The Polar Express: in 3D Imax
Review by Ross Anthony

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 apart 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.

  • The Polar Express: in 3D Imax. Copyright © 2004.
  • 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.

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

Copyright © 1998-2022 Ross Anthony, Author - Speaker - Solo World Circumnavigator In addition to reviewing films and interviewing celebs at HollywoodReportCard.com, traveling the world, composing great music, motivational speaking, Mr. Anthony also runs his own publishing company in the Los Angeles area. While traversing the circumference of the planet writing books and shooting documentaries, Mr. Anthony has taught, presented for, worked &/or played with locals in over 30 countries & 100 cities (Nairobi to Nagasaki). He's bungee-jumped from a bridge near Victoria Falls, wrestled with lions in Zimbabwe, crashed a Vespa off a high mountain road in Taiwan, and ridden a dirt bike across the States (Washington State to Washington DC). To get signed books ("Rodney Appleseed" to "Jinshirou") or schedule Ross to speak check out: www.RossAnthony.com or call 1-800-767-7186. Go into the world and inspire the people you meet with your love, kindness, and whatever it is you're really good at. Check out books by Ross Anthony. Rand() functions, Pho chicken soup, rollerblading, and frozen yogurt (w/ blueberries) also rock! (Btw, rand is short for random. It can also stand for "Really Awkward Nutty Dinosaurs" -- which is quite rand, isn't it?) Being alive is the miracle. Special thanks to Ken Kocanda, HAL, Jodie Keszek, Don Haderlein, Mom and Pops, my family, R. Foss, and many others by Ross Anthony. Galati-FE also deserves a shout out. And thanks to all of you for your interest and optimism. Enjoy great films, read stirring novels, grow.

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:00:40 PDT