is highly unfair, as although there are plenty of flaws in the film, it has great imagination. Like 'Time Bandits' it may take a few years and repeat TV showings for 'Ember' to become well known. The moderate budget and average child performances do stop it from being an instant classic, but the brilliantly realised world and interesting direction means that whilst your 'Percy Jacksons' of the world will age horribly, a good idea always survives.
Director: Gile Kenan
Starring: Saoirse Ronan
Price: Amazon uk £5.99 (BluRay)
Play.com £8.99 (BluRay)
The impact that the HD had on the look and feel of the film was lower than you would expect from a science fiction film and this is probably due to the moderate budget. In terms of extras there are several featurettes including one on the massive set that the film was shot on.
Disclaimer: As with all my movie reviews, this is about the film itself rather than the DVD. I generally don't watch extra features or deleted scenes as they are usually removed for a reason and detract from the film as it was intended.
Key Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Harry Treadaway, Bill Murray, Mackenzie Crook
City of Ember is a 2008 Family and Fantasy based upon a 2003 novel by Jeanne DuPrau. It details the city of Ember which is hidden underground in order to allow mankind to survive some kind of apocalypse. The people live there for 200 years, forgetting completely about the surface and about the builder's instructions on how to get out, until 2 young children find the key.
The most immediate positive aspect to this movie is the artwork. The lighting and set design is amazing with brilliant colours and conceptual design for an entire city. The special effect and costume design complements the light and set design perfectly and creates a stunning visual appearance that will intrigue both kids and adults. Additionally the selection of actors all suit the movie well and pull off their characters to a tee.
The main problem with this movie is the storyline. Yes, it has its good bits but overall it's a completely boring piece of scripting that will result in you hurrying the film along when you get half way through. Its not an easy watch for this reason, but serves well and background tv. Additionally there is no action, at all so a lot of children will probably get restless for the 90 minute duration.
Overall this is a decent family movie that would be great to watch with children on the weekend despite its obvious flaws. In my personal opinion I would probably wait until this one is on TV if you are in no rush as you'll probably be disappointed if you pay for it.
The thought of complete darkness is a frightening thought for many of us, particularly children. It is strange, then, to find a children's film which centres on that very fear. The City of Ember is a city built deep underground by the citizens of a dystopian future who are escaping from an unspecified disaster that has threatened the future of civilisation. Designed to last for 200 years, a series of mistakes has led to the population still being in residence far beyond the city's sell-by date, any knowledge the creation of the city having been lost many years ago. The city now looks like something from a Roald Dahl film, filled with Heath Robinson devices to make life more comfortable, and ruled by pompous officials in strange fairy tale dress.
Amidst the constant power failures that plunge the whole city into a terrifying and complete darkness, the film centres on two young residents; Lina and Doon have reached the age when they enter the lottery of job allocation, and their new roles as messenger and pipe operator make them perfectly placed to formulate plans for an escape from the darkness, as they are given access to both crucial information and to the most secret areas of the city. Doon and Loris, his inventor father, can both see the steady decay of the machinery that keeps the city alive, and are convinced that the end is coming soon. Twelve year old Lina is an orphan, looking after both her baby sister and her elderly grandmother. As a direct descendant of the first Mayor of Ember, she has some very special tools that will help Doon in his determination discover the truth. A fast paced adventure story unfolds as they attempt to find a way out; following a series of clues provided by an inherited map, they rush around the city to try to unravel the mystery and save the whole population.
The two child actors perform very well in this film. Doon is played by Harry Treadaway and Lina is played by Saoirse Ronan (probably best known for playing a young Briony in Atonement). Ronan in particular puts in a very fresh and enthusiastic performance as the Pollyanna type young messenger who just loves to help others. These two are well supported by an impressive list of seasoned actors, from Tim Robbins playing Doon's father, to Bill Murray who plays the Mayor of the City, to Martin Landau, playing Sol, a key figure in the children's escape.
The design of the city is what makes this film special, Although the plot is tight and the pace good, it is the fairy tale nature of those houses and passageways that give this film its magic. The actual city is quirky and ramshackle, with enormous lights that hang high above the tilting houses, illuminating everyday life and dropping large chunks of metal down onto the people every few minutes. When the generator cuts out the citizens of the city stop dead in their tracks in the pitch black as they shake and pray that the generator will be able to restart the lights again. The houses are full of unsymmetrical tiny rooms, and the sepia streets are cobbled with picturesque fountains and tiny passageways. Secret rooms abound, behind walls, behind lockers, under the floor - ideal for hiding away from pursuers, and ideal for keeping secrets. Little oddments of threat sometimes tantalise the audience, such as the enormous claw of a giant earwig which is brought back by a failed escapee - but these threats never come to fruition and are all the more powerful by being left to the imagination.
The film is a puzzle, an adventure and a chase. Every part of the city is a gadget, a trap, or a hiding place, moving upwards, downwards and sideways to give an escape. The film was not received by either critics or audiences, having been criticised for being a slow starter that never reached its full potential . This was not my experience, and I would thoroughly recommend this as a good, solid family film that will entertain in exactly the same way as other fantasy adventure films such as Journey to the Center of the Earth.
The film is based on the series of popular novels by Jeanne DuPrau, and is directed by Gil Kenan, best known for Monster House. It was a box office flop when it was released in 2008.
It is rated a PG and runs for 92 minutes.
(This review also posted on Helium)
City of Ember is a pretty good action adventure film, certainly it was better than I had expected it to be and I quite enjoyed it.
Faced with an event that has made the earth uninhabitable a group of scientists have built an underground city called Ember in which the survivors of earth live. The first mayor of the city is secretly given a silver box and he has to pass this on to his successors, the box is set to open after 200 years have elapsed however with 47 years to go the sudden death of the mayor of the time means that the box gets lost and now with only a few years to go the city is beginning to break apart at the seams.
The two main characters are Lina played by Saoirse Ronan and Doon played by Harry Treadaway, two friends who swap jobs and following the discovery of the silver box it reveals the fact that there is a secret exit from the city and they set out to discoveri ts whereabouts. In addition to the two young actors who put in quality performances Bill Murray is also excellent as Moyor Cole who is the bad guy in this film.
The film has a dark quality to it and the fantasy plot is wellk constructed and moves along at a good pace once the scene has been set properly. As an adventure film this will appeal to the whole family as there is enough in it to entertain the adults and the younger ones will enjoy it as well.
Every now and again a film will kind of sneak up on you and take you completely by surprise. I knew my wife had wanted to see "City of Ember" at the cinema, but I had taken one look at the trailer and dismissed it out of hand. However, when it made a recent appearance on the Sky Movies schedule, I relented, thinking that, without the added investment of having to buy cinema tickets, a bucket of popcorn and perhaps more importantly, using up a rare night out, I could always fall asleep on the couch if I wanted to.
The film starts out with a flashback to a time when the fate of mankind is in the balance. An unidentified catastrophe is soon to make the earth uninhabitable, so a group of scientists (American obviously - they're always American) create an underground city, called Ember, to which a select group of lucky souls will be sent - a modern day ark - to safeguard the future of the human race.
A silver box, the contents of which are not known at this stage, is entrusted to the first mayor, with instructions to pass down the box from mayor to mayor until the timer - originally set at 200 years - reaches zero and the box automatically opens. However, with 47 years left on the clock, the mayor of the time - a Mr Podd Morthwart - suddenly expires and the line of succession is broken, as the box lies forgotten at the back of a wardrobe.
Many years later, the story picks up with Ember creaking at the seams, fraying at the edges and rapidly crumbling around its hardy denizens. A young Lina Mayfleet - a descendant of Mayor Morthwart (and still living in the same house) - along with her friend Doon Harrow face Assignment day - a day when a young person comes of age and finds out the task they will be assigned within the city for the rest of their lives.
The first part of the film sets the scene as both of the main protagonists settle into their jobs and further light is cast on the interrelationships with their nearest and dearest. Doon has a mechanical mind and yearns to work on the generator that serves as the heart beat of the city, and Lina, a gregarious people person, wants to be a messenger.
Neither initially gets the job they want (but they do manage to job such delightful careers as "potato peeler" and "mold scraper"), but they trade jobs - with Doon taking up a position at the Pipeworks, and Lina getting her coveted messenger job. Lina lives with her younger sister Poppy and her senile grandmother, while Doon lives with his somewhat jaded and downtrodden father, Loris.
After the scene setting, the film really gets going when the silver box is found and its contents discovered. The children realise that the builders of the City meant for its citizens to return to the surface and that somewhere in Ember, there is an exit. What follows is an entertaining voyage of discovery.
Lina Mayfleet is played exceptionally well by the young and talented, Saoirse Ronan, probably most recognisable for her role as the naïve but vindictive young Briony - sister to Kiera Knightley's Cecilia - in Joe Wright's period drama Atonement. There is a freshness and innocence about her performance that is paradoxically tinged with an air of maturity and wisdom. She is a believable lead alongside compatriot Doon and the film manages to avoid the over-emotional, saccharine sweet and mawkish acting that often afflicts these kinds of films.
Doon Harrow, played by Harry Treadaway, was previously unknown to me, but he pulled off the role quite well and was convincing as the eager visionary frustrated by the inertia and blind faith around him. Doon wants to make things happen, but he is not the solitary driving force behind the adventure - Lina and he take it in turns to assume the lead at various parts of the film and their interrelationship works well and remains plausible throughout (making allowances for the subject matter of course).
Bill Murray, as Mayor Cole, is the undoubted villain of the piece and would have had every excuse to sail through this film on cruise control, but it is to his credit that he brings an undercurrent of menace to a role that could easily have slipped into caricature and buffoonery. Mayor Cole is a shifty, self-serving and patronising sort whose outwardly benevolent façade never really convinces.
Honourable mentions should also go to Liz Smith (as Lina's grandma) of Royle Family fame, a nice little cameo by Martin Landau (who I always remember for his parts as Commander John Koenig in Space 1999 and Rollin Hand in the original Mission Impossible), who plays Sul - Doon's mentor in the pipeworks, and finally Toby Jones as the odious little mayor's aide, Barton Snode. Loris "Barrow" Harrow is also excellently played by Hollywood veteran Tim Robbins, and although his screen time is limited, he lends a certain quality and gravitas to proceedings.
THOUGHTS ON THE FILM
The film is based on a book for "young adults" of the same name by Jeanne DuPrau. As I have not read the book, I can't possibly comment on how accurate the interpretation is from the original. That said, in my experience (Tolkien's Ring series and Rowling's Potter books being prime examples) films always tend to disappoint because by their nature, books leave much to the imagination of the reader - films based on books on the other hand are one person's interpretation of the book.
Given that Ember is an underground city, its not surprising that the film has a dark, shadowy feel in parts. Costumes and scenery are in earthy, rustic colours such as browns, greys, dark greens, reds and rusts and the sets come across a strange mix of architectural styles such as arts and crafts, art deco and fifties. Some of the sets would not have looked out of place in the video game Bioshock. It is, at times, Dickensian and claustrophobic with more than a slight hint of Big Brother about it.
Despite this, it works well as a family adventure and will be enjoyed by school-age children and early teens as well as by their parents. There is little in the film that is truly scary or offensive (a close (but ultimately) comical encounter with a giant mole notwithstanding), so it warrants its PG rating. The acting is not going to win any Oscars, but it is a good, well-conceived and imagined story that is well told and it comes across as good, solid fare.
The CGI is a little wanting in places, but this film is about the central story - so it does not distract from the quality or delivery of the film. The central theme is uncomplicated and easy to grasp, the characters are sympathetic and engaging, and the pay-off at the end is just about satisfying, a little rushed and somewhat understated.
Despite my initial reservations, I actually enjoyed the film. Director Gil Kenan for whom this was his debut live action film (he directed the animated Monster House previously) does a fairly good job of keeping the plot moving and ultimately weaves an enjoyable adventure in the modest 90 minute running time.
That said, the main characters come across as a little underdeveloped and you are, at times, left wanting to know more about them. However, given its target audience and its modest origins, its an excusable oversight.
If you're looking for a fantastical family adventure with sumptuous sets and a cracking story to add some substance to the style, you won't be disappointed by City of Ember. Worth a watch.
© Hishyeness 2009
When the world comes to an end, the Mayor decides that the safest curse to save mankind would be for them all to live in a city underground for 200 years - with the instructions for how to leave the city when the time comes sealed in a locked box that will open when the time is right . As the box counts down from 200 to 0, mayors die and are replaced, and somewhere along the line, the box gets shoved to the back of a wardrobe and forgotten about .
Fast forward, and 200 years have well and truly passed, and the residents of Ember are still below ground, unaware that somewhere, miles above, is a whole new world . They are running into problems - food supplies and stocks of medications are low, and the generator that provides all the power and light for the city is failing, causing frequent terrifying blackouts.
Two teenagers who have just come of age and gotten their first jobs, one in the pipeworks and one as a messenger, soon come across the box, and set about discovering the secrets contained within - but progress is hindered by corrupt officials and the fact that leaving Ember is forbidden.
What is the fate of Ember - to simply fade out when the generator fails, or to start a new civilisation in an as yet undiscovered territory.
I went into this film having never read the book, which usually gives films a bit of a fairer chance, as I don't sit around nit picking an commenting on scenes that have been missed out . But even as an entirely fresh viewer, I could see there was a lot lacking in this film . It was not, for instance, satisfactorily explained why the world above was coming to an end - was it some kind of natural disaster, a war, or some kind of nuclear fall-out .
Similarly unexplained was the relationship between the two young leads - they seem to rub along quite nicely together, giving the impression they've known each other for years, but later in the film it turns out Doon doesn't know how Lina's father died, despite it being not long ago, and Lina doesn't know Doon's dad. So, maybe they haven't known each other that long - it's all very baffling .
I'm not entirely sure what the purpose of the huge mole has to do with anything - the huge mole is never explained, and I spent half the film trying to figure out if the people were little 'Borrower' sized people, or if it really was just a humongous mole . If moles and beetles evolved to be so much bigger in a few hundred years, then why ? And how ?
So far, it seems I'm only mentioning the bad bits of the film - I will say that some parts of the film were good . Bill Murray was perfectly cast as the corrupt mayor, and I did think the two young leads Saoirse Ronan and Harry Treadaway acted fairly convincingly. There were few other characters that stood out - except for one black woman who seemed to have some kind of deep and caring relationship with Lina that was, again, never explained .
I did like the scenery and effects, as well as some of the costuming - rusting pipework, failing generators, collapsing ceilings - all very realistic for a city that was only meant to last 200 years now way past the end of its time .
Overall, I found the film very weak - so little was explained, and the ending was far too simple . I found myself confused after watching it, and I actually feel like I need to read the book in order to make the film make sense .
Perhaps if I had read the book beforehand, the film would have made more sense, but that is besides the point - I expect a film t be self contained, and tie up it's own loose ends . This film fails to do that, so despite it being fairly well acted and moving along at a decent pace, it was, ultimately, disappointing .
I can't really recommend this for adult viewing - although I do think children won't notice and worry about the loose ends so much, and it is perfectly suited for young children. But from me, only two stars I'm afraid .
City of Ember is a great fantasy movie released in 2008 with a message based on the novel of the same name by Jeanne Duprau .
Ember is a city that has been built deep beneath the earth and populated with humans in order to save the human race as the world comes to an end.
The city has a generator that will power the lights and other ammenities that keep the city running but it is starting to fail causing blackouts that are lasting longer each time.
The leader of the city will pass down a metal box that has a timer that will open when 200 years has passed and contains instructions on how to exit the city and repopulate the surface of the planet.
Unfortunatly one of the leaders dies before he passes it on and the box gets lost so no one knows there is anywhere else to go.
Doon Harrow(Harry Treadaway) and Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) are the teenagers who realise that the city is not going to last much longer and discover the way out of the city.
Tim Robins plays Loris Harrow Doons father an inventor and Bill Murray the greedy mayor who is just intent on filling his face with he cities supplies.
Great movie for young and old and with a running time of 92 minutes isnt so long that children will get bored.
Great acting and a film with a message, I loved it.
Currently available for £5 with free delivery from Play.com.
City of Ember is a Chldrens Fantasy Directed By Gil Kenan.
Set in a city lit by electricty a series of black outs lead to two kids embarking on an adventure to find the outside world for everyone to live in.
The film is wonderfull and looks great on screen. The set pieces are vibrant and costumes and creatures add to the underground city giving it a gothic but fairytale like look to it.
The two kid actors are great in their roles and are likable enough to follow there adventure as they figure out the steps to take to find a way out before all the lights go out.
Bill Murray and Tim Robbins play supporting roles, murray shines as the greedy mayor and adds comedy to the proceedings. Robbins as always is the strong father figure and gives his son the tools to find a way out.
The effects in the film are brought to life and add to the world of ember to great detail.
The film isnt overlong and you soon find yourself wanting to know more about the characters as it ends abrubtly as the kids find their way to the surface of the earth.
An enjoyable if not forgettable romp for all the family
I tend to watch a few films a week without my partner as she finishes work much later than me.... As she never wants to miss out on the good films I tend to watch the ones with poorer reviews...
City of Ember has so far scored an impressive 6.5 on imdb, however a few other sites had given it a much lower score.
The opening of the film shows a bunch of important people including a mayor deciding that the world has come to a point where hibernation is the only option. They seal the specifics of how to get out of the hibernation in a box with a time delay of 200 years before it will open. The doors are sealed and we then move swiftly on the present time. The box is lost, 200 years have passed and no-one knows anything about an outside world.
The story then moves to two teenagers who are now at an age which they are fit for work. They go through a ceremony, with Bill Murray as the mayor, picking jobs out of a fancy bag.
The generator that powers the city is slowly dying and blackouts are happening on a regular basis. Being so far underground, they would surely all die if power failed.
The two teenagers then decide there must be more to the world than ember and start trying to solve the mystery.
The film is based on a book, but a very weak interpretation according to other review I've read. You can tell when you're watching the film that it's a poor interpretation of a mystical book which probably gets children's minds working overtime with their fantasies filling in some of the gaps. The story remains quite flat, developing into the mystery slowing unravelling into the answer.
Bill Murray is absolutely pointless in this film, I can't see why he was cast the role as it doesn't use his skills to their full potential. Acting all round is a bit mediocre, no-one really comes across like they have actually lived underground for all their life... So few seem curious as to what might be out there, and without any detail regarding the progression over the 200 years, the holes never get filled.
The adventure side of things is what made me watch this film to the end. I liked the puzzle, the solving of what was originally intended but lost. The mystery of living in a small community in a big cave... It some ways it plays on the style of the film 'The Village' where fear is what keeps people from looking or asking questions.
Overall the film isn't great, but I honestly enjoyed it. I wouldn't watch it again, but if they remade it with more detail I'd definitely give it a watch.
One of the reviews on this site by someone who watched it twice with her children really didn't pay much attention. Some of the detail mentioned in her review is incorrect and some of the bad points suggested and missing detail is also wrong.
If you enjoy films like the Golden Compass, this will entertain you for 1hr 30, but don't expect edge of your seat entertainment.
***City of Ember (2008)***
I was looking forward to seeing this film, because I had seen the trailer at the cinema and it seemed quite exiting. I rented it from Lovefilm and it was just the film - no extras. I actually watched it twice as my children weren't able to watch it together. I have to say straight off, it didn't get better. Overall, I was very disappointed, because it had the potential to be good, but I feel it failed to deliver.
The basic idea is that the end of the world as we know it has come and an underground city is created to try to save a selected few, so than mankind can survive. We find out that people will have to live underground for around 200 years. A box detailing what has happened and what has to be done to reach the surface, is handed to a mayor for safe keeping. No one living underground (apart from the mayor) has any understanding of what existed before, so that they do not have to deal with their loss. It is their job to hand it down through the generations, so that when the time comes, everyone will know what to do.
Unfortunately the box goes astray and is left to gather dust in a cupboard. The community go on living underground with no knowledge of this time limit, nor of the consequences of what will happen when the 200 years comes to an end. The story is picked up by two teenagers, who are given jobs to do upon coming of age. They of course come across the box and deal with its secrets.
Harry Treadaway - Doon Harrow
Tim Robbins - Loris Harrow
Bill Murray - Mayor Cole
Toby Jones - Barton Snode
Lucinda Dryzek - Lizzie Bisco
Martin Landau - Sul
Saoirse Ronan - Lina Mayfleet
I felt this film plodded along and what could have been a great adventure was a bit boring to be honest. Both of my children said separately how they thought it would have been different and pointed out lots of things they thought was wrong with the plot on the whole.
Firstly, I understand that the reason as to why they were underground had to be kept secret, but it seemed a really lame excuse. I couldn't get it into my head how they wouldn't have known why they were there. Were just babies put down there? How was the secret kept? It was only 200 years - not 2000! Also, having the box going missing, which was central to their whole existence was just daft.
I would have also liked more background as to what went wrong in the first place and why mankind had to seek refuge underground. I thought this was pretty central and basic to be honest and don't understand why this couldn't be addressed. I know this film was aimed at children, but this is another film which again seems to patronise its very audience.
The acting seemed a bit lacklustre, especially from the child leads. There didn't seem to be much emotion displayed and you didn't really care what happened to them. Also, the corrupt members of the community weren't very scary. I felt that the adult actors did ok with what they had to work with. They could however, have been utilised much more, because at the end of the day, there were some very skilled and capable actors. Martin Landau in particular wasn't given enough screen time and could have brought so much more to the story.
I think most of the blame lies with the writing. I haven't read the book and so cannot comment on the authenticity of the adaptation. The central premise of being stuck underground and hoping everything will be ok to start civilisation afresh, after a lengthy time period could have been so exiting. The struggle underground could have been covered in depth and in more detail. The lights going out for a few seconds here and there, as the generator faltered was hardly sit on the edge of your seat time.
From what I recall there was one monster of sorts, but not very scary and again more could have been made of this. Where did it come from, why was it there? There were just too many questions left unanswered.
The special effects were also the tiniest bit unbelievable, especially a scene involving a boat ride. The ending was also a bit too abrupt.
The only redeeming feature was the musical score, which did I think add to the atmosphere, but that is it. It didn't rescue a poor attempt at an action adventure film for children.
The film lasts for a very long 95 minutes. It is available for £7.98 from Amazon, but don't waste your money or your time. I wouldn't even bother renting it - and my children agree!!
CITY OF EMBER.
A surprisingly good film despite the dodgy ending.
The world finally has gone to war, a war that will destroy mankind. But some clever scientists have foreseen this and built a hidden city deep, deep below the earth where some survivor can rebuild and live until it is safe to reemerge into the open Sky's and repopulate the earth.
They hide the route out from the city inside a box which is then locked for 200 years, however the box gets forgotten about over the huge time span and nobody is there when it clicks open.
The city is running out of power, water and food, well at least it seems to be low on food, Bill Murray is however not all he seems.
We meet Doon and Lina who will set out on a great adventure to solve and find a way back to the surface.
This film is fairly good, the acting is not the best which is surprising considering it stars Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Martin Landau, Liz Smith and Mackenzie Crook. the story is not bad and the scenery is quite militaristic if not futuristic.
The ending is a bit silly where they let the people below know that they have reached the surface, not well thought out the ending.
A bit like 'Stardust, and recommended to be watched at least once.
It is an unknown time and an unknown disaster (a plague, atomic warfare, general human entropy - it's never revealed) has struck. To allow at least a portion of the human populous to survive away from the unnamed cataclysm, and then flourish long into the future back on the earth's surface, an underground city is constructed and a host of people inseminated into it. The plan is to house the chosen few for two-hundred years and then, via a brief set of instructions contained within a time-locked box, let them out to start afresh.
But with the passage of time the box is lost leaving the inhabitants with the belief that Ember is the grand sum of human civilisation.
With the two-hundred years now complete, Ember is showing serious signs of wear and tear. The multitudinous light bulbs that hang overhead - a mechanical, artificial sky - are starting to black out for longer and longer periods, sending the inhabitants, used to perennial light, into panic. Even the city itself shakes as its generator toils to maintain output.
Thrown into the mix are two children, Lina and Doon, and through a curiosity born of happenstance (Lina finds the box suddenly in her possession) and lineage (Lina and Doon's fathers both harbour(ed) ideals of the Great Beyond), the two set about uncovering the truth of Ember.
Firmly in their way is the city's Mayor, who orders their arrest after suspecting that they know too much about the lost secrets of Ember. The chase for knowledge is on...
And therein lies the downfall of Ember. As intriguing as its premise is, the action scenes never allow it to be fully realised. Plot developments are rushed and badly paced, so that when the action finally begins to unravel it feels belated, flat and dissociative.
Despite its grandiose intentions, the film is remarkably small in scale. The set designs, whilst engaging, are far from epic, and feel as if they could have come from an episode of Doctor Who; fine for Saturday night television, but I have come to expect somewhat more from a major Hollywood production. The city itself is criminally underused as a visual asset. The snippets we are treated to definitely appeal but are not emphasised nearly enough, giving the film a decidedly low-budget aesthetic, which, considering the film's intent and in how it was marketed, left me feeling cheated.
Plotholes abound: the appearance of a mutated mole that can open steel doors (hence the rather contrived ending with the Mayor); the lack of knowledge of the Outside World, which surely wouldn't have disappeared from folklore in just 200 years; the unnecessarily risky roller coaster ride out of Ember. Also the ease with which the children unlock the secrets of Ember makes you wonder how no one had previously managed it.
And whilst I am able to suspend belief given a predetermined framework (thus I can cope with Harry Potter flying on a brookstick), the number of practical aberrations in the movie was off-putting.
The actors rescue it somewhat, especially the young leads who are eager and eloquent, and add as much urgency to the final proceedings as the script allows. The lack of screen time attributed to both Murray and Robbins, however, is unjustifiable.
City of Ember will appeal to younger audiences and to those willing to forgive its rushed feel. For me, though, it was all about a potential unfilled.
A shame, then, that I can only rate this film a 2 out of 5.
Take the best ideas from Dark City, The Island, Logans Run & The Goonies and you think it'd make for a truely awesome movie. With the acting talents of Tim Robbins, Bill Murray & Martin Landau you do have 3 performances worth watching (especially Landau).
Set in some dystopian future after an unknown apocalyptic event the people who make decisions decide to create an underground city and leave it isolated for 200 years leaving them a box that would open after the 200 years expired with instructions for what to do next.
The box is passed down by the cities Mayors until 1 dies and the box is then forgotten from memory and lost in a cupboard. An unknown amount of years pass but the city called Ember by its inhabitants is decaying. It is running out of food and its power generators are gradually failing.
Enter our protagonists, 3 children. 2 of whom are allocated jobs that introduce them and us to various parts of Ember, we also get to see exactly how bad things are going. With power failing they are determined to find a way out of Ember, here is where the movie parallels Goonies but nowhere near as well.
Our kids find their way out far too easily and much too late into the movie, theres no feeling of peril during that task and their journey is over and done not long after getting started. The film itself is based on a book, I feel they used the city of Ember well but stayed there far too long. Not enough was made of their journey, I felt they escaped and there was never any doubt they would and they never felt in danger whilst doing it.
The movie does look wonderful, sets and costumes are great. Bill Murray as the overfed & self serving Mayor of Ember is good but underused. Tim Robbins as the inventor father is woefully underused, Martin Landau as the oldest worker in the power station is excellent but just as he is starting to make the most of his role it is already over. The fact that the 3 main performers are children is more than likely its sales angle (I felt they were aiming for the same audience who enjoyed Lemony Snicket as the 3 main kids were pretty much carbon copies of those roles).
The movie did feel short and I got the idea it has been very heavily cut to get a more family orientated certificate, its just that once out of Ember the escape to the surface is over and done and we never get to see if anyone else makes it out. The ending is just too open for my liking, it had a great start and middle but a very weak and under done ending.
(This review also appears on Ciao)
CITY OF EMBER.
On the day the world ended the fate of mankind was carried in a small metal box.
In a secret location scientist, engineers and scholars met and concluded that there was only one thing to do to save mankind. Build an underground city to keep the people alive and safe for the generations to come.
The box is then time locked for 200 years and passed down from mayor to mayor. But the box became forgotten, the secret it holds, a myth. The box holds the route to the surface through many tests trials and labyrinths.
The city is loosing power and a solution must once again be found to save the populace.
In a cupboard , right at the back, the box quietly clicks open................
Doon and Lina have now reached adult hood and have to randomly pick their future jobs, by pot luck.
They don't get want they want and so swap jobs and thus the adventure begins for both of them.
Their futures seem set and things are moving slowly along until the box is found and Doon and Lina begin to solve the puzzles.
But time is running out, the food is running out and the power is failing...........
## There are lots of sub plots and twists and intrigue but going into that would give away too much of the film.##
Bill Murray - Mayor Cole
Tim Robbins - Loris Harrow
Harry Treadaway - Doon Harrow (Our hero)
Saoirse Ronan - Lina Mayfleet (Our Heoine)
Martin Landau - Sol
Mackenzie Crook - Looper
Liz Smith - Granny
The film has similar aspects to 'Stardust' and the acting by all parties was good as you might expect.
The movie originally had a sad desperate feel to it as the city was in its last death throes and builds through desperation to a cracking climax, even if ultimately predictable ending.
Darkly lit and very mechanical sets give a good futuristic atmosphere to the movie.
The music has no real effect except at moments of high drama and excitement.
The hungry mutant creature that lurks in the outer, forbidden, corridors may scare a few younger children.
All in all a good and highly enjoyable movie that to be honest I would watch again.
Region: Region 2
Runtime: 95 Minutes