Gil Kenan's CITY OF EMBER
This extraordinary family film reminded me of the sense of wonder I experienced as a child reading my way through the best of the children’s fantasy and science fiction collection of my local public library. The look and feel of the film is palpably different and unique, set as it is in an underground village that was established 200 years earlier by surface dwellers intent on saving humanity from some awful but unexplained calamity.
We follow a young boy and girl who, chafing at the deteriorating condition of their underground city, seek a way out despite the social and cultural pressure all around them to stay right where they are. The sets, costumes, and generally dodgy technology — such as it is — provides a really unique physical environment.
There’s not a lot of exposition and the film becomes more action oriented as it moves along. We get to learn just enough about the society as the boy and girl learn more about the political corruption that has set in along with the terrible physical deterioration of the environment. Chief among the problems experienced by the city dwellers is the increasingly erratic behavior of the central electrical generator that supplies light and heat to the city; once that goes society will be plunged into darkness, and this stimulates our heroes to rebel and seek a way to the surface.
I loved the look and feel of the film. Moreover, I enjoyed the characters, played well by unfamiliar as well as familiar faces. The boy and girl are splendid. My favorite supporting character was Martin Landau, who plays an elderly and nutty repairman who comes through in a pinch.
This is a great film for preteens and adults alike; there are some scary parts that may be too intense for the very small. Highly recommended.
I rented the DVD from Netflix. What I received was a two sided DVD with a minimal Netflix label. On one side was the original widescreen version, on the other the cropped “fullscreen” version. I watched the original widescreen version.
My only complaint about the DVD is that there is no commentary and no “making of” details. This splendid production deserves more!
Copyright (c) 2009 by Dennis D. McDonald