City of Ember


Mixed or average reviews - based on 27 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 27
  2. Negative: 1 out of 27

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Critic Reviews

  1. A fun and moving family film with a subtly dark feel rarely seen in kids' movies since the '80s, City of Ember succeeds despite its shortcomings, not only because of its fun and inspiring story, but because most of its flaws are things kids won't notice anyway.
  2. An impressive and imaginative fantasy.
  3. If older kids and adults seek out this picture, which 20th Century Fox and Walden Media clearly aren't sure how to sell, they may well find themselves drawn into a subterranean world of considerable imagination.
  4. 75
    City of Ember has almost anything one could want from a science fiction-based family adventure film: likeable characters, an imaginative setting, and a fast pace.
  5. It scores few points for originality, but it's a fuzzier, less pretentious and more enjoyable movie.
  6. 75
    Ember is seldom riveting, but it's consistently compelling, and its uncompromising literal and metaphorical darkness renders its climax enormously satisfying.
  7. 70
    The story subtly evokes Rand and scripture, colliding secular and spiritual values, and, as such, appeals to the blue- and red-minded alike.
  8. 70
    It's not an entirely convincing trip, but it is the sort of satisfying movie you wished they would make more often.
  9. 67
    Entertainment-wise, City of Ember is a good family deal: exciting and simple enough for anyone over 8 to follow yet mature and mildly satirical enough for parents.
  10. The story, which follows two kids who try to save their burg from blackouts, isn't well-executed, losing itself to unclear mythology and sci-fi gibberish.
  11. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    At its best when sticking to a classic sci-fi-fantasy format. But when it tries to be a generic thrill ride, it loses its originality and peculiar charm.
  12. 63
    For a kiddie adventure, the movie, based on the Jeanne DuPrau book, has a pleasingly moody, eerie quality.
  13. 63
    It's lumpy, odd and tonally all over the place, but its vision gets to you, and its payoff delivers a tough kid's catharsis.
  14. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    City of Ember lacks the vision and scope of "WALL-E," but it's based on a pretty good kids' book and it makes a pretty good "Twilight Zone" episode, with hope dangling at the end rather than one of Rod Serling's cosmic black jokes.
  15. The movie begs for a a third-act showdown but, instead, the dramatic tension is allowed to leak away.
  16. 63
    It's innocent and sometimes kind of charming. The sets are entertaining. There are parallels in appearance and theme to a low-rent "Dark City."
  17. All the running, the hiding, the escaping (from giant moles, from giant Murray) are decidedly less exciting, and compelling, than City of Ember wants to be.
  18. Though the film ultimately falls short of its considerable promise, there's more than enough here to keep thoughtful moviegoers - of any age - intrigued.
  19. Reviewed by: Dan Jolin
    With Ember's hydro-electro-punk charms, Kenan's convinced us he's one of Hollywood's most exciting (and excited!) visualists. But on the evidence of this, his storytelling skills still need honing.
  20. 50
    Ultimately, it's undone by the overfamiliar nature of Doon and Lina's quest, the outcome of which, while breathlessly paced, is never really in question.
  21. Stalls at the intersection of fantasy and science fiction.
  22. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    A fabulously designed underground metropolis proves more involving than the teenagers running through its streets in City of Ember, a good-looking but no more than serviceable adaptation of Jeanne Duprau's 2003 novel.
  23. 50
    The movie is an exceedingly slight tale whose entire second half consists primarily of special effects and wonderful set designs.
  24. 50
    You long for things to go bump in the night, but the movie muffles every risk in a blanket of bland.
  25. None of this means that the film is necessarily enjoyable to watch, however, which is often the problem when the rigors of inspired storytelling can't live up to an imaginatively designed filmic world.
  26. At only 95 minutes, the movie feels as though it had been shredded in the editing room. In Hollywood-speak, it has a weak second act.
  27. 30
    A murky, directionless plot sinks this big-budget fantasy despite Martin Laing's elaborate production design; the dark, industrial-looking sets often recall "Brazil" but without that film's thrilling sense of an imagination run amok.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 59 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 25
  2. Negative: 4 out of 25
  1. Dec 18, 2011
    Although it isn't much of an adventurous film but it is entertaining even though the part we want to go see is the adventurous part and it isAlthough it isn't much of an adventurous film but it is entertaining even though the part we want to go see is the adventurous part and it is just a mystery. It does have an extremely talented cast and some cool visual effects enough to compensate. I give this film a 61% of a good movie. Full Review »
  2. JonathanS
    Jun 5, 2009
    City of Ember is a fine thrilling film.
  3. HyperS
    Jan 15, 2009
    If I had to compare this movie to one thing I'd say its like a Disney World log-flume ride gone amok. Lots of absurd and pointless If I had to compare this movie to one thing I'd say its like a Disney World log-flume ride gone amok. Lots of absurd and pointless over-the-top mechanisms round out an end-of-the-world story filled with so many obvious plot holes that it leaves the viewer with a "Huh?" as the movie reaches its conclusion. So where did the 5 rating come from? The adventure/mystery style of this movie reminds me of old puzzle/adventure video games [Myst,etc] that I liked as a kid and since its a kid's movie I can overlook the implausibility of the plot line enough to give it a 5. A young kid probably wouldn't mind all the plot holes so for them maybe this movie is a 7 or 8. Final word though to the builders: Elevator! Full Review »