City Of Ember

Logans_runThe “escape from the underground city” movie is a metaphor for nonconformists (and children) escaping from society’s rigid expectations, and (at another level of metaphor) from death.

The child protagonists’ grappling with the mysteries of the ancient past is aFrankweiler metaphor for the drive that all intelligent children possess to understand themselves in the context of a world larger and more complicated than the one they inherited from their parents.

One twist here is that the people escaping are actually also trying to save the society that they are escaping from. These “small group of misfits must save the world” movies are synechdoches for the large group of misfits (i.e. the population of the planet at any given time) who, with each generation, inherits the burden of not reversing all the progress that was made previously.


Another twist: this movie is “steampunk.” Which is to say, it is a fantasy about how humanity might have developed technology to an advanced state similar to the one we now experience, but with little or no electricity…as if technology froze around 1900, but innovation as to how to use that technology continued. In this particular case, humanity reverted to older technology voluntarily in the future rather than sticking with it in the past, but it’s the same principle. Steampunk is a convenient way of rejoicing in human ingenuity without despairing about where that technology might be leading. “Ember” suggestsSteampunkpc something once hot that still has just enough fire in it to re-ignite. The notion of power provided by fire also ties into the whole steampunk paradigm.

City Of Ember will be the first mainstream American steampunk movie. Its success will give the industry permission to make more movies (and tv shows) in the genre. Someday, people will be stodgiliy claiming that they were into steampunk before City Of Ember came out.

City Of Ember Trailer

steampunk computer (and photo) by Jake Von Slatt

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