Another of my favourite Christmas films is animated classic The Polar Express directed by none other than Robert Zemeckis. The film features human characters created using a live action performance capture technique, which makes the film visually appealing as well as featuring the voice of Hollywood star Tom Hanks in an impressive six different roles.
If none of the above has impressed you, then let me give you a brief synopsis; on Christmas Eve a boy (un-named) wakes up to find a steam train named The Polar Express outside his home, he then decides to board this train after some deliberation, on the journey he meets other children including a girl and a very ‘know-it-all’ kid. When the train picks up another kid named Billy, he too initially declines to board but he also changes his mind and begins to run alongside the train as it pulls away. The boy protagonist applies the emergency brakes so that Billy is able to get on board the train and so the unnamed boy, girl and Billy set on the adventure of their lives as they head for the North Pole to visit the one and only Santa Claus.
There are many clever touches and details added throughout this feature, that create a feeling of mystery and excitement that just swell within the viewer. Among these are the waiters dancing and singing while serving hot chocolate to the kids on the train, the factory where the presents are prepared, and a ghost-like hobo who is never really explained but I feel is incredibly crucial to the feel of the film.
However, there has been a lot of criticism on the look of the characters in the movie. I can agree with this to a point; while there is incredible visual detail in the faces, they usually seem void of expression. In general, a lot of the motion seems rather wooden; the scenery on the other hand, is absolutely gorgeous. Overall, the minor problems in animation (which really boil down to a matter of taste anyway) are certainly not enough to diminish what is an overwhelmingly successful movie.
The train track on which The Polar Express embarks it’s journey, is essentially a metaphor for the narrative – in the sense that it’s a complete roller coaster journey; characters ski on top of the cars and danger lurks around every aspect of the ride to the North Pole . However things barely quiet down once the destination is reached at the North Pole; the thrills continue with some amazing photographic tricks that can only be done using computer generated animation. Zemeckis finally adds a cozier touch to the proceedings when the children find themselves in the North Pole, certain famous Christmas songs are interjected at intervals to give the North Pole and the overall film a warmer glow.
All in all, this film is quite an imaginative and innovative achievement impressive enough to assure its place among future Christmas favorites, with a vast amount of appeal for the young at heart.
My Christmas Rating; 8/10