Science fiction and fantasy
City Of Ember
directed by Gil Kenan
Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) is a young man with a goal. He's determined to find a way to fix the generators, and he thinks that he'll be able to find a solution to the problems if he can work with them. So he's deeply disappointed when he's assigned a job elsewhere. Meanwhile Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) eagerly embraces the role of messenger, a job that allows her to run everywhere and know everybody else's business. The two of them soon learn that matters are worse than they imagined, and the decaying city won't sustain people for much longer. The rotund Mayor Cole (Bill Murray) tells everyone that "Ours is the only light in a dark world." Yet no-one is quite sure what lies beyond Ember, and why trying to leave the city is outlawed.
City Of Ember could easily have been far more oppressive and claustrophobic than it is. There are anxious, hungry people confined in an underground setting, living according to rigid laws and with the imminent threat of destruction hanging over them. But this is nevertheless a fairly child-friendly movie, and rather more thrilling than terrifying. It features giant insects, moles the size of a cow, unusual mechanical contraptions and hidden passages, like an adventure based on a theme-park ride.
The film starts off well enough with strong central characters who have reached a defining moment in their lives. But the story lacks detail. By the end it seems as though you've watched the edited highlights or an extended trailer, rather than a complete movie. Lots of questions are left unanswered.
The main mystery about what drove people underground in the first place could really have been explored in a lot more detail. On top of that there are all sorts of facets of subterranean living that get missed out. Why don't the people suffer from rickets? Why isn't it hotter so deep underground? Why are the insects and other creatures so large? These may be small details on their own, but they add up to a great big fuzzy blur where a clear, believable picture should be.
City Of Ember has likeable young leads and a good measure of special effects sparkle. But it falls short when it comes to perhaps the most important element in any movie: telling the story.
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A scientist takes his nephew to Iceland, where they discover a cave that leads to a lost world hidden in the depths of the Earth.