City of Ember Blu-ray Review
The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.40:1 1080p transfer. For the most part this picture is pretty good, there is decent enough detailing, look at the various contraptions built by Doon’s father or the many lines of yarn in Lina’s house, or the stored food in the Mayors hideaway, however, it is not as pin sharp as one might expect, there are occasional bouts of softness and facial detail is never as distinct as one expects. The colour pallet is very golden and that is defined very well, primaries are subdued to push the ‘artificial light’ and it works well. Being set underground the picture could be said to live or die on its black level, thankfully the brightness and contrast are set extremely well to give the blacks needed to define the limits of the light, take a look outside the green houses, or when the lights fail to see some deep and meaningful black. There is always some decent shadow detail, look at the pipe-work tunnels for great examples.
Digitally there were no compression problems, banding or posterization. There is no edge enhancement to artificially boost the soft edges and the original print is in pristine condition with a light sheen of grain to remind us that this is film. In all a very decent picture with just the slight softness and lack of HD wow to bring the score down.
Only the one track to choose from, English DTS–HD Master Audio 5.1, luckily it’s pretty good. What is particularly good for this track is it’s ambience, we are in an underground city, with plenty going on all the time, so the speakers are kept very happy with ‘city’ living noise, be it the hum of light bulbs, the whirr of machinery, or the throb of the generator, not to mention the general city living, such as talking, street life and general hubbub. Seems like there is always something going on as decent discrete surround ambience. When the action moves to the pipe-work or the generator rooms the rattle and hum builds up as it would in real life, i.e. becomes noisy. Dialogue is natural sounding and pretty much from the frontal array, stereo effects notwithstanding. The score too fares very well, with plenty of pump and swell to fill the room, utilising all the channels and placing you in the centre of the action. There is a fair bit of work for the sub too, with LF effects aplenty, be if from the generator throb, of the climatic water ride escape. There is nice separation and plenty of dynamic range, perhaps not quite reference but one to bring a smile to your face.
Ember Special Effects
A very brief look at some of the effects used to make the film, from the practical on-set props to green-screen. Too brief to be of any real significance, the few sound-bites from cast and crew are overshadowed by the film clips.
The Largest Set in the World
Another extremely brief (four minute) look at the incredible set built in Ireland for the film with production designer Martin Laing taking the lead. Again far too short to fully gauge the scale of the set, but all who worked on it and worked in it are suitably impressed.
Doon, Lina and Poppy
Last of the mini-featurettes concentrates in these three characters, and the part they play in the story. Like the others above, way too short and padded with too much film.
Making of a Scene
A Fox channel (complete with logo) special talking about one scene (the reveal of the generator) and how it was achieved. Benefits from interviews with the director and producers (Ton Hanks) but it is still just a dressed up ad for the film. Longest of the extras at six minutes.
Rather a meagre amount of extras, even for a film that didn’t fair that well on its release, but the care taken with those that we do have I’ve no doubt that there is plenty more material available, but just not here. Shame really.
City of Ember tells the story of Doon and Lina, two children who uncover the secret of an instruction box left behind by the builders of their underground city, and race against time and the authorities to escape forever. A wonderful premise is rather spoilt by a screenplay that relies on asking more questions than it answers and ultimately fails to deliver on its promise of action and adventure. Whilst it looks, and sounds, spectacular and there is clearly a great film trying to find its way out, after the credits have rolled the end result is one of mild disappointment.
Entertainment in Video’s Region B locked Blu-ray release showcases very respectable picture and sound but is somewhat let down by a very lacklustre extras package. A shame as the disc will probably find a decent enough place in the home entertainment market.
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