With City of Ember, a post-apocalyptic adventure tale starring Bill Murray, two kids, and some aging gadgetry, the mecca of Bill Murray gadget movies, Ghostbusters, has some good company. In Ember, Murray plays the hapless mayor of Ember, an underground city that humanity created to escape calamity in the not so distant future. Trouble is, the big honkin’ generator we built to power the city was only meant to last 200 years, and now it’s on the fritz, which leads to some harrowing periods of darkness as it sputters and struggles to power the city. Cue the adventure.
The parallels this movie shares with present day society are worth mentioning, too. We have a crumbling society, a bumbling leader promising to “fight the darkness,” and a reliance on technology to make the world go, literally. Plus, there’s Bill Murray. And then there are the blackouts, due to the failing generator, that serve as the catalyst to get our protagonists searching for a way out of Ember.
SFGate was impressed, and said so in a glowing review.
“City of Ember” has an emotional impact that goes way beyond a clever metaphor. In an early scene, a chipper young messenger (Saoirse Ronan) is making her way through the town square when the generator stalls again – and this time for longer than ever before. The people are so relieved, and so willing to believe that maybe it won’t happen again, that the moment is touching. It’s also rather touching that their world is such a pathetic echo of real civilization, that their sky is just a bunch of light bulbs and that their religion has something to do with waiting for “the builders” to return. Yet they want to hold on to what they have.