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The Polar Express 4K UHD Review

“The Polar Express” is affecting but contains too much filler. 

2004’s “The Polar Express” is an adaptation of the children’s book of the same name by Chris Van Allsburg. The story begins on Christmas Eve and revolves around an unnamed boy who is questioning his belief in Santa Claus and the magic of Christmas. That night the titular train pulls up in front of his house and he hops on board and meets other children including an unnamed young girl and the shy Billy. The train is bound for the North Pole, but the journey to get there is fraught with peril. Will they arrive safely? Will they explore the North Pole? More importantly, will they see Santa?

“The Polar Express” started director Robert Zemeckis down the path of CGI animated films using performance capture technology (for better or for worse depending on who you ask). From a cinematic standpoint, the film was an important milestone in performance capture cinema. Yes, the animation doesn’t quite hold up and the characters’ mouths, eyes, and expressions look a bit off, but there’s no denying that the technology was influential.

From a story standpoint, the script by Robert Zemeckis and William Broyles Jr. suffers from a whole lot of filler (it takes 48 minutes to get to the North Pole) and spectacle (including musical numbers). Sometimes it feels like Zemeckis is trying to make the movie like a theme park ride with the train and other transportation scenes. On top of that, he takes a short book and makes it a needlessly long 100 minute movie. There’s not that much going on here that warrants the runtime. If anything, all the added elements hamper the heart of the movie and the emotional ending involving Christmas spirit and learned lessons (not to mention the notion of whether it was all a dream). 

The two stand-outs here are Tom Hanks (who expertly plays a whopping 6 roles) and the beautiful score by Alan Silvestri which hits you right in the feels (and feels very Christmasy). Hanks is clearly having a blast flexing his acting muscles by playing everything from a mysterious Hobo to Saint Nick himself.

Video/Audio:

Presentation: 2.40:1 2160p. How does it look? Happy to report the animation really shines in 4K. 

Audio Track: 5.1 DTS-HD MA. How does it sound? An Atmos track would have been nice here but this is still a satisfactory 5.1 track.

Extras (on the Blu-ray):
* Digital copy
* Blu-ray copy
* A deleted song titled “Smokey And Steamer.”
* “The Polar Express” theatrical trailer.
* “Josh Groban At the Greek”- A performance of his song from “The Polar Express.”
* “Meet The Snow Angels”- The cast and crew talk about Christmas memories.
* “You Look Familiar”- A look at all the Tom Hanks characters in the film and his performance capture work.
* “A Genuine Ticket To Ride”- A 5 part extra (with an intro) that covers performance capture, virtual camera, hair and wardrobe, creating the North Pole and the music.
* “True Inspirations: An Author’s Adventure”- An interview with author/illustrator Chris Van Allsburg.
* “Believe: Behind The Scenes”- A behind-the-scenes featurette on the music.
* “Flurry Of Effects”- A side-by-side look at the set footage and the final frames.

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December 1, 2022 - Posted by | 4K UHD Review | , , , , ,

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