Published Oct 10, 2008Based on the novel by Jeanne DuPrau, City of Ember lights up the silver screen with a flicker of amusement, but the taint of uneven plotting and logical inconsistencies overshadow the films good points.
Like a young adult version of Logans Run wrapped in rusty steam punk set design, City of Ember tells the story of an underground society where knowledge of the post-apocalyptic outside world is lost to the citys inhabitants.
Lina (Saorise Ronan) and Doon (Harry Treadaway) are young adventurers who are sure that there is more to the world than the decaying shelter they call home. But it isnt until Lina discovers a mysterious box containing instructions on how to reach the outside world that they find the courage to journey outward in search of salvation.
Like many films poorly adapted from novels, City of Embers plot holes abound. The story boils down to little more than a simple treasure hunt, with the preternaturally wise youngsters able to outthink the oblivious, sinister, or ineffectual grown-ups at every turn in order to save the day with only a modicum of superficial danger and a few chase scenes through the streets of a well-dressed set.
It is obvious that important details from the book were cut from the script for reasons that will remain unknown until the DVD is released and the filmmakers involved get a chance to defend their decisions on a commentary track. However, anyone over the age of ten (and some smart seven-year olds) will be left bewildered at the wide gaps in the story.
While City of Embers set design is wonderful, and the attempt to bring a steam punk story to life should be commended, the film never builds enough momentum to break the shackles of its mediocrity.
If youre looking for something for the kids, City of Ember isnt the worst choice you could make, but it might be wise to postpone viewing until you can rent the DVD and slip out of the room when youre bored. (Fox Walden)