I really did like this movie, and I think it was one of the best children's movies of 2008. I liked the book, and I'm glad the movie stayed pretty faithful. I honestly have no idea why this has a 52% rotten rating on RT, it deserves at the very least a fresh rating. The cast is superb, the visuals are stunning, and the story is perfectly adapted from the book.
The set designers really got the look and feel of ember down pat. In fact, my expectations were surpassed on every level visually. When I pictured Ember as I was reading the book, I pictured something a little less gritty, but I loved how they portrayed Ember as a failing city that actually looked like it would collapse at any minute. The last twenty minutes of the movie showcased that perfectly, with the rusted pipeworks and the river. I also loved how everything had a gold/bronze backdrop to it, to go with the dimming lights. All in all, stunning visuals for a good movie.
The story is well told and boosted by performances from its fantastic cast. For those of you who don't know, the City of Ember was built underground when Earth was no longer able to support life. For 200+ years, the people of ember lived safe and happy lives, until the recurring blackouts started. That, accompanied by food shortages, lead the people to believe that danger is afoot, but they are all lulled into complacency by the corrupt mayor (played by Bill Murray). Only Lina (Saoirse Ronan) and Doon (Harry Treadaway) question and once Lina finds a box with instructions on how to get out of Ember, she and Doon pursue it further and that all leads to our epic climax. It plays out pretty much as written in the book, leaving little suspense for those who have read the source material, but for those who haven't, it will work and it has enough suspense and thrills to keep the audiences on their toes.
The cast also does a spectacular job in portraying Jeanne DuPrau's characters. I had no idea who Saoirse Ronan was before this movie, but I found out that she's a great actress and that she was in The Lovely Bones. Harry Treadaway is a relatively unknown actor, and he was my favourite in the movie, as Doon was my favourite character in the book. But as good as the two lead actors were, they weren't quite as good as Bill Murray playing the Mayor and Tim Robbins playing Doon's father. Doon's father in the book was meant to be loving and supportive, encouraging his son and helping him along the way. Tim Robbins plays exactly that character, even though his character is much more downplayed than he is in the book.
Bill Murray's character is meant to be a corrupt politician that lulls his people into a false sense of security with worthless words and empty promises. Murray is naturally such a powerhouse comedian that he makes this very small supporting role so funny. His character has maybe three scenes, four tops, and yet he leaves such an impact and makes comic relief far less annoying than it can be.
This movie is definitely a great kids movie that's worth watching to waste a saturday afternoon. That being said, I would recommend this film to pretty much anybody. It is a kids movie, but not all kids might like it because it is more edgy and gritty than most kids movies. But all in all, it's a pretty enjoyable film for both kids and adults alike.