July 13, 2015
The Apocalypse Scenario:
In the midst of a global war,“the Builders” constructed an underground “City of Ember” to preserve the human race until Earth’s surface could once again support civilization. After 200 years, a locked box entrusted to the mayor would open with instructions to return to the surface. The generations born in Ember would have no knowledge of the previous world or anything outside. But the box was lost, their secret departure date long passed, and now the city’s power generator is dying; threatening to leave humanity in eternal darkness.
241 years after an apocalyptic war (approximately the 2250’s).
What They’ve Run Out Of:
The City of Ember is beautifully lit by light bulbs on the cavern walls and throughout the city. The generator, however, has operated far longer than it was designed to. Machines are breaking down and supplies are running out; the City of Ember is doomed.
Human Creativity and Innovation.
The citizens, especially the mayor, are less than concerned as generations of dependence on the generator has made humanity naive, bored, and complacent. The two protagonists, teens Lina and Doon, embody the human spirit of curiosity and adventure that has faded from the City of Ember. It is through their unwavering resolve to save Ember that they discover and decipher the Builder’s plans for exodus. Ember allows us to witness what happens to a society when human creativity, exploration, and adventure are stifled for over two centuries
What this Film Adds to the Post-Apocalyptic Genre:
The necessity of creativity, ambition, and imagination.
City of Ember is unique in many ways. Its a children’s tale, weaving layers of metaphor and commentary. It avoids chaotic destruction to focus on a remnant of humanity: naïve souls who know nothing other than the City of Ember. This idea of a “vault” or “secret society” who survives underground is common in the post-apocalyptic genre and it is usually approached in a gritty, perverse fashion with unsympathetic, heavy-handed messages. Human ambition is typically presented as the downfall of humanity (i.e., creating nuclear weapons). Ember takes the opposite approach, demonstrating creativity, ambition, and innovation as absolutely necessary human virtues.
3.5 Zipped Lips.
The City of Ember is promoted as a kids story but refuses to sacrifice good storytelling in order to be family friendly (its closer to classics like The Giver than fantasy adventures like Percy Jackson). It avoids the #1 pitfall of all kids’ movies: the “Adults are Useless” trope. The young heroes of Ember seek adult help with the mystery and through various twists and turns they eventually must journey alone. The concept design is breathtaking, the soundtrack stirring, and the final combination is stellar. The City of Ember is appropriate enough for the kiddos but layered enough to be loved by anyone with a bit of imagination.
Don’t forget to check out the rest of our reviews in the Post-Apocalyptic Roundup!