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City of Ember (2008)

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For generations, the people of the City of Ember have flourished in an amazing world of glittering lights. But Ember's once powerful generator is failing ... and the great lamps that illuminate the city are starting to flicker.



(screenplay), (book)
2,839 ( 39)
6 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Chief Builder
Barton Snode
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Liam Burke ...
Mr. Boaz
Brid Ni Chionaola ...
Seely Schnap
Maureen Dow ...
Mrs. Sample
Lorraine Hilton ...
Miss Thorn
B.J. Hogg ...
Mayor's Guard


When mankind is about to come to an end, a group of scientists decide to create and populate a city deep underground. The city of Ember is to last for 200 years after which its inhabitants are to retrieve from a strong box instructions to return to the surface. Over time however, the message is lost and life in Ember is rapidly deteriorating. Their power supply is failing and food is being rationed. It's left to two young adults to unearth the secret of Ember and to lead the way out. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

food | box | scientist | mayor | pipeworks | See All (161) »


Lights out. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for mild peril and some thematic elements | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

10 October 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Cidade das Sombras  »


Box Office


$55,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,129,473, 12 October 2008, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$7,873,007, 15 January 2009

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


(at around 1 hr 19 mins) Bill Murray trips after the lights start sparking. He lands on a painting of himself and it is smudged. The same thing happens in Ghostbusters II (1989). See more »


(at around 34 mins) When the girl shows the piece of glass from the box to her friend, she says "it's so shiny", this does not suggest she has never seen glass before. When glass ages in the open it slowly turns an orange or brown color, like those in the city. However, this piece by virtue of being inside the strong box has stayed clear. See more »


Loris Harrow: The main thing is, pay attention. Pay close attention to everything, everything you see. Notice what no one else notices, and you'll know what no one else knows. What you get is what you get. What you do with what you get, that's more the point.
See more »


References Ghostbusters II (1989) See more »


Song for the City
Written by Becky Stark
Performed by Becky Stark and the Believers
Becky Stark appears courtesy of Matador Records
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

it's not a horrible movie. Just a bland one.
12 December 2008 | by See all my reviews

City of Ember is one of those films that had some potential and some good initiative but ultimately succumbed to the fact that it was poorly-written, poorly-directed and resulted in being flat-out boring. The film tells the story of an unspecified moment in the future of humankind, where a few hundred people move underground and construct a subterranean city and after a while, their power supply is beginning to fail and two young children must seek the way back to the surface, which, for some reason, is forbidden.

It's based on a book by Jeanne Duprau, and while I have not actually read it myself, I can tell there was a lot of imperative material left out when they adapted its content into a script, resulting in many glaring plot holes and enormous questions that do not get answered for us at any moment during the film's running time, which is considerably longer than it needs to be.

According to one of my peers, in the book, it describes that humankind becomes locked in an intercontinental war and is quickly wiping out all life on the planet. This is the reason why the small number of people construct a giant city underground. In the movie, there is no explanation and so it seems to us that they just decided to build the City of Ember just for the experience.

Visually, City of Ember is an acceptable accomplishment. There are some nice special effects sequences—excluding this gigantic, over-sized star-nosed mole that serves as one of the film's boring antagonists. The city's name is clear in its appearance. It glows an attractive ember-like color. The streets are dirty, the people are often unwashed, and their living conditions are by our standards, deplorable. So the filmmakers accomplished their task at making a convincing looking, end-of-the-world city.

What they did not succeed in was using this set and its characters to keep us entertained or even generally interested. The film did not spark any interest for me. I was yawning twenty minutes into the film and I did not stop until the credits began to roll. The characters are all typical, two-dimensional figures who simply exist to fill up screen time and move the dull plot along toward the ending. It's a shame, for there are some great actors, including a few favorites of mine. But they're all boring characters. Bill Murray, commonly an interesting actor, was rather boring as the movie's major villain. Tim Robbins, one of my favorite actors, really served no purpose and thus his presence was nothing more than an unnoticed luxury. Probably the best character is Martin Landau's and he's only on screen for about fifteen minutes or so. And keep in mind, this is a movie that relies on its characters to keep moving. And so, if the characters are bland, the movie is bland.

And that describes the film entire. It's not a horrible movie in any regards. It's just a bland one. And bland films don't entertain.

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