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The Polar Express(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 and the The Polar Express Blu-ray release, see the The Polar Express Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 22, 2007 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis, William Broyles, Jr.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Eddie Deezen, Charles Fleischer, Michael Jeter, Steven Tyler, Leslie Zemeckis
» See full cast & crew
The Polar Express Blu-ray Review
A wondrous Christmas adventure is a fantastic presentation on Blu-ray
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 22, 2007
The true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.
The Polar Express is a marvel on several levels. As a movie, it's well-made, well-acted (in an unconventional sort of way), and entertaining to the highest of levels. As a story it's got action, drama, comedy, and a solid life lesson. It is based on a book, itself an original story that contains elements and themes we have seen before but combines them in a unique way. As a technical production, it is oftentimes awe-inspiring, something audiences have never seen before. As a Blu-ray disc, it's one of the better overall packages I've seen.
Robert Zemeckis' The Polar Express is the story of a boy who has lost 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 asset of all--the heart.
The Polar Express succeeds because it speaks to everyone. I think one of it's true charms is that it never gives a name to any of the characters, save for Billy, and by doing that, it facilitates the act of placing ourselves into the movie and seeing this world through the eyes of our chosen character. Perhaps the best way to identify each character is through the word punched into their ticket at the end. Words like "lead," "believe," "depend on," and "learn" are punched into a fleeting, magical ticket but also permanently inscribed onto each character's heart. Each word represents a strength that a character has either gained or realized through the course of the adventure, and each one is something good that we, as the audience, can strive for ourselves in our daily lives. By leaving the characters nameless, in the end we remember them based not on looks or moniker but rather by their character traits. We come to respect them based on actions, and this is reinforced by identifying them solely based on their strengths as individuals. This is ultimately a very heartfelt film that reminds us 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 Blu-ray, Video Quality
There is not much to say here except that this is an exceptional transfer. Presented in 1080p and in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.40:1, The Polar Express is a feast for the eyes, not only stylistically, but visually in high definition as well. The entire film is a digital rendition and it has been transfered to Blu-ray flawlessly. Filmed in exciting motion-capture technology (see the supplements for more details), The Polar Express never disappoints. It looks a tad soft and dark at times, but these issues are not a fault at all. Every frame is a perfect representation of the original final digital print and the result is simply splendid. Scenes ranging from the mundane (face- to-face dialogue) to the fast paced action sequences (a roller coaster-esque train ride) are both presented in digital perfection. The Polar Express is a demonstration-worthy Blu-ray disc, and one you can use to show off to any friend or family member, regardless of age or background.
The Polar Express Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Nearly as impressive as the video presentation is the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track on The Polar Express. Unfortunately, Warner had once again decided not to include a lossless audio track, but in this case the compressed Dolby track excels at every level. Bass levels are solid, powerful, and deep. Surrounds are active throughout, creating a 360-degree, immersive sound field. My only complaint was that dialogue was sometimes lost in the other sounds and came through slightly muddled, but otherwise this is an impressive track that does justice to the film and fine video transfer.
The Polar Express Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Warner Brothers has released The Polar Express on Blu-ray with a hefty offering of supplements. First up is You Look Familiar (480p, 4:11), a glimpse into how performance capture technology was utilized in the making of the film, as well as the many roles of Tom Hanks 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.
Finally, a 480p theatrical trailer for The Polar Express and a THQ Game Demo (which is actually a commercial for the game and not a playable demo) finish off the supplements.
The Polar Express Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
This was an amazing movie visually. It's hard to comprehend just how far technology has come in my lifetime, and this is a very exciting time to be alive and to be a movie fan. Not only a marvel to behold visually, The Polar Express is also a wonderful family film that captures the wonder and mystery of Christmas from a child's perspective. It's got action, drama, comedy, dancing waiters, and a good life lesson thrown in for good measure. What's not to like? This is a fine presentation from Warner Brothers on all fronts. The video quality is astounding, audio quality is nearly as good, and the supplements are fun, informative, but a little on the short side. The Polar Express is a film every member of your family, both young and old alike, will adore. I can easily and enthusiastically recommend this fine Blu-ray disc.
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