I saw City of Ember tonight and really enjoyed it. It’s not the most fantastic film I’ve seen recently, but it’s got a good, solid adventure story, some really engaging characters and gorgeous visual design. It also has a few excellent things I’m not used to seeing in sci-fantasy films generally, or in films targeted at children:
1. Equal hero time shared between a male and a female lead. Doon Harrow and Lina Mayfleet are co-protagonists, and they each discover necessary information and do heroic things throughout the course of the film. Woo!
2. No romance between the male and female lead. In many movies, if there’s a boy and a girl of a similar age and they’re older than, like, six, they get together by the end of the film. It’s a little hard to tell for sure – particularly because Harry Treadaway, who plays Doon, is ten years older than Saorise Ronan, who plays Lina – but it seems that Lina and Doon are meant to be pretty close in age. And yet, no superfluous romance. I know! I was pretty surprised too.
3. Multiple female characters. Who talk to each other. I think there are almost as many supporting female characters in City of Ember as there are male characters, and I counted only two points – in a film full of conversation – where two female characters talked to each other about a male character. At one point, Lina asks an old friend of her father’s about him. Another time, a friend of Lina’s tells her about her new boyfriend. That’s it! All the other talk between women and girls was about the same sorts of things that men and boys talked about. Amazing.
4. This (post-apocalyptic) future has people of color. The bulk of the cast is white, but there are people of color living in Ember, and one of the important supporting characters is a black woman. Well, it’s a start.
City of Ember hasn’t done well at the box office, but I know I’ll be buying a copy when it comes out on DVD. This is the kind of film I’ll be happy to share with the kids I know.