Posted by Ken Spivey
In a box, the men of importance placed a secret. They then created an underground city capable of complete autonomy, isolated from the outside world in hopes of shielding them from the trials of time. The box was given to the first mayor of “Ember City” and passed on to each successive mayor. After two hundred years the box was to open, revealing to the mayor’s descendant the way out of Ember City. Yet, somewhere along the way the box was lost. Meanwhile, the city has fallen into a major state of disrepair. Houses are crumbling, pipes are corroding, and the household robots are malfunctioning. The current mayor seems unconcerned with the welfare of the city, while its residents are terrified of the impending failure of the city’s power reactor and the end to their civilization. Ember City’s only hope lies in the hands of a plucky young girl, Leena, who has found the box left by “the builders.” Leena is now in a race against time to figure out the mystery of the box before the reactor fails. The fate of “The City of Ember” lies in the box and the hands of young Leena.
There is a long standing tradition that children’s movies are the vehicle for Hollywood elites to promote their “agenda de jour” upon the impressionable minds of our nation’s youth in a candy-coated shell of “fun.” If the litany of causes paraded across the screen during “movie time” at daycares around the nation in a single day were to fill an activist’s day calendar, they would be booked up with charity brunches and dinners for a year. Whether we are saving the planet, overthrowing an oppressive regime of religious ideology, or saving the homeless of the world from the hungry paws of corporate greed, movies are having an increasingly difficult time coming to children without an ulterior motive.
“City of Ember” is a rare movie that is fun for the sake of being fun, exactly what is right about many of the most popular video games. There is a quest. There is a mystery, a labyrinth, and riddles. There is a well defined boss villain, the evil mayor, and his henchmen. There are supporting characters (NPC’s) who help the hero along her way. There are color-coded themes for locations, blues being good and amber tones being bad. Most importantly, there is a clear goal and an ending. These are all plot devices desired in the most timeless of video games, and pure gold when placed in the narrative structure of a children’s movie. Perhaps this is why the previews for video games have become much more appealing to me than the previews for many actual films.