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The Polar Express 3D(2004)
When a doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe.
For more about The Polar Express 3D and the The Polar Express 3D Blu-ray release, see the The Polar Express 3D Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 28, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Eddie Deezen, Charles Fleischer, Michael Jeter, Steven Tyler, Leslie Zemeckis
Director: Robert Zemeckis
» See full cast & crew
The Polar Express 3D Blu-ray Review
'The Polar Express' in Blu-ray 3D needs some fine-tuning back at the station.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 28, 2010
If I were you I would think about climbing on board.
It certainly is the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas. The joy, the spirit, the wonder, the gathering of loved ones for the year's most anticipated day. It means a little something different to everyone, but no doubt the day just feels a bit out of the ordinary. More cheerful, more fulfilling, a little warmer, a bit cozier, and definitely more magical, Christmas is the one day of the year where the world feels like it's barely moving by; the hustle and bustle of those days leading up to it play out in stark contrast to the serenity and easygoing spirit that shines like a beacon of hope once a year on December 25th. Robert Zemeckis' The Polar Express, based on Chris Van Allsburg's book of the same name, is but one of many Christmas-themed movies, but it surpasses most of its fellow holiday films not only because of a unique style of filmmaking or the action and adventure that plays such a prominent role in the film, but because of the film's emphasis on discovery. Not only does the film feature a physical discovery of sorts as the children board a magical train dubbed "The Polar Express" that takes them to the North Pole to meet with Santa Claus and his elves, but along the way they discover some of the true meanings of Christmas, too: the discoveries of self, of the heart, of the soul, of friendship, of belief.
Robert Zemeckis' The Polar Express is the story of a boy who is quickly losing his faith in Christmas and belief in Santa Claus. He no longer visits the mall santa, does not make a Christmas wish list, and the job of leaving cookies and milk for Santa is now his younger sister's. On Christmas Eve, as he drifts off to sleep, he is awoken by a clatter outside his house. Tired and confused, the boy discovers a train in front of his house and its conductor calling for all to board. Convinced to embark on a wondrous journey aboard "The Polar Express," he meets new friends and re-discovers the magic and wonder of Christmas through the greatest gift of all -- heart, friendship, trust, and a rekindled belief in the meaning and spirit of Christmas that will forever define his life.
The Polar Express succeeds because it speaks to everyone. Never are the characters artificial or one-dimensional; they represent a broad spectrum of individuals, the main characters exhibiting strengths and weaknesses that help themselves -- and others -- through the night and, hopefully, in the way they live the rest of their lives. One of the film's true charms and perhaps overlooked decisions is that it never assigns a name to any of the characters, save for Billy, and by doing that, it facilitates the act of placing the audience into the movie and seeing this world through the eyes of the various characters, each one offering a little something different, and each endearing themselves to the audience. Audiences will find a little something of their own hearts, souls, values, and beliefs in each character as the children learn more about themselves, about each other, and about the true spirit of Christmas and the gifts of understanding, faith, and love along the way. Each character is best identified through the word punched into their ticket at the end of the film. Words like "lead," "believe," "depend on," and "learn" are punched into a fleeting magical ticket but also permanently inscribed onto each character's heart. The words represent a strength that a character has either gained or developed through the course of the adventure, and each one is something good that the audience can strive for or build upon in daily life. By leaving the characters nameless, they are best remembered based not on looks or name but rather by their character traits. Through the course of the film, audiences come to respect them based on actions, and this is reinforced by identifying them solely based on their strengths as individuals. The Polar Express is a heartfelt film that reinforces the notion that it is alright to believe in something that stands for good, for integrity, and for hope. In that regard, this film is a wonder to behold.
The Polar Express 3D Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Polar Express 3D chugs its way onto Blu-ray with a decidedly average 1080p Blu-ray 3D transfer. Technically, the image is generally proficient but far from consistently perfect; occasional banding is readily visible, and the transfer does sink deep into a fairly constant puddle of murky, overwhelming blacks that tend to devour all but the most well-lit and closes-to-the-virtual-camera objects. The film's opening sequence in particular that sees "Hero Boy" peering out of his bedroom door's keyhole, gazing out the window, or pretending to be asleep when his parents enter the room are all victims of overly thick blacks. Detail, too, is only a little better than average; this is certainly no Shrek Forever After in terms of raw detailing on character faces and clothes, which often appear rather smooth and indistinct. The animation is fine, but it simply doesn't allow for the kind of detail Blu-ray fans might expect. Colors are steady and seemingly accurate; even the picture's brighter hues seem reserved, but the transfer handles them well. Much of the film seems made of darker blues and blacks, with brighter colors gravitating towards slightly dull but glowing oranges and yellows; these shades look quite good, and it's in the coloring where the Blu-ray 3D really seems to take several steps ahead of the previously-released anaglyph 3D presentation of the film.
The 3D elements might best be described as "serviceable." There's nothing at all special or unique here; The Polar Express 3D gives off a "so what?" sort of vibe, one that certainly looks good and stable at-a-glance but never really captures the imagination or excites the senses in quite the same way as the best of the currently-limited Blu-ray 3D releases. Depth is decidedly average, and nowhere near as good as A Christmas Carol. The transfer is at its best when looking at the train extending far back into the screen or inside the main car where the children await their arrival at the North Pole; both of these, in certain shots, allow the frame to seem to extend well back beyond the limits of the television, but for as many "average" 3D shots as there are and even considering a few "wow" moments -- such as when the iron, triangular-shaped bumper of the train seems to crash into the living room as the locomotive screeches to a halt to avoid hitting a herd of Caribou -- there are an equal number that don't do much of anything to excite the senses. A few shots look a bit softer than they do on the 2D version as well, particularly the first appearance of the "Know-it-all" child on the train. The transfer also exhibits a fair bit of "ghosting" when viewed on Panasonic's first-gen hardware, occasionally to the level of distraction. Fans of The Polar Express will definitely want to upgrade from the anaglyph 3D version for the vastly superior colors and steadier 3D effect, but casual Blu-ray 3D fans may want to, unfortunately, allow this disc to slide further on down the wish list. Please note that all screenshots in this review have been taken from the 2D presentation found on this Blu-ray 3D release.
The Polar Express 3D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The Polar Express 3D powers onto Blu-ray with an impressive DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack; this is the third different primary soundtrack the film has received across its three Blu-ray releases, graduating from the Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation accompanying the film's inaugural 2D-only release and supplanting the Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless mix found on the aforementioned anaglyph 3D disc. Warner's latest DTS offering is quite good in every category, but not groundbreaking or all that memorable, either. The track handles some of the lighter supportive elements very well. The jingling of sleigh bells heard off in the distance at the beginning of the movie and foreshadowing what will become a symbol for one's belief in Christmas later in the film is expertly handled; the sense of distance is impressive, and the clarity of the bells seems second-to-none. Soon thereafter, the Polar Express rumbles into the soundstage with a prodigious level of realistic bass, accompanied by the high-pitched and very well-realized screaming of the whistle. Additionally, the soundstage is wonderfully wide and spacious, noted in several scenes and particularly as doors fling open to either side of the listening area. Atop the speeding train in several scenes, listeners will faintly hear the sounds of a chilly wind and the rattling of the train as it powers along the railroad tracks. Unfortunately, neither sensation is seamless, as both fai to completely immerse the listener with a heftier surround support that might have made the scene into a classic audio demonstration segment. As it is, it's a serviceable disappointment of sound. Nevertheless, the track features nicely-spaced and crisply-delivered music -- notably heard during the full rendition of The Polar Express theme song heard in chapter 12. With excellent dialogue reproduction, The Polar Express 3D delivers a strong, but not quite complete and top-tier, sonic experience.
The Polar Express 3D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Polar Express 3D ports over an almost identical supplemental package from its anaglyph 3D predecessor; all that's changed is the exclusion of the preview for the THQ video game. Things begin with You Look Familiar (480p, 4:11), a feature offering viewers a glimpse into how performance capture technology was utilized in the making of the film. Also showcased are Tom Hanks' many roles in the movie. A Genuine Ticket Ride (480p, 13:32) is an entertaining five-part making-of feature, hosted by two of the children audiences meet on the train, including "Know-It-All." After a 2 minute introduction, viewers are led on an all-too-brief journey through the process of making the film. Performance Capture, Virtual Camera, Hair and Wardrobe, Creating the North Pole, and Music represent the five aspects of the filmmaking process that are covered in this supplement. True Inspirations: An Author's Adventure (480p, 5:28) is a discussion with The Polar Express author Chris Van Allsburg. He recounts his upbringing, background as an artist, and the origins of his stories, including, obviously, The Polar Express.
Behind the Scenes of 'Believe' (480p, 4:24) takes viewers into the recording studio and offers a brief history of the development into this song, including a chat with singer Josh Groban. Flurry of Effects (480p, 8:48) is yet another five-part feature that provides a fascinating real-time comparison showing both the motion-capture acting simultaneously with the final version of the film. Scenes featured include All Aboard, Hot Chocolate, Hobo on Top of the Train, I Believe, and Goodbye. Smokey and Steamer (480p, 7:04), a deleted song from the final film, is presented in its early "Michelin Man" phase of development. It was performed by Michael Jeter who passed away during filming. Josh Groban at the Greek (480p, 4:33) is a live performance by Groban of the song Believe. Meet the Snow Angels (480p, 2:44) is a brief series of interviews with the cast and crew as they describe their fondest memories of Christmas, as well as their thoughts on the meaning of the holiday. A 480p theatrical trailer for The Polar Express is the final supplement in this collection.
The Polar Express 3D Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Polar Express has quickly endeared itself to the Christmas movie public and currently ranks among the finest Christmas movies of them all, coming up just short of the genre's pinnacle where films like A Christmas Story and It's a Wonderful Life reside. Not only a visual tour-de-force that employs some of the latest and most exciting breakthroughs in moviemaking technology, The Polar Express is also a wonderful Family film that captures the wonder and mystery of Christmas from a child's perspective. Featuring action, adventure, heartfelt drama and emotion, dancing waiters, and a strong message about the importance of finding that inner gift that is more precious than anything that might appear underneath the Christmas tree, The Polar Express is a definite winner and a film suitable for every member of the family. Warner Brothers' Blu-ray 3D presentation of The Polar Express doesn't quite deliver an upper-tier 3D transfer, but it's certainly good enough to warrant a purchase if collectors don't already own the film on one of the previously-released Blu-ray editions. The lossless soundtrack is of a good-but-not-great quality, and the supplements are practically identical to what was included in the last release. Recommended to first-time owners, but only when the price settles down into the $15-$20 range.
The Polar Express: Other Editions
The Polar Express 3D Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Warner Announces Six 3D Blu-ray Titles for General Release - September 16, 2010
Alleviating the scarcity of 3D Blu-ray titles at retail, Warner Home Video has announced that on November 16 it will release six 3D BDs unfettered by exclusive hardware bundles: Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore (WHV's first 3D day-and-date title), Clash ...
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