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Friday, October 10, 2008

City of Ember

October 10th, 2008

Rated PG for mild peril and some thematic elements.

Gil Kenan (dir.)

Saoirse Ronan as Lina Mayfleet

Harry Treadaway as Doon Harrow

Tim Robbins as Lorris Harrow

Bill Murray as Mayor Cole

Martin Landau as Sul

Barton Snode as Toby Jones

Mackenzie Crook as Looper

Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Clary

Our reviews below:


City of Ember Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of four)

The city of Ember was built to last only 200 years. All the supplies they would need were stored in a warehouse underneath the city. Instructions on how to leave the city were left in a box that was to be passed down from Mayor to Mayor. But, over the years the box got lost and over 200 hundred years later, supplies are running seriously low.

In Ember, when you finish school you are given an “Assignment”, which will be your day job and commitment to the city. Lina Mayfleet gets the job of Pipe works Laborer, and Doon Harrow gets the job of Messenger. The problem is, Lina wanted Messenger, because she loves to run, and Doon wanted Pipe works to be closer to the failing generator. They switch jobs, and both get what they wanted, but as the days go on the end for Ember becomes closer. The rest of the story follows on with suspense, and some pretty cool special effects, as the kids try to find a way out.

Bill Murray is perfectly cast as the Mayor, and there is solid acting from the two leads Harry Treadaway, who plays Doon, and Saoirse Ronan, (who was nominated for an Academy Award for last year’s Atonement), who plays Lina. Their is also a good supporting cast including, Martin Landau as an eccentric old man who works in the pipes, and Tim Robbins as Doon’s father.

The first scene showing the box getting passed along is really well done, and the last few scenes are perfect and could not have been done better. The story is really interesting, but still easy enough to understand, and the suspense is sure to keep you on the edge of your seat. It is amazingly inventive and looks absolutely great. It is really just a lot of fun. What more needs to be said?


City of Ember Review By Erin V.

***1/2 (out of four)

What if mankind went to live in an underground city, and the box holding the most important document was forgotten after over 200 years? And so it is in City of Ember. Built by the ‘Builders’ over 200 years prior to the date of the movie, Ember is an underground city built to preserve mankind. In the opening scene, we see the Builders take the box, and set it’s timer for 200 years. The box is then entrusted to the first Mayor of Ember, to be passed to the next, until it’s time comes to click open. As part of the opening scene, we see the box being passed from Mayor to Mayor, it’s time slowly ticking by, until the seventh Mayor, who drops dead. This results in the box being shoved away in the back of a closet, where is finishes it’s countdown.

In present day Ember, it is Assignment day. On this day, the graduating class of Ember will choose their jobs for life, through a random draw. Student Lina Mayfleet, (Saoirse Ronan), is racing towards the graduation, knowing she is late. Lina hopes to be a Messenger, but gets Pipeworks Laborer. Her friend Doon Harrow, (Harry Treadaway), wants Electrician’s Helper, so that he can try to fix the failing generator that powers the city. Instead, he gets Messenger. Seeing Messenger as a waste of time, since without the generator there is no city, he asks Lina if she will switch, since the Pipeworks are close to the generator. Lina agrees since Messenger was the job that she wanted in the first place.

As the generator contines to fail, escape seems to be the only option to save the city. Not only are the lights threatening to go out for good, but food, and other basic supplies are running dangerously low. When Lina finds the box, already clicked open, she and Doon wonder if it is the answer that they need.

City of Ember is an amazing adaptation of Jeanne DuPrau’s book of the same name. I read the book before the movie, and despite minor changes, it is one of the closer movie adaptations I’ve seen, and I really appreciated the way that it was done. An interesting thing about this movie, is that the whole City of Ember was built in the warehouse that was used to build the Titanic. This was effective in giving a feel of this whole city, especially in the scenes where the kids are running from one end to the other of it.

I found the musical score, composed by Andrew Lockington, was perfect for the film. One thing that I felt kept the right mood is the lack of a ‘pop’ song over the end credits. While fine in other movies, this would have changed the mood too much in this particular film. I liked the orchestral score that was used throughout the film the way it was, especially the recurring ‘Ember’ theme.

I really enjoyed City of Ember, and it is definitely worth seeing. The right amount of suspense is kept throughout, and the feeling of the need for escape is definitely there. This was a really well done movie, with good acting in all of the respective roles. It is a great film for all ages from around eight and up.


City of Ember Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of four)

Built as an underground shelter to save mankind from itself, Ember is designed to have artificial light and electricity for 200 years. A secret box, with instructions on how to evacuate when the light goes out, is supposed to be passed down to each subsequent mayor. But when the 7th mayor died, the box was forgotten in a closet for over 100 years.

People have been down in Ember for so long, that they can no longer think for themselves. The children go to school for a few years, then are assigned jobs by the mayor when they are still kids. But two kids, Lina, a messenger, and Doon, a pipeworker, feel that there must be somewhere outside of Ember. So when Lina accidentally finds the box, she and Doon try to find a way out of Ember, before the light goes out, despite the fact that the mayor doesn’t believe them and wants to stop them. This movie has some religious undertones in that the citizens of Ember have faith in the artificial light, but they have forgotten the real light, and the fact that there even is a sky above them.

City of Ember is a fun, family friendly adventure film, with no swearing, violence, or sexual innuendoes. This movie has a valuable message about thinking independently, having faith, and standing up for what you believe in. A great family movie that everyone will enjoy.


City of Ember Review By Maureen

*** (out of four)

City of Ember is a suspense filled, science fiction type adventure for both older children and adults. I’m sometimes wary when a movie is adapted from a novel meant for children. However I found the story line and degree of suspense kept me interested for the entire time.

The story takes place in the underground City of Ember. The citizens of Ember have never known any other life. They struggle to survive with limited resources and a light source that is dying. The two main characters Lina and Doon uncover secrets that might save them all. The physical setting of the entire movie is dark, dull and dreary but the adventures and suspense are definitely not. There is solid acting from the two young leads, Doon, (Harry Treadaway), and Lina, (Saoirse Ronan), yet they never overshadow the story. The city has an interesting assortment of odd and eccentric characters. The few laughs in the movie come from the scenes with Mayor Cole. Bill Murray is perfect as the corrupt Mayor Cole, never overplaying his role.

I enjoyed this movie from beginning to end. If families are looking for a good adventure film that the whole family, (except the under 8 crowd), can share this would be a good choice. Thanksgiving weekend would be a good time to bring the family to see City of Ember.


City of Ember Review By Tony

*** (out of four)

For the selected survivors of some unnamed apocalypse, the Builders constructed Ember, a subterranean village powered by a huge electrical generator with enough provisions to last for 200 years. Passed on from mayor to mayor, a box with a doomsday clock would pop open after this time with the key and instructions to return to the surface. Unfortunately, with some forty or so years left, the mayor dropped dead and the box was forgotten. Some years past the best before date, as everything is breaking down, the open box is discovered in the home of the mayor’s descendent Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan). With the help of the box, Lina and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway), the son of inventor Loris (Tim Robbins), have to find the escape route while at the same time evading capture by the corrupt mayor (Bill Murray) and his minions, as well as a giant mutant mole moving through the tunnels.

From a series of books by Jeanne DuPrau, City of Ember is a fine film, particularly for kids but also for adults. Aside from the principals, the supporting cast is good, including Martin Landau as a narcoleptic pipefitter, Toby Jones and MacKenzie Crook (sort of a next-generation Steve Buscemi, in a creepy way) as the minions, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste as the greenhouse keeper. The set for Ember was constructed entirely within the huge former shipyard in Belfast where the Titanic was built. It has the look of a rundown early-to-mid 20th century British town also captured in films like Nineteen Eighty-Four, Charlie & the Chocolate Factory, and even Flushed Away. In this era, technology was mainly electro-mechanical, with big wires, pipes, and moving parts, largely hidden nowadays inside our miniaturized digital devices. The opening of the film is particularly well done. After the box is sealed by the Builders, it is seen passed on from one pair of hands to the next as its surface condition deteriorates and its clock counts down the years–until the last person holding it falls back dead.

The suspense inherent in an escape film like this is enhanced by a good symphonic score recorded by the fine studio musicians at Abbey Road, in this case appropriately reminiscent of period composers like Elgar and Vaughn-Williams. Typically, our appreciation of this music was not shared–as the lights came up at the end of the credits we as usual found ourselves alone in the theatre, the others (even critics) having left in droves after the last fadeout.


Consensus: The adaptation of Jeanne DuPrau’s book City of Ember to the silver screen, results in a well made adventure movie that will be enjoyed by children and adults alike. ***1/2 (out of four)

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