you ever noticed that in the movies kids are altruistic little
fuckers who try to fix the shit adults screw up? Little shits
stop wars, save parents and patch up rocky relationships. By
the time kids in the movies get to college age they're self-absorbed
pricks who only want to hump something. The adults then fuck
the world up so the kids can save it again. What Hollywood's
trying to tell us, I guess, is that if we want the world to
be a better place, everyone needs to drop out of school after
sixth grade. Or maybe we need to pull a Logan's Run,
but not wait until people are thirty. Kill them at the first
sign of puberty.
outside the Denver Public School system, though, being a dropout
is socially unacceptable. Society expects you to be some sort
of fucking egghead who went to high school and at least passed
a couple grades. You pretty much have to have at least a GED
to get the cherry jobs like cashier at Costco. And what's all
this compulsory education gotten us? A whole lot of assholes,
is what. Fuckwads looking for love and a nice car and a house
they can't afford. Pricks with no interest in saving the world
unless they can be Joseph Campbell's reluctant hero, and get
to hump somebody for saving the world.
news is that while I've got a high school diploma and even took
some classes at the junior college, I'm an idiot. I've never
thought of myself as being smarter than a sixth grader. In fact,
judging from how often the little jerks from Arvada Middle School
trick me out of my beer money, I'm way more stupid. I guess
I'm well positioned to save the world. I just wish there were
some sort of huge crisis that needed me. You know, some sort
of global fuck up that I can fix with a little gum, twine, pluck
and naivete. Then those little pricks would leave me alone,
or at least leave me enough for a forty of some Steel Reserve
High Gravity Lager.
me, after you get the shit kicked out of you by kids you really
need a drink. And they make fun of my shirts, too, just because
Mrs. Filthy is on a money-saving spree and has been getting
creative with the discarded Calico prints down at Hancock Fabric.
I don't know, I sort of like the shirts, especially the powder
blue one with the kittens chasing the ball of yarns around in
squares. It makes me feel sort of tough.
To get back
on the subject, kids always save the world in movies. City
of Ember is no different. It's about two kids who get the
gumption to save their society from obsolescence. For some unexplained
reason, although I'm guessing the Harelip's genital warts started
really spreading, humanity is crumbling and the last survivors
got sequestered underground in a city illuminated by thousands
of big sulfur bulbs for over 200 years. There was a plan for
the survivors to return to the earth's surface, but it got lost,
and the people remain in their subterranean village.
people have overstayed the length of time the city was planned
for. It is beginning to crumble, the food supply is almost exhausted,
the generator that powers everything is breaking down, and the
clothes, apartments, furniture and pipes are getting pretty
ratty. Most of the citizens worry about dying once the generator
does fail for good, with their society panicking and all decency
disappearing in the pitch darkness. It reminds me of the terrifying
and bleak night the power went out at the Tavern and some asshole
ran about shoving its tongue into everyone's mouth. I'm not
gonna point fingers, but let's just say I had gum when the power
crashed, and Worm had gum when it came back on. Much like those
of us there that awful night, the people in City of Ember
dread what's coming but feel powerless to stop it. They comfort
themselves with routine and blind faith in their mayor (Bill
Murray), rather than wonder how to escape impending doom.
plucky youngsters (Harry Treadaway and Saoirse Ronan). They
are restless and idealistic, apparently not yet ground down
to nubbins by the dull routine of the city. Ronan finds the
lost plans for returning to the surface. She and Treadaway devise
a plan to follow the people back to natural light, trees, oceans
and, presumably, donuts and Slurpees.
the two upstarts take once they have the plans is disappointingly
straightforward. They get the plans, they enact the plans with
little resistance, and the plans succeed. Being straightforward's
a pretty fucking big problem for a movie. It doesn't give you
much tension. There are no reversals of fortune that force the
kids to use their brains to come up with new ideas. There are
no bad guys in their way. Murray ,the sad and slimy mayor, has
his own bunker full of the city's best remaining food. While
he claims to care about the people, he's mostly looking out
for ol' Number One. He's supposed to be the villain, yet nowhere
in the movie do they suggest he would be opposed to escaping,
or to someone showing him how.
Treadaway are about as generic as the sodas you can buy for
a quarter outside WalMart. They're bubbly and sweet, but damned
if I could tell what made their characters unique. Ronan likes
to run fast. Treadway, well, fuck it, he's just there. the two
don't have any romantic interest in each other. That's fine.
But they are hardly friends, either, and they don't really grow
through the process of finding an escape. They just bop along,
like someone doing a connect-the-dots.
characters, such as Tim Robbins as Treadaway's dad, are as uninteresting.
Ronan has a little sister who says nothing and a dying grandmother,
but neither adds much. Actually, they feel like characters who
may have once had interesting subplots, but the subplots got
edited down to shit. There is also a giant beetle stag found
early in the movie that just never gets explained. A few characters
make a big deal out of it, and someone asks why it's so fucking
huge. The movie gives no answer, and our intrepid heros aren't
scared for a moment how many there may be beyond their city,
and whether they'll get eaten by them. Oh, there's also a giant
mole that could, apparently, kill everyone anytime it wants.
Its appetite, though, is just to eat what is convenient to the
of Ember looks pretty fucking fantastic, though. Director
Gil Kenan does a bang up job making an underground city that
looks a lot like Brazil. It's interesting to me that
dystopian settings are always crumbling art deco. Is this some
sort of suggestion that society peaked in the 40s and 50s and
has been in decline since? Are we slowly using up all the goodness
that was created before we were born? Anyway, Kenan's details
make the city feel very much like a dying civilization would.
Everything has been patched as much as it will allow. Clothes
have been repurposed until they are just patchwork quilts. Furniture
is falling apart, the buildings sag and creak, the pipes leak
but can only be patched instead of replaced.
problem with City of Ember is that it's the most pointless
movie about a dystopian world of complacent workers as has ever
been made. Brave New World, 1984> and even Candy
Bottoms' XXX classic Anal Anthem, an adaptation of some
Ayn Rand novel, have a point. They are al trying to say something
about society, our place in it, and the cost of complacency
and allowing government to control us. Maybe the young adult
novel that City is an introduction for kids to the world
of insignificance and disappointment that awaits them. If it
is, the movie completely ignores the message and just delivers
a tepid action flick with go-get-'em kids in a fabulous setting.
It's a damn
shame, really. Kids need to know they never get to save the
world like the movies show. I should know, I ain't a kid anymore
and I'm still waiting for my chance. Two Fingers for
City of Ember.
to tell Filthy Something?