“… a very well-rounded film with absolutely stunning visuals.”
I was a little worried to re-watch The Polar Express because I remember it being a little boring when I was a kid. I’m not sure why I thought that, because after watching it again I realized why I liked it in the first place. The Polar Express is a movie about a boy who doesn’t believe in Santa Claus, and a magical train that appears outside of his house on Christmas Eve. This train, filled with some other children as well, is headed to the North Pole where they will witness the start of Christmas and even have a chance to get chosen by Santa to receive the first Christmas gift of the year. The film stars Tom Hanks, Tom Hanks, Tom Honks, Tom Hanks, and Tom Hanks. The film is directed by Tom Hanks, animated by Tom Hanks, and even things that you wouldn’t expect like the sound effects were done by Tom Hanks making noises into his microphone.
The Polar Express has always been an outlier to me in terms of animated films, because the goal was to be as realistic as possible. I’m not saying the animation is bad (actually its quite the opposite), but in 2004 the technology wasn’t really there to make realistic humans. This causes a few hiccups here and there, mainly pertaining to facial expressions (and the fact that they very seldom exist). Other than that, I would say that The Polar Express is a testament to how good animation could be, even as far back as 2004. The detail in the animations is absolutely breathtaking, and the fact that the film is animated allows for more extravagant shots to be executed as well. Like I said, there were a few animation hiccups mainly in the human face category, but otherwise The Polar Express is absolutely stunning to look at.
As far as the story goes, there isn’t a whole lot there. This isn’t really a bad thing because sometimes less is more, but it had to be said. The film is about a weird magic train that goes to the North Pole, where Santa is just hanging out. That’s about it. I believe that the journey is more important than the destination however, and luckily The Polar Express shares that sentiment. The story is rather barebones, but the smaller details in the film are what make it. Sure the film consists of just sitting on a train for like an hour, but what happens when on the train is what’s key. Be it chasing a ticket fluttering through the air, watching some waiters dance around and sing about hot chocolate, or using skis to launch yourself toward the front of the train, there is always something to keep your attention when watching The Polar Express. One thing that bothered me about the film was the fact that the main character is kind of a dick. Not only does he not believe in Santa Claus (and he almost ruins Christmas for his sister as well), but this motherfucker just does not listen. Every single problem that comes up in The Polar Express is directly related to this motherfucker not keeping to himself. I know that he’s a kid, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t call him out on what he is: an asshole. By the end of the movie everything is “okay”, but that doesn’t change the fact that he almost ruined Christmas.
I did like the message of the movie, mainly “don’t be a dick” and “believe in Santa Claus”, and I like the way that those messages were delivered. The film was both hilarious and heartfelt, it had moments that were intense and it had moments that allowed you to take a breather for a minute and just bask in the beautiful visuals. I think that The Polar Express is a very well-rounded film. Another thing I liked about the movie was the music. The main ‘theme’ (I guess) was this beautiful sweeping instrumental that almost reminded me of Home Alone. It was a great song that really captured the spirit of the film, but then the film just kept throwing cherries on top when it turned into a pseudo-musical. We got songs about hot chocolate, songs about the Polar Express itself, and even a really creepy Steven Tyler elf that put on an impromptu concert. What I liked about these songs is that they all didn’t have these giant productions associated with them; sometimes the only way you would hear the song is if some children in the background were singing it amongst themselves. This really added to the realism of the film, and made the world feel alive. And the songs are also catchy as hell.
Overall The Polar Express is a very well-rounded film with absolutely stunning visuals. And it has Tom Hanks playing every role imaginable, so that’s awesome.
I give The Polar Express an A