The Polar Express appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Despite my disdain for the movie itself, I canít complain about this excellent transfer.
Sharpness always seemed immaculate. At no point did I discern any softness in this tight, well-defined image. It consistently appeared very crisp and detailed. No problems with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws were a non-factor, as I never detected spots, specks, or other concerns.
Christmas movies usually come with suitably warm, glowing colors, and that was certainly the case with Express. Actually, they seemed somewhat restrained during the train sequences, but once it reached the North Pole, the hues jumped to life a little more actively. They consistently appeared rich and full. Blacks were deep and firm, while shadows came across as clear and appropriately opaque. No problems ever emerged in this gorgeous transfer.
While not quite so stunning, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Polar Express was quite satisfying. The soundfield got most of its zing from scenes onboard the train or at the North Pole. As I mentioned in the body of this review, the film resembled a theme park attraction. That was bad for the story but good for the soundscape, as it meant the more action-oriented scenes opened up the surrounds well. Those scenes allowed the material to zip and soar around us in a convincing manner.
Quieter sequences were fine. They exhibited a nice, natural sense of atmosphere and conveyed place in a workable way. Music also offered strong stereo delineation.
For the most part, audio quality succeeded. The only mild negative came from the sound of the movieís occasional songs. Those tended to be a little thin and they lacked the range they needed.
Otherwise, the track was good. The score sounded bright and dynamic, while effects were distinctive and accurate. Both of those elements featured rich, deep bass. Speech was consistently natural and crisp, with no issues connected to intelligibility or distortion. I thought the mix wasnít quite involving enough to reach ďAĒ territory, but it was more than satisfactory.
The comments above apply to the standard 2D version of Express, a transfer that literally duplicated the one from the original 2005 DVD; this package simply reissues the same disc from the earlier release. In addition, it gives us a 3D version of the flick. Audio quality remained the same for it as for the 2D rendition, but obviously the visuals became very different - and very hard to objectively assess. The red/blue glasses tend to make things blurry Ė and they give me a bit of a headache, to be honest.
If you can withstand the ugliness of the visuals and the nuisance of the glasses, the 3D did add a bit to the movie. Since they didnít shoot Express for 3D, you wonít find the kinds of ďwowĒ moments from something like Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Instead, Express usually stayed with a general sense of depth, and it did so pretty well. A few scenes provided moderately showier effects, but the movie didnít dazzle us. Nonetheless, I liked the feeling of perspective that came here. The 3D presentation didnít turn this into a good film, but I thought it made things a little livelier.
Because the 3D version replaces the second platter in the original two-disc release, very few supplements appear here. The trailers area presents ads for Fred Claus and A Christmas Story along with the theatrical promo for Polar Express. I didnít think of the 2D version as a supplement, though, so the package gets only a ďD-ď for extras. If you want to consider either the 2D or 3D presentations as extras, though, you can bump that grade to a ďC+Ē.
While itís too bad this package doesnít include the supplements from the earlier release, I canít say I miss them. For the most part, they were pretty lame, so I shanít mourn them. Still, it wouldíve been nice to find them here just to render the prior release superfluous.
On many levels, I must regard The Polar Express as a disappointment. The movie uses high-tech elements in the worst way and ends up as creepy and soulless. The DVD presents excellent visuals and audio but unless you count the original 2D version of the film, it comes with virtually no supplements.
That makes the 3D edition of Polar Express the releaseís sole selling point, as no one will invest in this disc for behind the scenes extras. Fans will likely enjoy the 3D presentation. Those effects didnít dazzle, but they made the movie a bit livelier and more involving, so I thought they worked well. Big fans will want to give the 3D version a look, though they might want to rent the disc first to determine if itís worth a purchase.
To rate this film, visit the Widescreen Edition review of THE POLAR EXPRESS