The Polar Express 4K Ultra HD

Featured In Issue 264, November/December 2022

WSR Score5
Basic Information on new release titles is posted as soon as titles are announced. Once reviewed, additional data is added to the database.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment
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Robert Zemeckis
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Dreams become reality when a young boy—who no longer believes in the magic of Christmas—takes a golden ticket ride on "The Polar Express." Based on the book and paintings by Chris Van Allsburg. (Suzanne Hodges)

Special features include "You Look Familiar: The Many Faces Of Tom Hanks", which is a fascinating featurette that explains how Tom Hanks stars as the boy, the father, the conductor, the hobo, and Santa Claus (SD 4:09); "A Genuine Ticket To Ride" (SD 11:12); "True Inspirations: An Author's Adventure", which is a featurette that profiles author Chris Van Allsburg (SD 5:29); "Behind The Scenes Of 'Believe'"—a behind-the-scenes peek at creating "Believe" with Glen Ballard, the writer of the song, and singer Josh Groban (SD 4:24); "Flurry Of Effects": five motion-capture sessions—"All Aboard," "Hot Chocolate," "Hobo On Top Of Train," "I Believe," and "Goodbye" (SD 8:48); additional footage, including listening to Josh Groban sing a live performance of "Believe" at The Greek Theatre (SD 4:33); "Meet The Snow Angels"—the moviemakers' Christmas memories featurette (SD 2:44); an additional song; the characters Smokey and Steamer—played by the late Michael Jeter performing "It Takes Two" (SD 7:04); the theatrical trailer (SD 1:02) and a digital copy.

The 1.85:1 2160p HEVC/H.265 Ultra HD picture, reviewed on a Sony Bravia Z9D 4K Ultra HD HDR display, was digitally animated and sourced from a 4K master Digital Intermediate format. Film grain is smooth and very light. Faithful to the look of Chris Van Allsburg's original picture book animation, The 2D 1080p VC-1 2.41:1 picture reviewed as a Webzine Exclusive was superior to the anamorphically enhanced 2.38:1 DVD picture reviewed in Issue 115. The 2.40:1 1080p MVC 3-D Blu-ray release was far superior. But this new 4K master delivers far superb color saturation. The picture exhibits pleasing, beautiful stylized imagery with glowing lights and foggy grays that provide mood and intrigue to the storytelling. Viewers will be fascinated with the motion capture-animated imagery. Textures and attention to detail are astounding. The picture is clean and solid. The 3D version provided a greatly enhanced and exciting experience, which remains an exceptional viewing experience. As with the previous 3D version viewing in a darkened, preferably black room, is recommend for optimal picture quality. HDR contrast is excellent with deep black levels, revealing shadows and bright whites. Nights scenes exhibit excellent depth. Resolution is nicely refined, with a soft, stylistic look that reveals finer details upon close examination. This is a incredible picture with engaging atmospheric qualities for a an even more surreal appearance. (Gary Reber)

While generally quiescent in nature, the previous Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack was a noticeable improvement over the DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1-channel soundtrack. As with the previous 3D Blu-ray's soundtrack, this soundtrack is encoded in the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless codec. The 5.1-channel surround sound is recorded and mixed very well, with good imaging around the room and pristine detail. Dialogue sounds so natural, and effects are so believable, closing your eyes it is easy to assume this is a live-action recording. The waiter dance scene in the hot chocolate scene is absolutely wonderful and a thrill to experience. The deep bass of the Polar Express train permeates the room, using each of the front three full-range channels and the LFE, to create a wall of force that you will hear and feel. The surround channels, unfortunately, are not used as effectively as they could for off-screen and atmospheric effects and are pretty much limited to the music. Reviewed this time in AuroMatic up-mixed Immersive Sound enhances the holosonic® soundfield to a wonderful spherical surround experience. (Gary Reber)