Wednesday, November 05, 2008

City of Ember

City of Ember Title

  • Released Internationally on 10/10/08
  • Released in Malta by KRS on 05/11/08

In a nutshell

Based on the 2003 novel, this film mixes fantasy and science-fiction to take us deep underground to a refuge for humans in what could be the future, and follows the adventures of two enterprising teenagers who take it upon themselves to salvage a dying race in a fading city.

A cunning plan

The film starts off in science-fiction territory, with a council of elders meeting up in shiny rooms, wearing colourful robes, to ponder the fate of their race. In a council meeting that could have been lifted straight from The Matrix Reloaded, we hear about a plan to build an underground city to protect the human race from an unspecified disaster, with careful instructions being passed on from generation to generation on how to escape back to the surface of the earth after 200 years. By the time the prologue is over, this set of timed instructions has been misplaced and forgotten, and we move forward to the underground city that has long passed its sell-by date.

When the lights go out

Light and darkness play a prominent part in this fantasy tale, with a whole self-sufficient underground city being dependant on its one big generator to give light, and life. With 200 years having elapsed, and the city’s wear and tear starting to show, the inhabitants are plunged into frequent blackouts, and the tension starts to mount. Much like Asimov’s landmark cautionary science-fiction tale Nightfall, we start to understand how this society would descend into chaos if the light went out, and never came back on.

Young heroes

In a city of dispirited elders, it takes two headfast teenagers to take it upon themselves to find a way out of the city once they sense the impending doom. Lina Mayfleet, the heroine of the story, finds what remains of the age-old instructions, and together with her friend Doon Harrow she sets out into the unknown darkness beyond the city boundaries to find a way out for their families.

Young audience

The novel was aimed at the teen market, and as a result so is the film. The adventure aspect and the prominence given to the young stars should make this thrilling viewing for younger viewers, but on the whole the film falls a bit flat when it comes to adrenaline and plot. What starts off as an intriguing premise eventually becomes a simple A to B journey, and the end result is never in doubt. With regards to originality, the dirty, beaten-up appearance of the underground city seems to have been lifted straight from the Matrix sequels, albeit with less fancy technology.

Who’s in it?

Saoirse Ronan, who despite her young age has already turned a few heads and earned an Oscar nomination for her memorable turn as young Briony in last year’s Atonement, portrays the spirited Lina. Newcomer Harry Treadaway plays Doon, and Tim Robbins is his inventive father Loris. A bored-looking Bill Murray shuffles through his paces as the city mayor, and Mackenzie Crook (whom you’ll probably recognize from Pirates of the Caribbean or from The Office) is the eccentric Looper. As a treat for older viewers, veteran character actor Martin Landau has a wonderful extended cameo as the narcoleptic engineer Sul.




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