Monday, October 27, 2008

City of Ember movie - My Review

Today, another teacher and I invited our students and their families to join us at our local movie theater to watch the movie, City of Ember. We had both recently finished reading aloud the book of the same name to our classes, and this seemed like a fun extension of the read aloud.

We were amazed at the turnout for this movie on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. With the exception of 2 other families, our students, their siblings and/or parents, and the two of us practically filled the entire theater. Most people first made a stop at the snack bar (after all, what's a movie without the popcorn?!), and then we were ready to begin.

I actually liked the beginning of the movie a great deal. It really set up the importance of what the "Builders" had decided to do to help the continuation of mankind. It also gave me a visual of what the box that was passed from Mayor to Mayor looked like. The box was a little more high-tech and sci-fi than I had imagined, but it worked for this movie. I loved how it literally showed the box being passed from one mayor to the next, and it also displayed how many years were left until the box would open by itself. Again, I enjoyed the foreshadowing of the last stop it made when it passed into hands that were holding yarn before being shoved into a closet full of even more yarn (those of you who read the book know what I'm talking about). Nice technique.

When we finally see Ember for the first time, it was much as I had expected: dull colors for both clothes and buildings, light fixtures everywhere (though the hanging ones confused me a little), Clary's greenhouses, Doon's home, his father's shop with all its invented gadgets, Lina's home, and Granny's yarn store, with yarn everywhere.

Things that weren't quite as I had pictured: robots in Doon's father's shop, Ember is in more of a circular shape, and Assignment Day was different. It wasn't bad, just different.

Bill Murray is good as the mayor, but he's not quite as grotesque as the mayor I pictured from the book. The actor that plays Looper is perfect casting. Lina (turns out I've been pronouncing her name incorrectly) and Doon were ok for me, but Poppy was darling!

As we sat in our seats, I realized I was riveted by most of the movie. Could have definitely done without the gigantic mole in the Pipeworks, even though it did serve a purpose toward the end. There were enough of my favorite parts of the book included in the movie to satisfy me: Poppy chewing on the Instructions in the closet while Granny is tearing apart the furniture, Clary being a good friend to Lina, Doon and Lina finding the mayor in his secret room with his hoarded stash, Lizzie spilling her stolen cans all over the street in front of Lina, the power outages.

I'm a realist enough to know that not all could be included from the book into the movie, so I was fine with that. However, what I didn't enjoy as much in the movie is a pretty big deal: the process of solving the mystery of what the Instructions said. We had so much fun doing that as a class; I was sorry to see it glossed over. Lina and Doon worked so hard at solving the puzzle in the book; it just sort of fell together in the movie.

I also liked the actual Instructions in the book, and therefore, the mode of escape. Things felt slightly contrived in the movie, and again, they seemed to be going for more of a high-tech escape. I will say that having the boats right in front of us the entire movie was fun after I realized what they actually were -- very clever. Still, I personally liked how basic the escape was in the book: boats, paddles, candles, matches, river... GO!

I earlier said how much I enjoyed the beginning. The same can be said for two parts of the ending. When they climb the stairs from the river, and enter the room with signs all around it, things start to click into place, and brings the movie full circle -- nice touch. I also liked the twist of whose feet the note, attached to the rock, lands on.

Bottom line, I was very happy I got to see this movie with my students. There was a shared feeling of excitement in the theater that was almost palpable. The conversations outside the theater when the movie was over were loud, excited, full of energy, and priceless. I think activities like this are just one more way for us, as teachers, to get our students to lead literate lives.

So, that's what I thought about the movie. Tune in tomorrow to see what our students had to say about City of Ember.


  1. I am finishing school for my Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education. I stumbled on your post while I was working on an assignment to plan a lesson for elementary students. I just want to say, you sound like the kind of teacher I hope to be. I love that you shared this experience with your students.

  2. I just stumbled on your blog while I was doing some research for an assignment I'm completing. I am finishing my degree in Elementary Education and I just wanted to say, I loved reading this blog and the follow up. You seem like the kind of teacher that I hope to be. I love that you shared this experience with your students and their families.