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City of Ember Train!

08.08.2008

All aboard to Ember! Thanks to the folks at Fox Walden, I was afforded the unique opportunity to travel to Comic Con aboard a train with the creative forces behind the upcoming film CITY OF EMBER. EMBER is the post-apocalyptic tale of a community living underground, jeopardized by the impending failure of their power generator. It stars Bill Murray, Tim Robbins, Martin Landau and Saoirse Ronan (ATONEMENT).

In an intimate screening room at the back of the train, Gil Kenan, the film’s director, introduced us to the world of Ember with the screening of several clips. It was probably the strangest place I have ever screened anything, but the bumpy ride and wobbly chairs added an element of adventure to the experience.

The first clip was the opening sequence of the film. A technically fascinating shot that started on the filaments of a light bulb and moved away capturing the grand scope of this underground community. The set was built in the same shipyard once used to build the Titanic. Production Designer Martin Laing, who coincidentally won the Academy Award in Art Direction for TITANIC, literally built the city from the ground up. From the center square eight avenues extend outward housing shops and apartments, each its own practical set. Meaning you can run up a staircase and into an apartment and actually find that apartment there.

The next clip introduced us to the films leads, Lina (Ronan) and Doon (Harry Treadaway) on their Assignment Day. This is a rite of passage for all youth of Ember, where they are randomly assigned the job that will serve as their identity in Ember. Both receive the jobs that they dread the most and agree to switch.

Other clips were of Lina confronting The Mayor (Murray) with accusations of hoarding food for the day the lights go out, Doon’s Dad (Robbins) aiding in his son’s escape as the authorities come looking, an encounter with a giant, tentacle faced, rat like creature, and the duo’s unraveling of a key plot point that just may lead them out of the city.

As well crafted as this film seems to be, I believe what will set it apart is the story. Based on the novel by Jeanne Deprau, screenwriter Caroline Thompson has developed a rich fantasy world that is ultra believable. Of course this isn’t the first time she’s done such a thing. She’s actually developed quite a resume of such storytelling, particularly in her collaborations with Tim Burton on such films as EDWARD SCISSORHANDS and NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. What makes this one so compelling is its relevance to the landscape of the world today. It seems to be a cautionary tale of the need for conservation, which at its core says, “When the lights are out there’s nothing left.”

In talking with the filmmakers I got the overwhelming sense that some jobs are work and others are special. All involved gave the impression that this film was one of the special ones. I for one am excited to see the finished product when it’s released this October.

Source: JoBlo.com

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