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The Polar Express Presented in 3-D(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 Presented in 3-D and the The Polar Express Presented in 3-D Blu-ray release, see the The Polar Express Presented in 3-D Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 11, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 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 Presented in 3-D Blu-ray Review
Re-discover the magic and heartfelt honesty of 'The Polar Express' in 3-D.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 11, 2008
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 3-D experience of this Blu-ray disc) 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 discovery of self, of the heart, of the soul, of friendship, of belief.
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 gift of all -- the heart.
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, forever. 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 Presented in 3-D Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Polar Express steams onto Blu-ray with a 1080p, 2.35:1 transfer, available both in a standard 2-D transfer that is the same as that found on the previous release in addition to the new 3-D presentation that is the highlight of this package. The 3-D imagery isn't as interesting or deep as what was seen in Journey to the Center of the Earth, but it's fairly impressive nevertheless. There aren't all that many "wow" moments that make viewers jump back in their seats, but the movie does create a nice sense of depth, with some scenes looking far more 3-dimensional than others. Even with the glasses on, the effect leaves quite a bit of ghosting and random lines that don't really mesh into the image. Colors are more subdued through the 3-D prism than they are in the 2-D presentation. The first time the 3-D effect really springs to life (perhaps because it is the first truly well-lit scene in the film) takes place the first time viewers see the interior of the Express. The sense of depth is awe-inspiring, an excellent reproduction. A few scenes practically burst out of the television. While the 3-D effect begins to feel routine after a while, it should nevertheless be a big enough hit with kids and adults alike. The 2-D transfer is also impressive. It looks a tad soft and dark at times, but these issues are not necessarily a fault of the transfer. 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 presented in digital perfection.
The Polar Express Presented in 3-D Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Warner Brothers presents The Polar Express with a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack that offers a nice improvement over the previous edition that sported a lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. There is some truly fantastic bass here that is a clear cut above the previous offering. As the Polar Express pulls up to "Hero Boy's" house in chapter two, the soundstage practically becomes a makeshift train depot, the rumbling tight and concise yet loud and powerful, the moment startling in its clarity and precision. Ambient presence throughout the soundtrack is excellent. The first time "Hero Boy" speaks with the conductor, listeners hear various sound effects all over the stage that are deep, maybe even a bit foreboding, but are excellently placed all over. As the train begins to depart, the moving parts squeal and squeak and churn to life as the train gains steam and powers its way toward the North Pole in a sonically brilliant moment, subdued and underscored by Alan Silvestri's (Romancing the Stone) wonderful music. Dialogue reproduction also excels in this edition. The various high action sequences, particularly a scene featuring the train derailing atop a sheet of ice after a high speed roller-coaster like adventure, are particularly engaging, though not completely engrossing. It's a blast to listen to and a nice accompaniment to the visuals. The soundtrack generally remains focused up front with plenty of support from the rears, though there is never much in the way of loud, discrete rear channel effects. It is still a thorough, complete experience, and while the main attraction on this release of The Polar Express is the inclusion of 3-D visuals, the audio upgrade is just as good and important to the overall experience.
The Polar Express Presented in 3-D Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Warner Brothers has ported over every supplement from the previous release of The Polar Express, and no new supplements have been added. You Look Familiar (480p, 4:11) is first, this 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. 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 Presented in 3-D 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 all time, including A Christmas Story and It's A Wonderful Life. Not only a visual tour-de-force that employes 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 has upgraded this edition of The Polar Express with a fun but somewhat disappointing 3-D presentation (the film also retains the gorgeous 2-D presentation as well) and an engaging Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. All of the supplements found in the previous Blu-ray release are included for good measure. The Polar Express presented in 3-D comes highly recommended!
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