Mixed or average reviews - based on 27 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 27
  2. Negative: 1 out of 27
  1. Reviewed by: Cammila Albertson
    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. 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.
  3. An impressive and imaginative fantasy.
  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. Reviewed by: Ed Gonzales
    The story subtly evokes Rand and scripture, colliding secular and spiritual values, and, as such, appeals to the blue- and red-minded alike.
  8. Reviewed by: Neely Tucker
    It's not an entirely convincing trip, but it is the sort of satisfying movie you wished they would make more often.
  9. Reviewed by: Gregory Kirschling
    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.
  10. Reviewed by: Stan Hall
    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.
  11. 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."
  12. 63
    For a kiddie adventure, the movie, based on the Jeanne DuPrau book, has a pleasingly moody, eerie quality.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. The movie begs for a a third-act showdown but, instead, the dramatic tension is allowed to leak away.
  17. 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.
  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. Stalls at the intersection of fantasy and science fiction.
  21. 50
    You long for things to go bump in the night, but the movie muffles every risk in a blanket of bland.
  22. 50
    The movie is an exceedingly slight tale whose entire second half consists primarily of special effects and wonderful set designs.
  23. 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.
  24. Reviewed by: Robert Abele
    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.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  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 46 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 20
  2. Negative: 4 out of 20
  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 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. May 19, 2014
    As far as film adaptations go this one gets a pass. The film more or less has everything from the book staying true to the original source material. The film has the look and feel of Ember done right. What bogs it down are some cliché story, dialogue, and characters along with some rushed plot elements and underdeveloped characters, which is common when adapting a book to film. If you are a fan of the book check it out but make sure you keep an open mind as there are some changes made and some scenes cut out, which while they don’t ruin the movie they do detract from it slightly. Overall, this film gets a pass. Full Review »
  3. Jul 25, 2011
    This movie is a complete joke to all film making. Like it went way too fast so it left a whole bunch of plot holes and terrible special effects for 2008. But thats just the beginning the movie had terrible acting. The two main characters sucked on screen. The best part of the movie was Bill Murray and even he was bad. Now that right there is almost impossible. I actually applaud the director for making Bill Murray look bad. Bill Murray is a legend and he was terrible in that movie. For one he should have been in it a lot more. Two he should have been a LOT funnier. I didn't laugh once when he was on screen. Three they fattened him up terribly to fit the fat mayor character. I mean they like put a pillow in his shirt and started taping. They could have done a little better because of the fact it was an adaption of an amazing childrens book. I read it and loved it. But this movie is up next to Battlefield Earth and Transformers 2. It didn't make sense and i could make a better movie in my sleep. Full Review »