City of Ember

image for City of Ember

Short takes

Not recommended under 8, PG to 13 due to scary scenes and themes.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for City of Ember
  • a review of City of Ember completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 11 December 2008.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines. Other classification advice (OC) is provided where the Australian film classification is not available.

Name of movie: City of Ember
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: Some scary scenes
Length: 95 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

City of Ember tells the story of an underground city built 200 years ago with the hope of saving humanity from the end of the world.  A special box was also created and encrypted with the secret plans for escaping the city.  However the box is programmed only to release the escape plan in 200 years and when the holder of the box dies suddenly it is misplaced and the plans for the way out of the city are lost.
The main characters of the film Lina Mayfleet (Saoirse Ronan) and Doon Harrow (Harry Treadaway) are teenagers living in the city 200 years from its conception.  They have just commenced in their first jobs as service people to the city and become concerned about the future of the City of Ember when they notice that food supplies are running low and the city’s only generator begins to fail. 
Lina finds the special box in the back of a dusty cupboard and together with Doon battles a corrupt mayor, a weary society and a giant mole to piece together the clues within the box and try to discover a way out of the city.


Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

The end of the world; orphans

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Doon is chased by a menacing man and thrown down a flight of stairs.
  • A man arrested as he attempts to leave the city is taken away screaming by masked men.
  • The mayor is eaten by a giant mole (we see the mole coming for the mayor and hear the mayor screaming as he is eaten.
  • A giant mole chases Lina and Doon and attempts to eat them - the pursuit is lengthy and frightening.
  • When Lina becomes aware that the mayor is stealing food from the city’s residents his assistant grabs her, throws her against a wall and takes her to the mayor.
  • Lina and Doon are chased by the mayor’s police force in an aggressive manner, they force themselves into their homes, accuse their friends of helping them, smash and overturn objects.
  • The mayor shoves a man and a physical fight ensues.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • There are a series of blackouts in the city where there is no light for periods of time and many people are seen to be fearful
  • Screaming and panicking people try to escape a fire in a generator that keeps the city running.
  • Lina and Poppy are orphans
  • Lina’s grandmother becomes sick and the doctor has no medications to give her
  • Lina’s grandmother dies and her body is seen
  • A number of dark and scary scenes of the giant mole chasing and eating people
  • There are giant moths in the city
  • Doon struggles to fix a massive pipe after it explodes and he is nearly drowned

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by some of the scenes mentioned above and particularly by the atmosphere of impending doom in the film and the death of the grandmother of Lina and Poppy who are already orphans.

Thirteen and overinfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the sense of impending doom that is created throughout the film with the only living city in the midst of a food shortage, the city’s only generator failing and no way out.

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

None of concern

In a nutshell

City of Ember is a fantasy adventure based on the 2003 post-apocalyptic book of the same name by Jeanne DuPrau.
The main messages from this movie are

  • never give up despite the odds
  • working as a team to face challenges and hurdles

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • strength of will
  • persistence
  • caring for family and friends, and sticking together

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children the importance of:

  • environmental issues and resource demand and what may happen if we do not respect our environment
  • corrupt governments