Gerald Wright's Movie Coverage
CITY OF EMBER MOVIE REVIEW
Directed by: Gil Kenan
Running time: 1 hour 39 minutes
Release date: October 19, 2008
Genre: Action/Adventure and Science Fiction/Fantasy, and Adaptation
Distributor: Fox Walden
MPAA Rating: PG
This new film adaptation comes from the truly superb 1980's novel by Jeane DuPrau entitled The City of Ember. City of Ember takes in the dark underground city of Ember, a decaying place with no natural light surrounded by the vast unknown. It is always night, where there is no moon or stars and the only light during regular twelve hour days is from floodlamps casting dim glows over the city's streets.
The backstory, which is a prologue, tells how the ancestors had arranged for survivors of the human race to live deep underground for two centuries with information to be revealed in a time sensored metal box. This opening scene sets a splendid dramatic tension for the film. I knew that something is happening after this and that there is more to the movie that just a "doomsday." This advance knowledge empowers the audience to a certain extent to watch closely, thinking that they know something that the characters don't.
The film's developement is carried through the story of two young people, both very different in character. Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) is an orphaned girl with a small sister Poppy and lives with her mentally unbalanced grandmother. Doon Harrow (Harry Treadway) is an inquisitive boy who has a mechanical talent that is nurtured by his ingenius inventor father Loris (Tim Robbins). It comes a time in the life of the young citizens of Ember to take on a position in society and this selection of lifetime jobs are picked from a handbag filled with various trades and professions by the corrupt Mayor Cole (Bill Murray). The active and energetic Lina gets a messenger job and Doon gets a pipeworker position under the guidance of Sul (Martin Landau). Both are pleased in the picking of work. As acquaintances the two kids are to collaborate in each others future. The complacent citizens seem to ignore the food shortages and the frequent blackouts due to a faulty generator, but the clever film tells the story of two unintentional heroes (Lina and Doon) who fight the status quo in order to bring hope to their city.
The characters in this charming family flick are outstandingly original yet touchingly familiar in their adolescent behavior and views of the grown-up world. The fact that Lina is parentless and Doon is without a mother, creates a mood for sympathy and can only bring a wish for triumph for the young couple. This same mood is what drives this narrative through a fast pace in finding the sunlight at end of the post-apocalyptic road.
With a supporting cast of Barton Snode as Toby Jones, the Mayor's henchman Mary Kay Place as Mrs. Murdo, and Marianne Jean-Baptiste as Clary, the talent is abundant. This movie only lacks character development with its supporting members. It just wasn't enough substance for this fine talent.
Of course , the fact that Tom Hanks produced this movie is a marketing ploy in its own right. This is a great change of pace film from the violent films children are being subjected to over and over again. The entire family can enjoy this movie - I did!!
FILM RATING (B+)