The Polar Express Movie Review


A young boy’s doubt about Santa Claus is shattered when a train pulls up in front of his house on Christmas Eve. The train conductor invites the Hero Boy aboard and they travel to the North Pole together. Though using motion capture for the characters, The Polar Express often looks lifeless. It tries too hard to be realistic.

The Story

Bringing a children’s book to life on the big screen is no small task and The Polar Express makes a fine effort. It’s been a long time since we have seen a movie with such a strong and endearing message for families.

The movie is based on Chris Van Allsburg’s story about a boy who starts to lose his faith in Santa Claus and then takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole which revives it. Tom Hanks provides both the voice of the boy and his father as well as a few other voices including that of a Hobo.

Zemeckis uses motion capture technology to create the characters in the film which give them a very realistic appearance. Unlike some computer generated films that tend to look cartoony or have dead expressionless eyes the people in The Polar Express are very much alive and it gives them an added level of believability. There are also plenty of special effects and large scale scenes to keep adults entertained. These include a fun scene where the waiters on the train are dancing and singing while serving hot chocolate to the passengers as well as a suspenseful ride on the train tracks through the North Pole forest.

Although it’s not without its problems The Polar Express is a very enjoyable and inspirational family film that should please all audiences. It’s especially worth seeing if you are a fan of the original book and want to see it come to life on the big screen.

The Plot

The Polar Express is cinematic magic that enthralls viewers of all ages. It is an inspiring tale of hope that captures the essence of childhood wonder. Tom Hanks delivers a captivating performance and the repelisplus film looks spectacular on DVD.

The story begins on Christmas Eve when a young boy (Daryl Sabara) is jolted awake in his bed by the sound of a train whistle. He runs out to his front yard and is surprised to see a huge train pulling up beside his house. The Conductor invites the boy aboard and he is whisked away on an incredible journey to the North Pole. Along the way, the boy makes new friends and encounters wonders that make him question his doubts about Santa Claus.

Unlike most animated films, The Polar Express relies on realistically rendered characters rather than traditional computer animation. The movie takes advantage of a new technique called “performance capture” which converts actors’ movements into animation. This technology was used to great effect in the Lord of the Rings series and is used for many of the human characters in The Polar Express.

The Polar Express is a delightful adaptation of a Caldecott Medal winning children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. The film’s visual splendor, inspiring tale of hope and the enchanting soundtrack make it a must for families. However, the film contains a few disturbing narrative situations and imagery which may make it unsuitable for some younger viewers.

The Characters

Unlike most computer-generated animation, The Polar Express characters are based on the performances of real actors. This allows director Robert Zemeckis to create a movie that is much more alive than your typical animated movie. The film features some stunning visuals that are complemented by a heartwarming story about the power of love and friendship.

The Polar Express is a touching motion capture adventure based on the classic children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. It follows a doubting young boy on an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole where he discovers that the joy of Christmas is found in the spirit of giving and not receiving. The film is filled with wonderful characters and a surprisingly tender script. It succeeds where many all-CGI films like Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within fail.

Tom Hanks delivers a fantastic performance as the Conductor and the boy’s father. He also voices the Hobo and Santa Claus in this animated feature. Although some may find his portrayal of Santa a little too serious, Hanks’ talent as an actor shines through in all his roles.

Other notable characters include Hero Boy, who is a little skeptical about Santa’s existence but his belief is reignited during the trip. Hero Girl is a confident and kind-hearted girl who helps to make Hero Boy’s journey one to remember. Billy, the Lonely Boy, is a shy boy who learns about compassion and friendship.

The Animation

A lot of care went into bringing this story to the screen. Director Robert Zemeckis is a techno-nerd with some visually groundbreaking films on his resume (Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump and the Back to the Future film series). His use of motion capture technology (the same kind used to create Gollum in The Lord of the Rings movies) allows him to create a world unlike anything we have seen before and populate it with characters that seem real enough to touch.

But the very same technology that brings Gollum to life also proves to be The Polar Express’ biggest flaw. Motion capture may work well for bringing creatures and Jar-Jar Binks to life, but it doesn’t quite translate when it comes to people. The facial expressions are a little too fake and the characters’ mouth action leaves much to be desired (their tongues look like slabs of meat). The animation can be creepy at times and can make certain characters look uncanny.

Still, if you can get past that, The Polar Express is a charming film. It has the heart of a good family movie and offers plenty of excitement and spectacle to entertain kids of all ages. It is also a film that adults can enjoy and even cherish as a reminder of the wonders of childhood and the bittersweetness of growing up.

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