|The following review was written in response to Camus's original review of The Polar Express (which you can read here), submitted by acclaimed feature director Richard Franklin, who is, I should note, good friends with our humble reviewer. Our view of the film in its regular cinema incarnation has not altered, but we feel it is only fair to present the opposing view, even if it does get a little personal in places.
|It is important to note that Richard's review is of the 3D Imax version of the film. For those with no experience of the process (probably the majority of readers in the UK), see my discussion on it and some of the films made for it here.
Slarek - Site Editor
Polar Express is an important
cinematic landmark; one of the biggest movies of all time,
if seen as its film makers intended in 3D IMAX. It should
not have been released in normal theatres and it was depressing
to be present on opening day at a mulitplex in Los Angeles
and see families lining up to see the ordinary version in
an ordinary cinema, when if they had climbed an extra flight
of stairs they could have experienced something as extraordinary
to this viewer as his first experience of Cinerama (the
first wide screen process of the nineteen fifties). Camus'
review of the ordinary version, also depresses me.
even RE-releasing This is Cinerama in a
scaled down version in ordinary theatres. Or even sillier,
allowing critics to review it this way on its first run.
No one would have been so stupid back in the days of Cinerama,
but nowadays Hollywood is in the hands of number crunchers
with law degrees. A seasonal movie which cost a lot needed
to make a quick killing and I suspect in their rampant greed,
they have killed the whole process, aided and abetted by
critics like Camus.
fact this is/was the first ever animated feature film in
this astonishing process was (deliberately I believe) not
publicised, rating little more than a footnote (like Camus')
in most reviews. Critics seem to be polarised between those
who took the trouble to experience the film on the BIG screen
and those (like Camus) who did not. The former group (like
myself) were overwhelmed. The others, not surprisingly were
not. But "bored"!?! Camus may be a dab hand at
puns and witty put downs, but the title of his review is
just plain irresponsible. No one with whom I've sat through
the experience in 3D IMAX was anything other than transported.
And as for something designed for our children at Christmas
time - spare us "murdering, robotic Santas" -
Camus is a father - shame on him!
many years, screen size was one of the ways cinema was differentiated
from the small screen. In the days of franchising dilettantes
and amateurs to become film makers via digital cameras and
home computer technology, The Polar Express may be the last gasp of the big screen. It is still argued
by cinema purists (of which I thought Camus was one) that
inspite of advances in home theatre, a film should be seen
in a cinema. Logically therefore a BIG film should be seen
in a BIG cinema, a 3D film in a 3D cinema etc.
important though than the size of the IMAX screen (and it
is letterboxed here to a sensible 2:1) is its use of 3D.
It is quite simply the best use of the process I have ever
seen (and I've seen Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder in 3D). As a fellow director, I was so astonished by the
use of deep focus and foreground framing, I wrote to Robert
Zemeckis and complimented him on coming up with the most
revolutionary framings since Citizen Kane.
To my amazement however, when I watched a portion of the
film in its ordinary/ flat version, none of these framings
was apparent - they require 3D!
was a time when ordinary cinemas contained two projectors
and could run 3D, but now with automated projection, most
cinemas, especially in multiplexes, have only one projector
(number crunchers again). No-one has yet come up with a
way to successfully transfer 3D to DVD, so the only way
to see The Polar Express in 3D, is in an
a feature film from a 29 page book (mostly pictures) was
a tough brief. The film makers chose to turn the journey
to the North Pole into a roller coaster ride. In 3D IMAX
one experiences the ride, but in the version Camus chose
to see, one does NOT experience, but sees only a movie facsimile
of that ride.
spite of his comments, please take the time to take the
trip to your closest IMAX venue to experience an important
conclude, let me have a go at answering a couple of Camus'
rhetorical questions, which he fires off as if his adult
wit and wordplay overcome his mean spritedness when it comes
to this ground breaking piece of family entertainment -
is part of the fascination of this new form of cinema -
gravity does not enter the film maker's world and however
fond Camus may be of John Lassiter/ Brad Bird's hyper energetic The Incredibles it contains no camera-less
shot as clever as the track through a keyhole, no single
shot as sustained and visually exciting as the floating
ticket sequence, no idea as audacious as the runaway train
on the frozen lake and nothing as cinematically ground breaking
as the floating writing when the child looks up the North
Pole in his encylopaedia (which in 3D is like a curtain
in the middle of the theatre).
CG the principals?
guess it related to the visual style of the book on which
it is based (and animation after all is based on the illustration
in children's books). I also felt there were a few Tom Hanks
too many, but can assure Camus that viewing the first feature
film in a new medium, the larger than life, BIG screen experience
makes up for the defiance of physics (since you can walk
through a moving train, I assume you can also walk along
its roof). And for what he calls "creepiness"
- due almost entirely to the artificiality of the eyes (the
only part of the anatomy which cannot be "motion captured").
If critics had been as uncharitable about the artificiality
of the humans in the original Toy Story (the first computer animated feature), Lassiter et al would
never have got to make The Incredibles.
Indeed if they'd been as savage about Disney's early attempts
at humans (eg the Silly Symphony Goddess of Spring)
we would never have had Snow White.