The children’s film City of Ember showed promise, but ultimately didn’t make make much of an impression. The film begins with the notion that the surface world has become uninhabitable. The builders as they’re called, have created the City of Ember with the understanding that after 200 years, the surface world will have cleansed itself enough so that humans can once again live on the surface of the earth. In the 200 years following the construction of Ember, the instructions concerning how to get back to the surface world have fallen into myth until the imagination of a young boy and girl have reason to believe the myth is real.
In the world of Ember things are rigid and order must be followed to ensure humanities survival. Around the age of 15 our main characters Lina Mayfleet, played by Saoirse Ronan and Doon Harrow played by Harry Treadaway have a graduation type ceremony where they select their profession by choosing that profession out of a bag. Doon and Lina trade after the ceremony and both begin to suspect there is more to Ember than what it appears. Doon works with the pipe crew although he wishes to help the failing generator, the only thing keeping humanity alive. Lina works as a messenger where she begins to suspect the Mayor played by Bill Murray of some evil doing. She learns that the mayor is hording food and is reminded her family was once part of the mayoral lineage. Doon and Lina use their positions to unearth truths about Ember and eventually launch a plan to escape the underground city and find the surface world.
No expense was too great for this film as the set design and details in the set themselves really made the city of Ember feel as real as it could have. With some top notch actors, the film really wants to be a hit, and wants to be more than it ends up being. What we get is a fun action/adventure for the kids but there isn’t much to the film. While there are some fun scares and some nice Goonies style wonder, the film didn’t grab my imagination. There simply isn’t enough in the script for this to be much more than a one time view. Everything in the film is surfaced layered and many of the characterizations are cartoonish and lazy. With some fun aspects of the film, it will be an entertaining 90 minutes for the kids, but unlike what I’ve come to expect from any children’s film in the post-pixar era, there’s not much for the adult viewer and that’s simply not enough and might be the cause behind the fact that this film underperformed at the box office.