City of Ember begins with the end of the world.
Knowing that an unrevealed cataclysmic event (war? disease? environmental crisis?) will soon eliminate human life, a group of scientists create an underground city called Ember where civilization will go on. It's basically a giant fallout shelter shaped into a city—complete with brownstones, brick streets, and a city-square fountain—spread out under an impressive web of light bulbs and wires.
Of course, the city's architects—identified as The Builders—know it's only temporary. Ember's tremendous generator cannot run forever. The canned food won't last infinitely. And so, hoping that humans can again live on Earth's surface in 200 years, they put a sort of expiration date on Ember. They install a turn-key operation into the city that will easily and safely allow the survivors to leave their underground world. They then leave behind complete instructions about getting to this new life above ground.
But over time, the instructions are lost and forgotten.
More than 200 years go by and the over-extended Ember is crumbling. It is way past its expiration date. The generator is dying. Food is running out. No one remembers that there's more to life than Ember and the darkness surrounding it. No one knows that an escape plan even exists. But a young girl named Lina (Atonement's Oscar-nominated Saoirse Ronan) stumbles onto part of an ancient message and is sure that it holds the secret to leaving Ember. She and her friend Doon (Harry Treadaway) must unravel the mystery before Ember's lights go out forever.
In a time of war, ecological concerns, economic unrest, and continual worry for our world's future, it is no surprise to see a run of dystopian, fear-filled, end-of-the-world ...1