City of Ember

January 19th, 2009 by Potato

I have a soft spot in my heart for post-apocalyptic science fiction, and City of Ember fits the bill. It’s a suitable-for-children adventure story, set in a city built beneath the ground to shelter the remnants of humanity from an unnamed horror on the surface. Whether it was nuclear war or some other catastrophe, the builders expected that after a certain amount of time — 200 years — the surface should be safe to return to, and included instructions for escaping the city in a box handed down from mayor to mayor over the years. Unfortunately, an untimely death broke the chain along the way, and the knowledge was lost. Centuries and generations pass beneath the ground, and things are starting to fall apart in Ember. The great generator that keeps the beacon of light and hope in the darkness running is breaking down, more and more knowledge is lost, spare parts have run out, and everything has just been reused and repaired too many times. The city is old and tired and falling apart and is little more than patches on top of patches.

So far the premise sounds like Fallout: the movie, which would be awesome. In this case the adventure is all about uncovering the builders’ hidden instructions for leaving the city, and the kids’ struggle against the city elders, and less about adapting to the super mutant filled wastes outside.

The movie is surprisingly good, especially the visual effects of the underground city. I thought the cobblestone roads didn’t seem quite worn down enough, but otherwise it looked great. Everyone seemed to give a good performance, even the child actors. I did have to scratch my head towards the end when the older children inexplicably grabbed the 3-year-old to come on their incredibly dangerous, illegal adventure with them, but oh, well. It was good, and so I have a lot of trouble understanding why I haven’t heard anything about this movie. Where was the advertising saturation? I don’t even recall seeing it in the movie listings back in October (when IMDB says it was released).

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