We’ve all been at that age where we begin to challenge the thought of how just one man could travel around the world in one night. This inevitable dilemma has been showcased nearly every year in a motion picture, so how does The Polar Express stack up against them?
Based on the 1985 short story written by Chris Van Allsburg, Robert Zemekis and Tom Hanks set out to make a memorable Christmas classic. Besides producing, Hanks voiced a numerous amount of the characters encountered throughout the film. Th… movie begins on Christmas Eve as the main character, referred to as “Hero Boy” is lying in his bed hoping to hear the sounds of Santa’s sleigh. Like every child at that age, doubt about the reality of Santa begins to set in. Soon falling asleep appearing to have lost hope, our hero boy is awoken to the sounds of and old time steam train. Upon investigation The Conductor (Hanks) reveals that the train is bound for the North Pole. Hesitant at first “Hero Boy” hops aboard and soon meets several other children, all hopeful of meeting Santa Clause himself. We find out that each of the children has been given a golden ticket by the Conductor with two letters punched into them. At this point we do not know the importance of these tickets, only that they are important.
Throughout the course of the film we are taken on several visually spectacular scenes. One of my favorites is the journey of a lost golden ticket, which is swept from the train and out into a snow filled forest. From here we encounter a pack of wolves that kick up the ticket only to have it swooped up by an eagle, which attempts to feed it to its offspring. Regurgitated from the side of the nest it snowballs and once again floats through the air only to meet up again with the engine of the train.
Whether it’s watching an out of control train cascade through mountains in a roller coaster perspective, or viewing an interaction between a twelve year old and a hobo The Polar Express manages to stay entertaining throughout its 100 minute duration. It’s been many years since a family could watch a Christmas movie that both the children and parents enjoyed equally.
This movie contains some spectacular life like animations, colorful environments, vibrant characters, and an entertaining story line. There are moments of suspense, laughter, joy, and compassion. All of which are ingredients for a true Christmas classic. When the holiday season comes around and you find yourself wanting to watch a quality Christmas movie, I suggest you pick yourself up a copy of The Polar Express a must have for your holiday collection.
Presented in 1080p, 2.40:1 aspect ratio, The Polar Express truly comes alive in HD. Ever since the HD format was released I have been looking forward to viewing an animated movie, this presentation didn’t disappoint.
Like most animated pictures filmed digitally, The Polar Express shows no signs of blemishing or dirt in the transfer. The vibrant colors really jump out, first seen in the interior of the train. A whole pallet of colors is displayed; the floor, the walls, the seats, outside the windows, and the children’s pajamas. All of which look stunning.
The amount of detail put into this film is astonishing, from every ripple in Santa’s suit to every last hair on The Conductor’s mustache. If you want a film to showcase the video quality of HD-DVD, then this is a great reference disc.
Unfortunately this disc lacks Dolby TrueHD, which is a disappointment for those of you who are looking for true HD sound. However Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 is available and still sounds great. Whether it’s the roaring sound of the coal fired engine or the cool crisp wind, the soundstage is full of lively action. The ambient sounds from the surround channels are impressive, as is the deep bass from the LFE channel. Dialog is consistently clear and the score comes across wonderfully. The only thing holding this disc back is the lack of the TrueHD track, which is a shame.
Overall the features are definitely worth checking out. To my dismay the HD DVD lacks an In Movie Experience (IME) and audio commentary, which have been included in other recent Warner Brothers released (Batman Begins, Charlie and The Chocolate Factory).
- Smokey and the Steamer Song is a song by the late Michael Jeter along with a montage of storyboards and animated footage.
- You Look Familiar the many polar faces of Tom Hanks showcases Tom Hanks’ talent as he acts with himself in a motion capture suit.
- A Genuine Ticket to Ride documentary gallery: five featurettes: Eddie Deezen hosts this breakdown of the films visual effects; at points it drags, but it is very interesting overall.
- True Inspirations: an authors adventure: profiling Chris Van Allsburg: This is a profile on the author of the original short story. You learn about him as a person and some of his past work.
- Believe: Josh Groban performs at the Greek theatre: a performance of the film’s theme song.
- Behind the scenes of believe: bringing a hit song to magical life in a recording studio (self explanatory)
- Flurry of effects gallery: five motion capture sessions (self explanatory)
- Meet the Snow Angels: the moviemakers Christmas memories: It is just what it says, various members of the cast reflect on some of their favorite holiday memories. I found this very interesting, as it sparks memories of my own.
- THQ PC game demo with two playable demos
- Theatrical Trailer
Overall quite a few features to view, most of which are worth checking out.
If you enjoy animated and/or Christmas movies, then this is definitely worth checking out. I strongly recommend it based not only on these reasons but as well because it flawlessly showcases the HD DVDs capabilities. On top of the great picture quality and sound, this disc offers a handful of entertaining features. Overall a must have for any HD DVD owner.
Special Features List
- Smokey and the Steamer Song
- You Look Familiar the many polar faces of Tom Hanks
- A Genuine Ticket to Ride documentary gallery: five featurettes
- True Inspirations: an authors adventure: profiling Chris Van Allsburg
- Believe: Josh Groban performs at the Greek theatre
- Behind the scenes of believe: bringing a hit song to magical life in a recording studio
- Flurry of effects gallery: five motion capture sessions
- Meet the Snow Angels: the moviemakers Christmas memories
- THQ PC game demo with two playable demos
- Theatrical Trailer