on 6 November 2005
I read the picture book of the Polar Express some years ago. The illustrations are beautiful, and the story is about as Christmassy as you could imagine. The film brings those illustrations to life, and adds wonderful elements to the story. The animation, colour, music and emotions in the story are all beautiful and captivating. It is like a magical dream, and I think the DVD of the Polar Express will rank along such classics like 'The Snowman', 'The Santa Clause' etc as a Christmas perennial family must-see. The two children singing 'When Christmas comes to town' on the back of the train is very moving, the sequence when the girl's ticket blows off the train and through the snowy night is phenomenal, and Josh Groban singing 'Believe' at the end credits is beautiful. A movie for kids, sure, but also a reminder to us grown-ups that being child-like is a quality, not a weakness.
on 19 December 2006
I didn't know what to expect with this film, but as I thought I'd spend some money this year building a collection of classic Christmas films on DVD, I added this one to the list and, thankfully, I opted for the 2-disc version.
At first I was phased by the freakish near-accuracy of the animated figures. Almost human, but not quite. Only the elves and and train drivers are in any way caricatures. All the children, the adults and Santa are meant to be as lifelike as possible. The little girl is amazing in this respect - utterly believable.
Perhaps it's because I still write poetry for children that, even at the age of 61, maybe I still retain a bit of the childish sense of magic and joy that is essential to enjoy this film. Because that's what it is .... magical and joyful. At times, it is sentimental, but this never becomes too sickly. At times there is high drama and genuine tension. There is also mystery and a few images and questions which are deliberately left unexplained so that you either want to watch the film again, or think about them at your leisure. (Who, for instance IS the tramp who lives on the top of the train? Why is the boy asked if he believes in ghosts? ....) Yes, maybe they over-use the 'roller-coaster' ride effect once too often, but it doesn't really matter. What REALLY counts is that this is a film that draws you into its fantasy world and holds you there with 100% assurance so that you can always be confident that what you are watching is a great story with lots of twists and a very satisfying ending.
If you want a truly magical Christmas film, this one deserves to be right up there at the top of your list.
Oh yes - and why is the 2-disc version the best? Because the features explaining how the film were made are fascinating.
on 10 June 2008
The Polar Express is an innovative animation that bases itself on several children who are given the chance of a lifetime to go to the North Pole on Christmas Eve via a special train called the Polar Express....The train only has one conductor and no passengers except the drivers....Tom Hanks does a few voiceovers including the conductor whom he looks identical to....The Polar Express has a certain magical christmas feel to it with the Children 's belief of Santa Claus enhanced as they see the elves work their magic in the North Pole....The scenery is exceptional the animation is colourful and very realistic and this Blu-ray really makes high definition look so exceptional with pin sharp detail,fantastic surround sound with a clarity that beats the standard definition version (which I owned myself) beyond a shadow of a doubt.....Look out for the scene of Santa and the reindeers taking off amidst the thosands of elves you will see just how spectacular high definition is as well as getting you into the Christmas mood.......If you want this Christmas Classic with the best picture and sound available then look no further than this fantastic blu-ray version you will not be disappointed.....
on 29 November 2005
Wow! I have just bought this for my sister, who incidentaly is 64years young, and I know she will love it. If you love Christmas and all that it stands for, you will love this film. Shed a tear, be thrilled or just soak up the sentiments. A must for ALL the family. I bought myself a copy as well!! Happy Family viewing. Watch it time and time again.
on 1 November 2005
Sure the critics are going on about the 'scary looking' computer generated characters and the lack of depth to the story line, but I think that what we have to remember here, is that 'Polar Express' is a Christmas film!
For me, last year it really made the festive season- it is such a breath of fresh air to see a film that is not plagued by violence, swearing or a depressing story line. I think life is stressful enough, let alone at Christmas time, and this film is perfect to divert your attentions and really enjoy the magic of Christmas!
on 1 December 2005
We all thought this was a great film. As a mixed aged family (children of 2, 7 and 10) there are not many films that we will all sit together and watch. It had my 10 year old believing in father xmas again, my 7 year old just loved it and my 2 year old ( with the attention span of a gnat) sat mesmerized. Even my hubbie commented on what a great film it was. On the down side it has made my children really excited about xmas with 4 weeks to go.
A criticism leveled at a currently running holiday movie, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS, is that Jesus is mentioned nowhere in the plot. THE POLAR EXPRESS, a much superior film, doesn't either. (Just so you know if you care about such things.) THE POLAR EXPRESS is all about childhood belief in Santa Claus and getting presents. If, like me, you don't particularly care much anymore (Bah humbug!) about Santa and presents, the film represents an extraordinary achievement in animation and motion-capture technology. And, it's great fun.
The plot is simple. On Christmas Eve, a young boy finds himself doubting the existence of Santa even as he gazes at the ornamented tree and the cookies and moo laid out for jolly St. Nick. He goes to sleep suspecting that Dad is the real benefactor. In any case, he's awakened in the middle of the night by the steam-belching locomotive of the Polar Express, which has pulled to a stop in the street. After some initial hesitation, our young hero climbs aboard for a wild ride to the North Pole where his belief in Santa may (or may not) be resurrected.
This film, insofar as it uses real actors to provide the voiceovers and the substrate for the motion-capture effects, is virtually a one man show for Tom Hanks, who "plays" the Boy Hero, his father, the train's conductor, a mysterious hobo, a Scrooge puppet, and Santa himself. (The Boy Hero's voice is provided by Daryl Sabra. Tom doesn't do soprano.) You'd think the Screen Actor's Guild would protest the reduction in actors required to meet casting requirements.
As an exercise in motion-capture, THE POLAR EXPRESS is an intriguing glimpse at what may be the future of the motion picture industry. As seen in this film, they haven't quite yet got the technique down perfect. The human movements are faintly unnatural - perhaps a greater concentration of motion sensors are needed on the real life actor's skin. And the eyes are sometimes downright creepy. (If my wife showed up with such orbs, I'd search the Yellow Pages for "exorcist".) The animation of the animals in the film is, however, superlative, as evidenced by a breathtaking sequence of a running pack of wolves that left me positively delighted.
I'm awarding five stars for the incredibly detailed visuals. It's a small thing, but I was entranced, for example, by the swirling vortices of ice flakes created by the train's passage through a snowstorm as framed by the rear door of the last passenger car. I find it amazing and commendable that the film's creators would think to include such an esoteric detail.
It's been predicted in some quarters that THE POLAR EXPRESS will become a Yuletide season classic. That it would ever replace IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is doubtful. Tom Hanks, as phenomenal as he is, is no Jimmy Stewart, and THE POLAR EXPRESS doesn't have even a fraction of the warm fuzziness. But the latter is at the top of its genre.