THE POLAR EXPRESS
Review by Michael Jacobson
Director: Robert Zemeckis
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Warner Bros.
Features: See Review
Length: 100 Minutes
Release Date: November 22, 2005
want to believe."
haven't seen many movies as magical as The Polar Express.
an age where computer animation has become common, director Robert Zemeckis has
delivered a film that's anything BUT common.
It's visually breathtaking from start to finish, creating a wondrous
world out of nothing but sheer imagination.
But even more so, it's a lovely, moving story filled with characters you
won't forget...even if you don't know their names.
about a young boy, known only in the credits as Hero Boy.
It's Christmas Eve, and he lies awake listening for sleigh bells.
He doesn't really expect to hear them; he's reached the age where the
idea of Santa Claus doesn't seem very real to him anymore.
wavering faith brings an unexpected visit from The Polar Express, a magnificent
old-fashioned train that rolls right up outside his house on tracks that were
never there before. The kind but
mysterious conductor invites him on a journey to the North Pole, something only
a few select kids get to do every year.
meets up with those other kids, including Hero Girl, a kindhearted African
American girl, a nerdy know-it-all, and Lonely Boy, who almost doesn't get on,
and when he does, keeps himself separate from the other children.
trip to the North Pole is fraught with excitement and wonders.
Ice covered tracks lead to a spectacular and desperate maneuver to keep
the train upright. There's an
adventure on top of the train that leads to a grip-tightening race on skis.
The train rolls up and around a great mountain, and races on tracks that
sometimes look as though they belong in Busch Gardens.
once they reach their destination, there is even more in store, as Hero Boy,
Hero Girl and Lonely Boy get separated from the others, and end up on a
whimsical tour of Santa's operation, where the elves are finishing their work
and still monitoring the nice and naughty children. "Put him on the 'check-twice' list for next year!"
of course, at long last, is the appearance of the big man himself.
He has his sleigh and reindeers, and Hero Boy at long last learns why he
could never hear the bells. Santa
has a long night's work ahead of him, but he takes time to deliver an important
message on the power of believing.
so much in this film that a simple review or plot outline can't even begin to do
it justice. This is a movie where
anything is possible. It's filled
with laughter, suspense, sweet moments of drama and ones of limitless joy.
Zemeckis' vision included a new technology in which computers actually
map the actors' actions, thereby creating some of the most realistic movements
ever seen in animation. In other words, Tom Hanks does more than supply the majority
of the voices in the picture. He
acted the parts for the computer to replicate, so a lot of the humanity of the
film is owing directly to him.
could spend pages analyzing the sheer technical brilliance of the film, but to
do so would be to overlook that the science exists for a simple reason:
to tell a magnificent story. I
can't remember the last movie that really made me feel like a little kid again.
Willy Wonka may have his Chocolate Factory, but his operation has nothing
on Santa's glorious workshop.
and adults alike will fall under the spell of The Polar Express, and if
there's any justice, this movie will become an all new and important holiday
tradition for families around the world. It's
message of hope, understanding and faith inspired and moved me.
That's a rare commodity for any film, animated or otherwise.
animation and DVD were meant for each other.
This movie is filled with detail, and the anamorphic widescreen transfer
doesn't hedge on any of them. Each
frame is a colorful, busy delight, and images are rendered with startling
clarity and crispness from start to finish.
It doesn't get much better than this.
5.1 audio offering is a knockout. From
the moment the train rolls into the story, you're in for a thrill ride.
There is plenty of signal for all corners of your home theatre to keep
you ensconced in the center of the action, with tremendous dynamic range,
powerful bass output, and Hans Zimmer's soaring musical score.
Everything is strong and well-balanced.
two disc set is loaded. On Disc
One, you get the movie and the trailer...a wise decision, as it leaves plenty of
space for the video and soundtrack so that compression isn't overly required.
Two has everything else. There is a
deleted song, featurettes on Tom Hanks as the many faces of the movie, the
making of the film, and a look at the author Chris Van Allsburg, plus a live
performance of the Oscar nominated song "Believe" (it should have won,
in my opinion) by Josh Groban, the recording of the song, a Polar Express
Challenge, and the reliving of some Christmas memories by the filmmakers.
Rounding out is some content for your DVD ROM, not to mention some well
done animated menu screens.