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The Polar Express [DVD] [2004]

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Selected items are only available for delivery via the Royal Mail 48® service and other items are available for delivery using this service for a charge. Extras: DVD 9, Language(s): English, Icelandic, Hard of Hearing Subtitles: English, Subtitles: English, Icelandic, Arabic, Interactive Menu, Screen ratio 1:2.40, Dolby Digital 5.1

The transfer of The Polar Express looks extremely good. It's presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and is anamorphically enhanced.This is the story of a young hero boy who boards on a powerful magical train that's headed to the North Pole and Santa Claus' home on Christmas Eve night. During this ride, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery which shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe. — Anthony Pereyra {[email protected]}

The story seems to be a fairly linear one, but only in retrospect. As the film develops, there are constantly hints that the story could go in this, that, or another direction, so we never really know what to expect next... and as a result, we're in exactly the right mindset to be open to whatever wonderful or delightful surprise is around the next corner. In terms of the story arc, the journey is the destination: except for the scene at the heart of the film, the child characters are always moving forward literally as well as figuratively. That's no coincidence; the film takes on the metaphor of life as a journey so completely that it ceases to be a metaphor and becomes a magical reality. There's a sense that the train ride for the characters is exactly as long as it needs to be, and that the figures of the conductor and the hobo are much more powerful than they seem to be at first glance. One of the hardest things for a fantasy-flavored film or story to do is to retain its atmosphere of awe and magic even after the characters have interacted with the magical world and plumbed its secrets, so the fact that The Polar Express never sheds that atmosphere is very impressive indeed. For one thing, The Polar Express leaves some aspects of the story mysterious, never explaining who or what the hobo is; the result is that the train (and the experience as a whole) retains its magical aura even at the very end of the film. There's also the brilliant choice of never telling us the names of the characters. I've always held that one mark of a good film is that you don't need to remember names to fully engage with the story, and The Polar Express meets that standard completely, as all of the characters (except for Santa) are kept nameless in a totally natural manner: there's never any moment during the film in which we would need to know their names. It's an indication of polished storytelling, but it's also something more. By keeping the child characters without names, especially the protagonist, The Polar Express underlines the idea that this is a magical experience that could happen to any child, anywhere, at any time. The boy protagonist has his own personality, to be sure, but it's kept low-key enough that he can be an Everyboy, for any viewer (adult or child) to imagine as himself or herself. I am compelled to note that the menus for The Polar Express are highly annoying, as they are extremely lengthy and unskippable. I did discover later that when the anti-piracy screen is playing, if you press "menu" repeatedly you'll finally jump to the static menu screen.When the closing credits roll and you think "I want to watch that movie again!" you know you've just seen something special. That's the case with The Polar Express: it's a polished little gem of a film that tells its story exactly right and leaves you feeling charmed and delighted... just like the protagonist, the little boy who falls asleep on Christmas Eve wondering if Santa Claus really exists, only to be woken up by the thunderous arrival of the Polar Express to take him on a trip to the North Pole to meet the great man himself.

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