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BMZ Review: The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience
By Ross Anthony


© 2004 Warner Brothers. All Rights Reserved.

Written by: Ross Anthony
Source: Ross Anthony's Hollywood Report Card
Date: November 10, 2004


Category: Reviews

Have you ever wanted to step inside one of those snowy glass balls? This is a charming Christmas film that takes advantage of 3-D and the large IMAX screen to bring you into its magical world.

Opening gently, a boy lies awake in his bed on Christmas Eve. He's old enough to suspect that Santa may not be real, but young enough to still want to believe. This subtlety is conveyed in his eyes and facial expressions -- no small task for the animators. In fact, unlike other animated films, the characters of "Polar Express" approach naturally looking humans. They're "realness" helps make the surreal world become all the more enchanting.

The film artfully takes its time endearing us to the boy, his plight, and the cultural commonness of this Christmas Eve ritual. Despite the cool blue skies, and a boy in his pajamas stepping into the flurrying snow outside, the feeling is warm. Further, the weight power and sound of the locomotive that pulls up beside him, powerful.

While, there's room for improvement in the story, specifically action to character study ratio, this film succeeds on so many levels. First, as an adult, I appreciate getting inside these characters, so when the film dives headlong into extended action/adventure sequences (sometimes one right after the other), I'm happy, but missing the depth of character connections so aptly put forth in other scenes. That said, I think kids will just eat up all that amusement park stuff. This small concession is all there is to say negative about the film. The emotive arc still holds, you'll be charmed, you'll be choked up, you'll believe!

Technically, what a success! I'm highly interested in 3-D (I shoot stills on a 3-D camera), and I love the Large Screen format. But I've been quite skeptical of a modern full feature 3-D film. Why? Serious concerns regarding fatigue. 3-D IMAX films can be taxing, draining physically. Certainly those big heavy 3-D goggles put pressure on the head/nose. I'd hypothesized that 45 minutes might just be optimal time duration for this kind of A/V input into a human. But, "Polar Express" thankfully proves that theory wrong. Using the lightweight polarized (no pun intended) 3-D glasses (the one's that look like big sunglasses), I had no problem taking in the one and three-quarter hour duration. Admittedly I've seen 3-D films that have more magnificent images, more "wowing" effects, more screen-breaking objects that float out into the audience. Still, all of this was not missed, because Director Zemeckis composed each shot so carefully as to give the image on screen such a welcoming depth that you will feel like you're invited into the story.

Further, the objects on screen feel their mass, their weight, their sound, and move in ways that feel real. All of this takes a great amount of attention and deserves great kudos. It's a fantasy that you will feel a part of. The filmmakers shake up this Christmas scene snowy glass ball and, through the magic of 3-D, allow you to step inside as the snow silently falls.

Voices of Tom Hanks, Eddie Deezen, Nona Gaye.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Screenplay by Robert Zemeckis, William Broyles Jr. Based on the book by Chris Van Allsburg.
Produced by Steve Starkey, Robert Zemeckis, Gary Goetzman, William Teitler at Warner Bros. Pictures/Castle Rock presents in association with Shangri-La Entertainment
A Playtone/ImageMovers/Golden Mean (c) 2004.

Grade..............................................A (3.5/4)

(C) 2004 Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has written and directed documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe Africa, and Asia.  For more reviews visit:  For Adult & Young Adult Novels written by Ross Anthony visit:

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The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience by Paula Tagle

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