BySean Gallen, writer at
The pen is mightier than the sword but is ultimately useless in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Filmmaker, filmlover, MP staff writer.
Sean Gallen

Based on the captivating series of books penned by Jeanne DuPrau, City of Ember was one of the most interesting film adaptations of a YA novel to date. Starring Bill Murray, Tim Robbins and a young Saoirse Ronan, the story takes place in the titular underground city 200 years after the apocalypse. The generator that powered the city collapses and dies after two centuries of survival, pushing two teenagers to rebel against their father (Robbins) and the misguided mayor (Murray) to find a way of escaping and saving their community.

Check out the trailer to refresh your memory below:

City of Ember info:

  • Release date: September 25, 2008
  • Budget: $55 million
  • Total Domestic Gross: $7.8 million

Despite having a stellar cast and a great story, City of Ember received pitiful reviews and a poor box office return. Critics slammed it for suffering genre confusion; unsure whether it was a thriller, an action-adventure or a drama film. In reality, it combined all three masterfully and added a sprinkle of mystery on top. Since the film's whimpering release, many fans of the YA series and the film have been waiting on a sequel to finish the story. Rumors and gossip of a sequel have been haunting fans but there's still no news of City of Ember 2. We're going to open the history books and take a look at what happened to this promising sequel and what the future holds for the people of Ember.

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What Happened Since City Of Ember Was Extinguished By Critics?

Bill Murray starts to crack in 'City of Ember' / Playtone
Bill Murray starts to crack in 'City of Ember' / Playtone

Show business is a fickle mistress and there are a myriad of reasons why a film flops upon release. City of Ember was a big production from Playtone (Tom Hanks' production company) with an even bigger budget of $55 million, much of which was spent on recreating the steam-punk world of Ember, which was achieved in one of the biggest and most stylish sets known to the film business. Add a great cast, a promising director (Gil Kenan) and a bulletproof script and you're onto a sure winner. Sadly, City of Ember just couldn't get people into seats to watch it and the film pulled in a meagre $7.8 million for its total domestic gross.

Most production companies don't bounce back from a hit like that and Tom Hanks' Playtone is no different. The company shrunk back and has only produced six films since the disastrous opening. Tom Hanks & co. have focused their attention on much smaller TV dramas such as Olive Kitteridge and Game Change. However, Playtone purchased the exclusive film rights to the second book in the City of Ember series, People of the Sparks — but still, hopes for a sequel seemed to have burnt out with the first film.

A Return To The Source Material

Jeanne DuPrau's original novels earned a cult following and sold millions of copies so there is definitely an audience out there as big as those garnered by The Hunger Games or the Paper Towns. The second installment of the saga follows the denizens of the city of Ember who escaped their hometown and begin making the long journey to the surface of the Earth. People of the Sparks focuses on the Ember refugees encountering a civilization closer to the surface and depict their struggle to work together to overcome the greater evil.

Tim Robbins could help bring 'People of the Sparks' to life / Playtone
Tim Robbins could help bring 'People of the Sparks' to life / Playtone

With an audience in place and a great story to be told, all that's missing is the original cast to take on their half-forgotten roles.

When asked during a press conference for City of Ember, the entire cast was eager to revisit the somber but beautiful universe. Despite the fact that Bill Murray's character was consumed by a mole monster at the end of the first film (revenge for Groundhog Day?), the master of wit claimed his character could be "regurgitated" and suggested that he would love to take part in the sequel. Saoirse Ronan has gone on to become one of the brightest stars in Hollywood and she too was keen to revisit Ember. During a press conference for the first installment she suggested it all depended on the rest of the cast and crew:

"If Gil was still going to do it and we still had all of the cast, then yes."

Will City Of Ember 2 Ever See The Light Of Day?

Harry Treadaway breaks on through to the other side / Playtone
Harry Treadaway breaks on through to the other side / Playtone

Like the characters in DuPrau's novels, the team behind City of Ember has a map that can lead them to daylight. They have all the right ingredients: support from a dedicated audience, an amazing cast and crew, a production company that's willing to take risks. As we discovered with the rehashing of the Spider-Man franchise, box office failures are quickly forgotten and everyone deserves a second chance, especially when you have such a special story to tell.

Would you like to see a sequel to City of Ember?

(Source: Io9)


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