Making the Grades
Whether or not this film intends to be a commentary about the state of politics, adults who tag along to the City of Ember may feel a bit uneasy with the portrayal of this subterranean town's government. While the city's infrastructure crumbles around him and the food shelves grown increasingly bare, Mayor Cole (Bill Murray) looks for "photo op" moments at public events. Meanwhile, the ancient generator that lights the streets and homes of Ember is starting to fail and blackouts are becoming more common. But as long as the Mayor refuses to acknowledge the severity of the problem, only band-aid remedies are employed.
Instead, he randomly assigns the graduates of the decaying school to one of many tasks in the municipality--without regard to their individual talents or abilities. In turn, the former students are expected to step into the well-worn ruts made by their predecessors, patching together the leaking pipes, rusting furnaces and moldering homes the best they can without the benefit of new supplies or updated tools.
Thankfully some of the up-and-coming generation aren't satisfied with the status quo. Among them are two friends, Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway). Refusing to believe there is nothing to look forward to except utter darkness, they want to take positive measures in their assignments. They also become convinced there is a way out of the city after Lina stumbles across a strange metal box hidden under skeins and skeins of yarn in her grandmother's (Liz Smith) bedroom closet.
After rescuing what appears to be a map from the teeth of her younger sister Poppy (Amy and Catherine Quinn) who is chowing down on the contents of the container, Lina realizes the document is from the Builders. It was they who constructed the buried town two centuries earlier as a place of refuge from the outside world. Piecing together the chewed remnants as best she can, she also discovers a list of instructions.
However, the Mayor has blacklisted both the two friends for showing initiative. With the ancient box firmly in their grasp and the Mayor's guards on their heels, Lina, Doon and Poppy begin an adventurous journey that offers plenty of moments of peril for the young heroes. A wild ride down a water-filled tunnel, an enormous mole-like creature and officials with malicious intents make for scenes that may be frightening for young viewers. As well the script discusses and depicts the death of some of Lina's family members.
Yet determination (or naiveness) of youth appears to be a boon for this tenacious trio. Hopefully in a like manner, the young viewers in the audience will be inspired to be proactive in solving the problems that plague our world--before the lights go out.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about City of Ember.
How does Lina and Doon’s approach to the impending failure of the generator differ from the city officials? What back-up plan does the Mayor have?
What attributes do these teens have that helps them address the problems the city is facing? Why is it important to have an open mind when it comes to dealing with challenges?