The Polar Express
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Journey Beyond Your Imagination
The Polar Express is an enchanting holiday tale of a young boy who doubts that Santa Claus truly exists. On one special Christmas Eve, as the boy skeptically waits for the sound of sleigh bells, a magical train appears outside his home and the conductor invites him aboard. What lies ahead is an extraordinary adventure of self-discovery through which the young boy learns that for those who believe, the wonders of life never fade. This beautifully made film, based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg, will become a holiday tradition your family will enjoy for generations.
This film was listed in the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records as the first all-digital capture film.
Tom Hanks does the voice work for six roles in the film: Hero Boy, Hero Boy’s father, the conductor, the hobo, Scrooge and Santa Claus.
Lonely Boy is the only child character in the movie with an actual name (Billy).
The address (11344 Edbrooke) mentioned by the conductor early in the film is the real address for director Robert Zemeckis’ childhood home.
The Polar Express was the first feature-length film to be released simultaneously in 35mm and IMAX 3D formats.
An Instant Christmas Movie Classic
- Co-written and directed by Robert Zemeckis
- Starring and co-produced by Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks
- A visually stunning achievement in motion-capture animation
- Bonus material includes deleted scenes, commentaries and more
- Available on DVD and Blu-ray
Meet the Characters
Hero Boy (voice by Tom Hanks)
Doubting that Santa really exists, Hero Boy hops on a magical train where he learns about friendship, bravery and the true meaning of Christmas.
Hero Girl (voice by Nona Gaye)
Sweet and gentle, Hero Girl is the first to befriend Lonely Boy. When she loses her ticket, the conductor threatens to put her off the train.
Lonely Boy, Billy (voice by Peter Scolari)
Billy is a sad child who keeps to himself during the trip. He thinks Christmas doesn’t work for him, because his parents are poor and can’t afford presents.
Train Conductor (voice by Tom Hanks)
As supervisor of the trip to the North Pole, the conductor invites the children aboard the train and directs their activities.
The Polar Express is the story of a young boy who on Christmas Eve boards a powerful magical train headed to the North Pole and Santa Claus's home. What unfolds is a journey of self-discovery, which shows the boy that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe. This beloved Christmas movie on DVD was directed by Robert Zemeckis and features the voice of Tom Hanks in many of the lead roles.
Destined to become a holiday perennial, The Polar Express also heralded a brave new world of all-digital filmmaking. Critics and audiences were divided between those who hailed it as an instant classic that captures the visual splendor and evocative innocence of Chris Van Allsburg's popular children's book, and those who felt that the innovative use of "performance capture"--to accurately translate live performances into all-digital characters--was an eerie and not-quite-lifelike distraction from the story's epic-scale North Pole adventure. In any case it's a benign, kind-hearted celebration of the yuletide spirit, especially for kids who have almost grown out of their need to believe in Santa Claus. Tom Hanks is the nominal "star" who performs five different computer-generated characters, but it's the visuals that steal this show, as director Robert Zemeckis indulges his tireless pursuit of technological innovation. No matter how you respond to the many wonders on display, it's clear that The Polar Express represents a significant milestone in the digital revolution of cinema. If it also fills you with the joy of Christmas (in spite of its Nuremberg-like rally of frantic elves), so much the better. --Jeff Shannon
The World of The Polar Express
The book by Chris Van Allsburg
The Magic Journey (Polar Express the Movie) (book)
Stills from Polar Express (click for larger image)
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Needless to say the very next day I went back to the store I purchased it from and changed it for the regular blu ray version (which was $5 cheaper than the 3-d version and totally worth the purchase, 5 stars for that version.) It was very sad that it did not work out because such an amazing holiday movie with such great animation would be a no brainer to have as 3-d but unfortunately it just is not worth the headache and strain.
Time and again, Michael (who is sensitive, compassionate and with a good sense of humor) turned to me in the darkness, smiling in appreciation at the exact same moments I turned to see his reactions. Each time this happened, it was at a moment in the film when some little detail, perfectly captured through superb 'cinematography,' brought moisture to my normally cynical eye, and a warm smile to Michael's innocent face.
Some examples: There is a lone, black child on this apparent 'dream train' to the North Pole - a girl of about ten or eleven years, and like a painting come to life, the miraculous technology at work in this film captures the particular sensibilities of this compassionate, black youngster --- We see small mannerisms of someone comfortable with herself in a way the other (ten or so) white kids on the train are not. And the effect is profound --- the movie audience, including some children of that same age group, went silent at such moments in the film.
My friend Michael - who has a 'savant' genius for perceiving my emotions, and expressing them for me out loud in public --- Michael turned to me with a delighted smile when the girl on the train reaches out to hold the hands of the poorest boy, sitting alone in the rear compartment; and later, she hugs two other boys, (one of them the central character) --- at their final parting. At that moment I held up a finger to my lips to try to hush Michael, but couldn't prevent him from saying aloud: "She's such a sweetheart." There were murmurs of appreciation in the darkness around us, responding to this innocent sentiment.
There is a sublime moment, on the back platform of the moving train -- the Northern Lights glimmering in the distance -- when the young girl joins in song with the poorest kid on the train (a younger boy from a dilapidated home on the "far side of the tracks"). I admit to being overcome with emotion during this duet (a lovely, strong melody with poignant lyrics) - and I blurted out loud to Michael, after the first chorus: "What a wonderful song!" The refrain includes the words "When Christmas comes to town." [It's a song so good that, with some future 'cover versions' by serious musicians who could do it justice --- this "Christmas Comes to Town" song could, I believe, deservedly join the small list of true, Christmas 'classics.']
I'd have to agree with anyone who thinks this movie is a little short on plot. And yet . . . once you've suspended disbelief -- beginning with an earth-shattering, Christmas-eve arrival of a steam-puffing, passenger train on a small-town Michigan street, directly outside the home of the movie's central character -- once we've swallowed that premise, the movie disarmingly embraces the child in us, (including our fears) and our reservations vanish without our noticing.
Just as great `realistic' painters, (think Rembrandt or Vermeer) worked wonders of light & shadow that no mere photograph could ever capture, so too this computer-animated marvel takes your breath away through an accumulation of tiny but acute observations that could never be captured by conventional cinematography. Prime examples from the opening scenes:
A shaft of light illuminates the boy's bedroom, and he is reflected in a chrome, automobile hubcap leaning against a wall; at once we share his view -- through the keyhole of his bedroom door - we can see only the backs and the dressing gowns of mother and father, as they say goodnight to the boy's young sister, after determining the state of her belief in Santa's existence - a belief no longer shared by the older brother, whose eye is at the keyhole.
Later, on the train, there's an exquisite close up of the boy's face, a slight blemish above the pores on his upper right cheek; the `camera' pans in rotation, capturing perfectly, the texture of the boy's hair, and that of the young black girl sitting beside him -- subtleties of such perfection one wonders if the unique, artistic accomplishment of "Polar Express" could ever be surpassed.
The film's last scene, consists entirely of a close-up view of a small, silver bell (of the type associated with sleigh rides) with its attached 'ribbon' of red leather. The little bell helps make the final point about `Belief' --- in things unseen, (or forgotten, and thus inaccessible to some adults). So simple, so powerful, so enlightening an image. My friend Michael turned to me at that moment, with a radiant smile. And we just shook our heads in awe.
Yes, this movie must have SOME shortcomings - one or two moments that don't quite work as intended by the creators. But right now, in the afterglow, I can't recall what they were. The film was just too satisfying an experience!
I'm a 57-year-old grandfather who happens to believe that "The Polar Express" is the first, true Christmas classic in almost 60 years. Not since the original Kris Kringle "Miracle" movie of 1947, has any film (to my jaded eye) so transcended our secular, commercial views of the Holiday Season, with such uplifting and fresh reminders of the timeless and true spirit of Christmas.
I would highly recommend this to anyone with a 3D television! The picture is stunning and the 3D effects are breathtaking! The world of Blu-Ray 3D is growing, and this one definitely stands as one of the top 3D releases so far!