The City of Ember was designed as a safe haven while the surface world was seeing the worst war/epidemic/natural disaster ever. We never really know why the city was built. We see a bunch of eggheads in a bunker at the beginning of the film, and they give a box to a middle-aged woman, the first Mayor of Ember. Ember itself is a self contained city, with enough canned stores to keep its people fed for two hundred years, as well as some greenhouses to grow vegetables. Each mayor is to pass along the box to the next mayor as the years count down, but at one point, one of the mayors dies from a heart attack, and the box is stuffed away in his home and forgotten.
As the two centuries pass by, the machines that keep the city lit and running are becoming worn with wear and tear. The two hundred year deadline has past, and the people who now inhabit Ember should have come up now, but there are many things going wrong. Food stores are running low much quicker than they should, and the town is experiencing frequent brown-outs. Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) is a young tinkerer that thinks he can fix whatever is wrong with the generator, though his father, Loris Harrow (Tim Robbins) has his doubts. Loris is a tinkerer, too, and he is not seeing how Doon could fix this old machine that everyone is dependent on. He is due to graduate from school, and get his assignment. This will be his job for life in Ember, but if he is lucky enough to become an electricians’ assistant, he can get into the works and fix things to rights. When Doon goes to assignment day, he is disheartened when he chooses the job of Messenger. His friend Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) had her heart set on becoming a messenger, because she just loves to run. When she is chosen as a pipe works worker, Doon sees the opportunity, and asks Lina to switch jobs. The pipeworks is in the same complex as the generator. He could possibly get in to see what it takes to fix it.
Lina takes to her new job with enthusiasm, and runs all over town, delivering messages and small packages, and when she isn’t working, she is doing her best to make sure her three-year-old sister, Poppy, stays out of trouble. Doon is being trained by Sul (Martin Landau), an old pipeworks veteran whom is overdue to retire, and learns the complex by using Sul’s old maps. Doon find there are places on the map that have been erased. That is only one mystery the kids need to solve. Lina wants to know where her friend, Lizzie Drisco (Lucinda Dryzek) is suddenly getting certain canned goods that haven’t been seen in years, and what caused the insects and rodents that live in the darkness around Ember to grow to monstrous sizes. Another mystery is why is Mayor Cole (Bill Murray) not wanting to get the generator fixed.
This is a fast-paced family mystery adventure that will keep everyone guessing what is happening in this dark world, and where will all the clues lead Doon, Lina, and Poppy to. This movie is the first in the series of books about Doon, Lina, and Poppy by Jeanne DuPrau. It has an art deco/metropolis kind of feel to it, with 1920s look and electrical set up, but it is set in an undetermined future. Though this movie did not get much advertising, it is a great family film that is a sleeper that should not be missed.
I give this film a Musing review of