WARNING: Possible minor spoilers. But the plot is to shallow and weak it's not like there's much to spoil.
Visually, City of Ember is wonderful. Dark, with artificial light tones and frosty blues bouncing off of decaying rust reds and oranges. Everything is grimy, slipshod, and even the costumes tell a clear story of items stretched far beyond their usefulness. It's a grimier, more desperate, and lower-tech version of Gilliam's visual Brazil/12 Monkeys. The female lead (Saoirse Ronan) looks like a young me (this is why I watched the movie at all). I mean, she REALLY looks like a young me. It's CREEPY.
Sadly, eye candy and Saoirse Ronan are pretty much the extents of what this movie has to offer. The plot is hollow and weak - over 200 years ago, the surface people sent their kids down to this underground city - which seems to be more like a town, and seems to be running out of genetic diversity - which also still gets air and water from aboveground, even allowing a note tied to a rock to be dropped into the city from above, spoiling the notion it was to avoid nuclear contamination or something. They were supposed to come out YEARS ago, but the bad guys lost the sacred manual for how to escape and now they're trapped in a world that's falling apart, like the communist empire or something. GEE I WONDER IF IT'S A METAPHOR?!? The adults are all complacent or corrupt, and it's up to the bright-eyed children who still care to rescue them all before time runs out. Giant CGI moles and insects roam around, but only ever damage bad guys, and carefully avoid the kids on their triumphant climb to the surface, where people used to be obsessed with holding babies. We're never actually told why they were sent down there, why it didn't immediately become a Lord of the Flies situation, what made the moles so big, why there needed to be a flume ride escape route, if there were any other humans left, or why this malnourished, contrived plot made it to production. Personally, I would have preferred to see Piggy get sent flying down the flume ride by a big rock in the hormonal chaos when the city was first founded than the so-called storyline they shoved into the beautiful set and costuming work.
Rating: As with the ill-fated Final Fantasy movie, rent it when you want something very pretty with no substance. And a lead that looks like me when I was a kid.
Originally posted on angyl.vox.com