City of Ember is a wonderful interpretation of the Jeanne Duprau novel of the same name. At its heart the dystopian vision of the future is a story affirming the integrity of the spirit of hope, resilience and integrity of youth in the face of overwhelming adult opposition. Among the adults there are various caricatures which is easy to understand since this is essentially a story told from a youth perspective – the adults fall into four groups – the evil pretending to be good, the good but disappointed, the ever hopeful/delusional and those who just want to get on with life with as few problems as possible.
The caricature squad is lead by the all too obviously bitter and prickly Bill Murray as Mayor Cole who is the consummate politician which is surprising since the citizens of Ember have been living underground for over 200 years after some unnamed catastrophe. That such a mayor would emerge independent of mass media and examples to follow only confirms that Duprau was ultimately pessimistic about adults in general. Murray plays Cole as a caricature which is probably the way he should be played but it is the weakest performance in the movie and mercifully there is little screen time for him.
Tim Robbins plays Loris Harrow the father of Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway). Loris is an obsessive inventor and tinkerer who seems oblivious of his son’s desire to save Ember from its obvious approaching demise. Mary Kay Place plays Mrs. Murdo the foster mother to Lina (Saoirse Ronan) and Poppy (Amy and Catherine Quinn) Mayfleet. Mrs. Murdo is eternally hopeful about the future prospect for those around her and the city of Ember.
That the city of Ember is dying is clear to everyone but none more so than Doon Harrow who is convinced that he can save Ember all by himself. Lina Mayfleet is a messenger who is friends with Doon and has information that he can use – inevitably the two come up with a plan. City of Ember is an endearing, well crafted and visually stunning family movie targeted at the 10 – 16 year old age group and their parents and well worth the time spent watching it.