City Of Ember was one of the best science fiction movies of 2008, with terrific performances and incredible production design. So why is it getting such a cruddy DVD?
I was super excited to get an advance copy of the Ember DVD. Partly, I was looking forward to reliving the story of two kids living in an underground city who discover their postapocalyptic world may be different than the adults believe. As the city's generators fail and the food stocks run out, the adults all passively wait for some mythical savior and trust in their corrupt mayor, but the kids piece together the clues and find a way out of the city into the outside world.
Ember featured incedible production design by Martin Laing, including sets that comprised a huge chunk of the city itself, and amazing attention to detail. Plus, "Barrow" Harrow, the father of one of the kids played by Tim Robbins, builds tons of amazing robots and mechanical devices, and they all have this cool jagged look to them.
For whatever reason, Ember bombed at the box office, but I firmly believe it could have a new life on DVD, both as a cult classic for adults and as a must-watch kids' movie. Sadly, Fox doesn't seem to have as much faith in the movie as I do, at this point. For one thing, they gave it a horrendous DVD cover, which makes it look like Eragon IV.
But more to the point, there are no extras. None. I seriously thought I was misunderstanding the DVD menu for a while. There is an "extras" option, but it only leads to trailers for movies like Garfield's Cocaine Orgy. And there's no Blu-Ray release. At all, as far as I know.
DVD Talk puts it best: "Considering the extensive production design and adaptation discussion that certainly accompanies this release, it's a shame to not see anything included." We read a lot about how Laing and director Gil Kenan filled the shipyard where the actual H.M.S. Titanic was built with subterranean tunnels, courtyards, and the city's massive generator. The sets were so large, actors actually got lost in them. Wouldn't a featurette about that incredibly ambitious process be a good idea? Or a commentary track? Something?
Early reports said the DVD would have two versions of the movie, in flip-disc format: one wide-screen, one regular. But that wasn't the case with my screener, and Amazon doesn't mention anything of the sort.
Bottom line: Ember is well worth renting or buying, just for the amazing film itself. But the DVD misses a chance to win new converts to an amazing film with a lot of really fascinating production work. The DVD comes out tomorrow.