The Polar Express: IMAX Style!

Polar Express poster

Make no mistake. The Polar Express is a children’s movie. A very simple storyline, with very simple dialogue. Your kids might love it – but it could be a little uncomfortable for an adult to sit through it all.

Which is why I’m grateful for the IMAX theatre in Berjaya Times Square.

By experiencing this film in 3D IMAX format, grown-ups are able to immerse themselves in the technological wonder and brilliance that has gone into the making of this film, and hence avoid being distracted by the paper-thin simplicity of the plot.

In fact, if I may make a recommendation, I strongly suggest that you DO watch this movie at the IMAX theatre. Watching it in 2D format at the cineplexes or in the comfort of your home just doesn’t cut it.

IMAX logo at BTS

So anyway, here’s the lowdown on what happened yesterday (Sunday) on my trip to Berjaya Times Square and the IMAX cinema.

Originally, the plan called for my colleagues (from work) and I to meet up in Brickfields and then take the KL Monorail to Imbi station just across Berjaya (I don’t like to call it Times Square. Sounds like we’re trying to rip-off New York) and catch the 2.15 pm screening.

But due to logistical miscalculations (i.e. someone screwed up), we ended up arriving late and could only get tickets for the 5.30 pm screening (yes, the place was packed).

The IMAX theatre, by the way, is located on the 10th floor (i.e. the very top floor, I believe) of the Berjaya shopping mall. Ticket price is RM 20. Seating capacity is 555. On weekends, expect a crowd of harried parents and enthusiastic children, so it’d be prudent to book early. (The booking hotline number can be found in the local papers.)

Unfortunately, since we didn’t have the foresight to reserve our tickets in advance, we ended up with the seats – AT THE VERY FRONT. (Those of you who’ve been following this blog for some time would know that I hate sitting AT THE VERY FRONT.) However, I was assured by the pretty girl at the ticket counter that it wouldn’t matter where I sat – apparently the concept of the IMAX experience meant that the show can be enjoyed in equal measures regardless where you sit. I had also read of this in The Star recently. So, of course, I believed it hook, line and sinker.

People – next time I quote something from The Star as the gospel, please shoot me.

It DOES matter where you sit. Sitting AT THE VERY FRONT means you have to do the old ‘watching-a-tennis-match’ sequence of moving your head from left to right in order to catch everything on-screen. And when you’re watching a movie where many things are happening in the blink of an eye, you will undoubtedly miss a lot.

Xmas at BTS

Anyways, after spending about 3 hours or so walking around the ghostly corridors and floors of this ridiculously under-utilised shopping mall (what were these people thinking off when they built this place? Did they just go, “Let’s build a huge mall, name it after that place in NY, and rake in the dough!!” but then forget to actually plan to bring in retailers?), we finally joined the queue to enter the theatre (“Follow the rainbow”, said the person at the counter, directing us to a multi-coloured wall.)

The organising of the queue was a bit haphazard here; there didn’t seem to be a proper queue, just a whole lot of people milling around wanting to get in. Fortunately, the crowd was well-behaved so no reports of violent incidents. Although I was tempted to start a riot, you know, just to get the juices flowing…

Anyway, at the entrance, we were handed 3D glasses (modelled by my colleague below) and we walked into this small screening hall with this very large screen in front. They say it’s 5-stories high – hmmm, I don’t know, maybe they’re referring to small buildings, cos it sure didn’t look that high to me.

The 3D glasses - and that's not me

So there we were, sitting AT THE VERY FRONT, with me trying to adjust the 3D glasses to fit over my specs, when a booming voice is heard over the speakers, telling us how wonderful this IMAX thing is, how it’s going to revolutionize the way we watch movies, how the whole of civilization as we know it will one day evolve into a mass-consumerist-based-utopia of sorts… (OK. I’m exaggerating. But it did sound all self-important and all.)

Then they showed us some previews (in 2D format, although some clueless idiots in the cinema were putting on their 3D glasses and complaining that it wasn’t working), before finally getting down to the real deal.

The Polar Express – 3D style.

I’m not gonna post a review of the story, or the acting, or other such stuff. I will only say this – technologically speaking, it’s incredible! Actually, the word I feel more appropriate is ‘beautiful’. By applying motion-capture technology (Tom Hanks and other actors actually acted out their scenes, and whose movements was captured and later translated to film), the movements, gestures and actions of the characters were so lifelike, it was amazing!

But the real thrill was the 3D experience. There are numerous scenes in the movie that use full advantage of the 3D effects like getting you to experience white-knuckle rides down mountains, as well as finding yourself in the middle of a giant square in the North Pole with elves. The preception of depth is so amazing, so, well, beautiful, that it really does feel like you’re RIGHT THERE IN THE MOVIE.

You know, I’d like to think I’m too jaded for this kind of stuff, too sophisticated… too grown-up. But I have to say this: for a couple of hours yesterday evening, sitting AT THE VERY FRONT in a small screening hall in front of a large screen, wearing comically-large 3D glasses and watching a children’s movie, I found myself feeling like a little boy again – and loving it.

Anyway, as another blogger told me this morning, great technology does not make a great movie, but fortunately, The Polar Express is a simple enough flick – with decent heartwarming messages of honesty, loyalty, friendship, and believing in magic while you’re still young enough to do so – that I guarantee most of us (except those with hearts of stone) will get some level of satisfaction from the movie.

PE train

That is, if you watch it IMAX style!

My verdict: My verdict: StarStarHalf a Star for the movie and StarStarStarStar for the 3D effects!


8 thoughts on “The Polar Express: IMAX Style!”

  1. I’m gonna catch the same movie in the same theatre tomorrow – and like you, we haven’t booked! *fingers crossed*

    It’ll be our first time, looking forward to it. Your blog described everything well – the price, location and all. And yes, we shall avoid the front seats…

  2. Hi…. it’s my first time posting a comment in ur blog. I find your blogs interesting…. very much as thought you r saying as i read – nice!

    Just a post to say HI! Do take care!


  3. Ahh..sounds very cool..a coincidence really that I read today IMAX is building 8 new theaters in India. Bollywood movies in 3D? Those Hindi chase-around-trees scenes will never be the same again!

  4. I agree, the screen definitely didn’t look 5 stories high to me. The 3D was interesting although didn’t bowl me over, except that part where I felt the train was gonna hit me! The movie itself I didn’t like. I must be old and jaded, coz my young cousins (who saw the non-3D version) liked it. *sigh*

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