City of Ember

October 10th, 2008


City of Ember

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Still of Bill Murray in City of EmberStill of Bill Murray in City of EmberBill Murray at event of City of EmberCity of EmberStill of Tim Robbins in City of EmberStill of Gil Kenan in City of Ember

For generations, the people of the City of Ember have flourished in an amazing world of glittering lights. But Ember's once powerful generator is failing ... and the great lamps that illuminate the city are starting to flicker.

Release Year: 2008

Rating: 6.4/10 (23,285 voted)

Critic's Score: 58/100

Director: Gil Kenan

Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Toby Jones, Bill Murray

When mankind is about to come to an end, a group of scientists decide to create and populate a city deep underground. The city of Ember is to last for 200 years after which its inhabitants are to retrieve from a strong box instructions to return to the surface. Over time however, the message is lost and life in Ember is rapidly deteriorating. Their power supply is failing and food is being rationed. It's left to two young adults to unearth the secret of Ember and to lead the way out.

Writers: Caroline Thompson, Jeanne Duprau

David Ryall - Chief Builder
Ian McElhinney - Builder
Harry Treadaway - Doon Harrow
Tim Robbins - Loris Harrow
Bill Murray - Mayor Cole
B.J. Hogg - Mayor's Guard
Toby Jones - Barton Snode
Lucinda Dryzek - Lizzie Bisco
Matt Jessup - Joss
Lara McIvor - Roner
Myles Thompson - Smat
Eoin McAndrew - Student
Rachel Morton - Student
Conor MacNeill - Student
Lorraine Hilton - Miss Thorn

Taglines: Lights out.


Official Website: Metropolitan Films [France] | Official site [Japan] |

Release Date: 10 October 2008

Filming Locations: Belfast Methodist College, Belfast, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, UK

Box Office Details

Budget: $55,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $3,129,473 (USA) (12 October 2008) (2022 Screens)

Gross: $17,929,684 (Worldwide)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

The rat-like creature that chases the main characters is a giant version of the star nosed mole ("Condylura cristata"), native from Eastern Canada and North East United States. Given the fact these animals are blind, they use their nasal tentacles, known as Eimer's organ, to detect food. Although all European moles share this feature, the star nosed mole is the only animal with such an specialized one. Without counting its size in the movie (real animals are between 15 to 20 cm long) nothing else was changed.

Continuity: As Doon is walking to look at the Generator room, a girl in full orange work gear and yellow boots walks across the control room and towards a hall. The shot changes to the door. Then when it goes back to Doon, the same girl(orange gear, yellow boots) gets up from the left and starts walking across the room again, before the shot changes back to the door.

Doon Harrow: My dad made this.
Lina Mayfleet: It doesn't look very safe.
Doon Harrow: That's my dad.

User Review

City of Ember Movie Review from The Massie Twins

Rating: 7/10

City of Ember employs a supremely majestic setting to unravel its end-of-the-world sci-fi adventure, but several missed opportunities keep it from escaping its family-friendly roller coaster ride feel and becoming something truly unique. However, a few too-convenient outcomes and a rushed introduction can't take away the undeniable enjoyment of solving the epic mystery of the once-grand city with the two enthusiastic leads.

When the world ended, a group of elite scientists and engineers determined that the only way to save their way of life was to build an underground city far below the decimated surface. Deciding upon a lifespan of 200 years for their city, the key to salvation was locked away in a metal box to be handed down from one mayor to the next until the time was right. But somewhere along the way the box was forgotten… Years and years have passed and the once mighty City of Ember steadily falters as corrupt officials dictate an antiquated way of life and the massive generator that powers the city frequently fails. Now it is up to two ambitious youths, Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) and Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) to solve the mystery behind the origins of their city and find a way out before their world is blanketed in darkness forever.

Easily the most impressive piece of the City of Ember puzzle is the delightfully ominous science-fiction visuals. The massive sets were built in Northern Ireland in the shipyard-turned-soundstage of the location the Titanic was actually constructed in (now the largest soundstage in the world) and it's never more apparent than in the beautiful crane shots through the underground city. The CG elements are also top-notch, but the practical effects flawlessly immerse the audience in the fantasy world of pipeworks and generators.

While the setting is brilliantly realized, the characters that populate the grandiose city receive far too little development. The introduction and relationship between the two main characters feels truncated and never really furthers as the story progresses, and the origins of each remain as enigmatic as that of the shining city. The adult characters throughout never provide as much support as they should to enhance the understanding and motives behind the city's cryptic suppression. At least Bill Murray hams it up as the gluttonous mayor with a devious agenda of his own.

Like something blended from a video game universe (Bioshock in particular) and 12 Monkeys' post-apocalyptic subterranean sewer-world (or even Terminator's hypogeal bomb shelters), City of Ember packs adventure and intrigue into the wondrous exploration of a society crumbling from age and deceit. As the young heroes scour the dank passages and forgotten tunnels, it's difficult not to become immersed in the fun of uncovering clues and discovering secrets alongside the venturous duo.

- The Massie Twins


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