As proven by Public Enemies, sometimes a film can have all the right pieces and yet can turn out to be quite awful. The opposite is true as well; a film that just shouldn’t work can somehow come together despite its many flaws. Surprisingly, City of Ember is the latter; a pleasantly poignant misfit of a movie that works for no concrete reason.
Based on the book by the same name, this sci-fi/fantasy adventure story is set in a dark and lonely city, Ember, created by the ancient Builders after an apocalyptic event . Residents of the city believe themselves to be the only living people in the world, kept that way by their sacred generator, which gives light to their otherwise unlit environment. As the generator begins to fail and the food begins to run out, a young girl, Ronan (Atonement, The Way Back), finds a mysterious box which may reveal a way to leave the city. As time runs out, she must find an exit from Ember before the chance it lost forever.
Nothing should have worked in this film. Kenan is a complete amateur, Treadaway (24) and Ronan (14) are supposed to be the same age, the book was written for teenage girls, and the dialogue is poor bordering on terrible. But somehow, for no apparent reason, it works. Perhaps it’s the underlying topics of nuclear war, an aging planet, and religious mania that the film brings up. Perhaps its the strong beginning that hooks you and keep you holding on for the whole ride. Or perhaps its simply that Bill Murray is amazing and makes everything better just by standing there. But whatever it is, it works, and that’s all that matters.
Admittedly, City of Ember is not a great film. It’s intentionally juvenile, poorly written, and oddly cast. And yet, it is a great movie. It’s exciting, entertaining, and surprisingly revealing. Although the pieces may not be individually excellent, the final product is a movie that is both interesting and fun. Not a bad way to spend an evening.
My rating: ✰ ✰ ✰ ✰