DVD Review: City of Ember

Having missed its theatrical run and completely oblivious to what the story was about, City of Ember provided more than enough surprises and visually genuine moments in its agreeable 90-minute running time. That being said, I don’t want to give away too much.

With fate of mankind at its peak, a sacred box containing a precious secret is passed from Governor to Governor until it automatically opens two hundred years later. Civilization is sent underground for these two hundred years after a group of workers called The Builders created the underground city of Ember, which runs completely on one giant generator that is rapidly failing. Starring Oscar-nominee Saojrse Ronan and co-starring familiar faces Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, and the great Martin Landau.

Appealing more to adults than kids primarily because of the complex storytelling, City of Ember looks and feels unlike anything I have ever seen before. Its magical set designs, beautiful cinematography, and inventive storytelling make this a genuine surprise.

Although this never-before-seen combination of science fiction and post-apocalyptic fantasy is shot beautifully and the underground world is eye-catching to adults, kids will more than likely lose interest from the slow pace and lack of adventure. Its ability to appeal to a broader audience may be limited, but its ability to captivate a more sophisticated one is not.

City of Ember may be flawed with an insignificant amount of suspense and unoriginal dialog, but it’s visually groundbreaking and should be experienced as soon as possible. It would be a shame to miss such a dazzling feat.

Jeanne Duprau’s creative story is told exceptionally well in the hands of imaginative screenwriter Caroline Thompson, who has previously proved her innovative skills in a number of Tim Burton films that include The Nightmare Before Christmas and The Corpse Bride. The well-told story, arresting scenery, swooping camerawork, and a more serious side from veteran actor/comedian Murray keep things fresh. And the young Ronan is fantastic.

Shifting genres entirely from animation directly to live action, Monster House‘s director Gil Kenan provides the talent of a visual sense along with the magnificent ability to bring out the best in his cast. The film, both visually accomplished and extraordinarily pieced together, is state-of-the-art filmmaking and one of the strangest films of 2008.

The absence of featurettes, deleted scenes, and commentary on the DVD is disappointing. The special features are bare containing nothing more than a trio of appalling direct-to-DVD Trailers. The feature is incredible though. City of Ember is available on DVD January 20th. See it as soon as possible! 4/5 stars

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