City of Ember
Directed by Gil Kenan


Teens fight to save an underground civilization.

City of Ember “stalls at the intersection of fantasy and science fiction,” said Kirk Honeycutt in The Hollywood Reporter. Based upon Jeanne DuPrau’s apocalyptic children’s book, this weird family film concerns a subterranean civilization built after the world above became uninhabitable. The massive generator powering the underworld is about to give out, and humanity’s salvation falls upon two high school students. But director Gil Kenan doesn’t grasp how to blend fantasy and science fiction, and the whole “cockamamie tale” is riddled with “gaping” logical holes—even the “crucial question” of how exactly the surface world was destroyed is never answered. These are not so much holes as mysteries to be solved, said Nigel Floyd in Time Out New York. Such puzzles, along with fantastically rich and realized sets, give the film its sense of adventure. Kenan “refuses to talk down to the family audience” and challenges its intellect. Kenan’s “enormously satisfying” film takes chances but succeeds, said Nathan Rabin in The Onion. The film’s “unwillingness to sugarcoat” its bleak premise is “as admirable as it is rare.”