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The city of Ember lies deep underground,
And all believe they’re the last humans around,
For some huge disaster that stays undefined
Has forced man below “for the good of mankind.”
This city of light bulbs can thank its creators
For granting it one of the best generators,
Supplying its power for as long as it takes,
So its citizens won’t know of mankind’s mistakes.
These Builders provide some advice, it appears,
For leaving the town after two hundred years.
They give this dear box to the city’s first mayor,
But it somehow gets lost, till it’s found by a pair
Of teens who’ve lived here since before they remember,
But suspect that perhaps it is time to leave Ember.
 
This Lina Mayfleet swaps jobs with Doon Harrow
So she can run messages through the streets narrow.
While Doon’s thoughts of working in Pipeworks are mixed,
He hopes, through his efforts, the power can be fixed.
For blackouts are frequent as lights start to flicker,
And food shortages make the citizens bicker.
Down deep in a closet, Mayfleet finds the case
And pieces together the rules put in place.
 
Both Lina and Doon, out on tunnel patrol,
Just barely escape a gargantuan mole,
And later they find that, while food’s getting rare,
The Mayor has stocked full his own secret lair.
They dig ever deeper and find that their fathers
Once tried to leave Ember (since no one else bothers),
But failed, since they didn’t know where they should go,
But, thanks to that box, Doon and Lina now know.
 
Once Lina accuses the Mayor of stealing,
He wants them arrested to hide his dark dealing.
So Lina and Doon, with her young sister Poppy,
Knowing the Builders were careful, not sloppy,
Find clues in the Pipeworks, and, with their instructions,
Review and complete their escape’s reconstruction.
Meanwhile, the mayor fears his future’s not bright,
And, back in his bunker, the mole proves him right.
 
The children, with faith as their ultimate guide,
Take the way out, which includes a flume ride.
They find the earth vacant but bright and alive,
And invite Ember up, where they once more can thrive.
____________________________
 

City of Ember, based on the novel by Jeanne DuPrau, completes the trilogy of young adult books-turned-movies here at the bottom of the list, which also includes Eragon and Inkheart. City of Ember is higher than these others because it avoids some of their obvious flaws, neither feeling too rushed nor annoying me with its departures from the source material, perhaps because I haven’t read DuPrau’s bestseller. But, even as a film on its own, it succeeds best in creating a believable world brought to life by an impressive set design. The acting is also quite good across the board with Saoirse Ronan and Harry Treadaway being quite believable as Lina and Doon, not to mention Bill Murray’s hammy performance as the mayor.

Like the two previously mentioned fantasies, City of Ember never got the sequel it deserved since neither critics nor audiences embraced it. While many referred to flaws and unanswered questions in the plot, I think the film did an excellent job at revealing (through National Treasure-style clue-finding) just enough to keep one interested while peeling more away as the characters discover things for themselves. It certainly has fewer open mysteries than Prometheus did.

The score, while less memorable than Eragon’s, is nice, but the special effects are a tad inconsistent. I thought the people of Ember were unusually apathetic, but that doesn’t necessarily surprise me, considering how many people tend to act like sheep in situations they think are out of their control. There are also some very interestingly photographed scenes, such as the initial passing down of the box and the dropping of the rock at the end. Also, did anyone think the mayor’s comeuppance was reminiscent of Paul Reiser’s end in Aliens? While the finale inexplicably has the heroes’ riding down waterfalls and yet somehow ending up aboveground, the end nevertheless had me wanting more. Many adults may write it off as kids’ fare, but City of Ember is a decent dystopian adventure that was sadly left by the wayside.

Best line: “Ours is the only light in a dark world.” (the end of Ember’s pledge of allegiance)

Artistry: 5
Characters/Actors: 5
Entertainment: 5
Visual Effects: 4
Originality: 4
Watchability: 5
 
TOTAL: 28 out of 60
 

Tomorrow: #345: Entrapment

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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