In Case You Missed It

Bill Murray portraying an overweight, lazy slob who’s only concerned with his own interests? I’d have never guessed that one… he’s never played a character like THAT before.

This week, we drift back into the world of science-fiction for awhile, and take a look at City of Ember, a neat little movie from 2008.

Ember is a city built deep within the bowels of the Earth.  It’s inhabitants are descendants of those who moved there, after Earth’s surface became uninhabitable from a nuclear war– which according to the storyline, occurs in the year 2088.  At that time, the citizens were given a box containing instructions on how to return to the surface, which was to be opened in 200 years.

Over the course of those two hundred years, the box was forgotten, and a new civilization emerged in Ember, completely unaware that an outside world existed.  This new society is complete with its own religion and societal norms, completely separate from those we know today.

For example, the film begins with two young people, Doon and Lina, attending “Assignment Day”.  This is the day when all of those graduating from school get to choose their career.  The careers are drawn from a bag, and regardless of your skills or talents, this is the fate you are assigned to.

As our young heroes are adjusting themselves to their new lives, they (and we as the viewers)begin to learn many things about the city, and the people who live there.  The city is quickly running out of power, as well as food and other basic necessities.  The machinery and structures that were designed and built 200 years ago are rapidly deteriorating and won’t last much longer (obviously, because it was only designed to last for that intended time span).

Through some miracle of coincidence, Lina finds the mysterious box, and the young couple begin their attempt to decipher the clues which could potentially save them all.

Earlier, I used the phrase “neat little movie” to describe this picture, and that’s exactly what it is.  The film-makers did a wonderful job of getting the most out of what they had to work with.  It’s a world-within-a-world, confined to the space of an underground city.  The audience really does get the look and feel of a society that has been living in an enclosed, isolated reality for two hundred years.

Their future is not the crisp, clean-cut future from so many other movies.  There are no form-fitting jumpsuits and sterilized living quarters.  Instead, it’s old, it’s dirty, everything has a layer of rust on it and is falling apart.  The clothes are well-worn, the townspeople’s faces are gaunt—in other words, the film-makers took a lot of care to present the viewer with a unique vision of what “Ember” looks like.

The cast is not without its noteworthy names.  As mentioned previously, Bill Murray portrays the Mayor of Ember, and Martin Landau and Tim Robbins make appearances as well.

My only complaint, is that it’s not a terribly original idea.  But then again, is there such a thing as an “original idea”. City of Ember is one of many post-apocalyptic movies which envisions humans surviving a nuclear catastrophe in this sort of “bunker” type of environment.  Two movies that instantly sprang to mind while I was watching were THX 1138 and Logan’s Run, both of which feature similar elements.

But, even with that being said, City of Ember is definitely an interesting twist on the same idea.  After all, what makes a movie like this original, is not the idea itself, but what you DO with the idea from the jumping off point.

When I reviewed The Battle for Terra, I made the comment that it would be a nice movie for kids who were ready for something a little smarter, and deeper.  I would make a similar comment here.  Although the movie could be enjoyed by all ages, I think it would definitely be great for kids in the pre-teen range, who really seem to have an interest in science-fiction (or even just an interest in movies).

Thanks for reading.

Title: City of Ember
Year: 2008
Rating: PG
Advisories: None
Running Time: 90 minutes