The 2000s Dystopian Steampunk Sci-Fi Thriller Epic Already Being Forgotten By A Generation

By Britta DeVore | Updated

City of ember

We’re so incredibly used to having every piece of media at our fingertips with streamers like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and Max offering copious amounts of TV shows and movies for the price of a subscription. Still, there are some titles out there that haven’t made it onto streaming platforms and are only available on VOD. One of those such films is the 2008 sci-fi adventure flick, City of Ember, which, with a star-studded cast led by Gil Kenan (Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire) in his live-action directorial debut, is one worth fronting the extra bucks to watch. 

City Of Ember

city of ember

The film, which is based on Jeanne DuPrau’s 2003 novel, The City of Ember, is a fantasy lover’s dream as it takes audiences underground to the titular city. Running on a generator that has served its purpose for more than a century, time is running out, and with it, the lights within the deep cave start to dim and flicker. Taking matters into their own hands and seeing themselves as the city’s only hope at restoring light to even its darkest corners, two teenagers, Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) go on a dangerous yet exciting journey to turn the lights back on for good.

The Cast

city of ember

After having earned an Oscar nod for her work in Atonement, City of Ember was another pivotal stepping stone in Saoirse Ronan’s career, which would ultimately lead her to earn three more Academy Award nominations and heaps of accolades for her work in such projects as Brooklyn, Lady Bird, and Little Women. The casting team behind the fantastical tale’s on-screen adaptation were on their A-game for this one as, along with Ronan and Treadaway, they also nabbed names including Bill Murray (Lost in Translation) and Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption).

Gil Kenan

Just as it was a pivotal career moment for its star Saoirse Ronan, City of Ember was a similarly huge moment for director Gil Kenan. Two years earlier, Kenan had paired up with Columbia Pictures for the animated horror flick, Monster House, giving him the preparation and connections needed to jump into live-action filmmaking with City of Ember. From there, Kenan’s hold on Hollywood continued to expand with the helmer attaching himself to the 2015 remake of the horror classic Poltergeist, the holiday fantasy flick, A Boy Called Christmas, and, most recently, Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire.

The City Bombed

city of ember

Unfortunately for Kenan’s first live-action film, all the big names around (which included Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman as producers) couldn’t save the production from being a financial disaster. Despite making a concerted effort to time the movie’s release shortly after the final book of DuPrau’s series hit shelves, City of Ember couldn’t keep the lights on at the box office. After spending $55 million on the feature’s production, the movie would only rake in $17.0 million, marking it as a gargantuan box office bust.

Watch It While You Still Can

Despite not having the allure and pull to draw in the audiences that were expected, the movie earned praise for its stellar cast, their performances, and the dazzling worlds that Kenan and his creative team designed. You can check out City of Ember for yourself now as it’s just a VOD click away.