on November 13, 2005
When people go into a movie theatre they expect to be entertained. Audiences want to be scared, amused, curious, sad, and hopefull. Believe it or not, this film provides all of those elements and then some. I've read the comments by people who gave passed this film on as either "too scary to children" or "just plain boring with no plot" And I agree with several people who have responded to such comments.
This film isn't going to give you instant gratification halfway through. If you don't have two hours to spare then you aren't going to understand what this movie is about. Sure the plot was invisible at times, but I don't think the point of the movie was to have the audience follow a plot. The point was to reveal or in some cases remind people of the simplistic faith or child like view we once had in our lives.
Think of the characters themselves and what they represent. Hero Boy reminds us of people who are caught in between faith and doubt. Do we trust what we cannot see? Who is to say? Hero Girl shows the stronger side of faith and believing in what is not readily seen to the human eye. Childlke faith personified into a little girl. Lonely Boy represent those who doubt because they haven't truly experienced the joys of life or have had tragedies happen to them from an early age so they learn to only trust themselves, but that ends up leaving them...lonely. Then are those who are the Know-It-All character who claim to take everything at face value (much like the critics and cynics of this film). They want to know it all because what they don't know scares them.
I'm 21 years old and I haven't had nearly enough experiences in life, but I can say that I had been so busy growing up that I had forgotten that there was a part of me that was once simple, happy and appreciated the joys of just believing that things were true. That is until life makes you grow up and tries to distort your beliefs (much like HoboMan in this film).
When I first saw this movie my eyes widened with every new frame. It was the first time since my childhood that I can remember sitting in the audience with my mouth open and my eyes stretched out as far as they can be. I was stunned, by the artistry and complexity of the story. I was a kid again for two hours. It was like an old friend who I hadn't seen in a long time came back to visit. It was an amazing film.
It's a train ride, a leap of faith, a test of the human spirit. It's a ride and like the movie says: "It's not about where the train takes you, what matters is that you get on." THAT, my friend, is what this movie is about. Not being entertained by slapstick humor or satirical sarcasm, but remembering that part of you that resembles the kids in the movie. Believe.
Bravo on a fantastic film.
on November 10, 2004
I went to see this movie tonight with a mentally handicapped friend - "Michael" -- (from a L'Arche home here in Winnipeg, Canada). We were the first persons in the theatre for the very first evening showing in this city - and we were the last to leave. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves - enchanted by the movie's subtleties and happily exhausted by its roller-coaster rides.
Time and again, Michael (who is sensitive, compassionate and with a good sense of humor) turned to me in the darkness, smiling in appreciation at the exact same moments I turned to see his reactions. Each time this happened, it was at a moment in the film when some little detail, perfectly captured through superb 'cinematography,' brought moisture to my normally cynical eye, and a warm smile to Michael's innocent face.
Some examples: There is a lone, black child on this apparent 'dream train' to the North Pole - a girl of about ten or eleven years, and like a painting come to life, the miraculous technology at work in this film captures the particular sensibilities of this compassionate, black youngster --- We see small mannerisms of someone comfortable with herself in a way the other (ten or so) white kids on the train are not. And the effect is profound --- the movie audience, including some children of that same age group, went silent at such moments in the film.
My friend Michael - who has a 'savant' genius for perceiving my emotions, and expressing them for me out loud in public --- Michael turned to me with a delighted smile when the girl on the train reaches out to hold the hands of the poorest boy, sitting alone in the rear compartment; and later, she hugs two other boys, (one of them the central character) --- at their final parting. At that moment I held up a finger to my lips to try to hush Michael, but couldn't prevent him from saying aloud: "She's such a sweetheart." There were murmurs of appreciation in the darkness around us, responding to this innocent sentiment.
There is a sublime moment, on the back platform of the moving train -- the Northern Lights glimmering in the distance -- when the young girl joins in song with the poorest kid on the train (a younger boy from a dilapidated home on the "far side of the tracks"). I admit to being overcome with emotion during this duet (a lovely, strong melody with poignant lyrics) - and I blurted out loud to Michael, after the first chorus: "What a wonderful song!" The refrain includes the words "When Christmas comes to town." [It's a song so good that, with some future 'cover versions' by serious musicians who could do it justice --- this "Christmas Comes to Town" song could, I believe, deservedly join the small list of true, Christmas 'classics.']
I'd have to agree with anyone who thinks this movie is a little short on plot. And yet . . . once you've suspended disbelief -- beginning with an earth-shattering, Christmas-eve arrival of a steam-puffing, passenger train on a small-town Michigan street, directly outside the home of the movie's central character -- once we've swallowed that premise, the movie disarmingly embraces the child in us, (including our fears) and our reservations vanish without our noticing.
Just as great `realistic' painters, (think Rembrandt or Vermeer) worked wonders of light & shadow that no mere photograph could ever capture, so too this computer-animated marvel takes your breath away through an accumulation of tiny but acute observations that could never be captured by conventional cinematography. Prime examples from the opening scenes:
A shaft of light illuminates the boy's bedroom, and he is reflected in a chrome, automobile hubcap leaning against a wall; at once we share his view -- through the keyhole of his bedroom door - we can see only the backs and the dressing gowns of mother and father, as they say goodnight to the boy's young sister, after determining the state of her belief in Santa's existence - a belief no longer shared by the older brother, whose eye is at the keyhole.
Later, on the train, there's an exquisite close up of the boy's face, a slight blemish above the pores on his upper right cheek; the `camera' pans in rotation, capturing perfectly, the texture of the boy's hair, and that of the young black girl sitting beside him -- subtleties of such perfection one wonders if the unique, artistic accomplishment of "Polar Express" could ever be surpassed.
The film's last scene, consists entirely of a close-up view of a small, silver bell (of the type associated with sleigh rides) with its attached 'ribbon' of red leather. The little bell helps make the final point about `Belief' --- in things unseen, (or forgotten, and thus inaccessible to some adults). So simple, so powerful, so enlightening an image. My friend Michael turned to me at that moment, with a radiant smile. And we just shook our heads in awe.
Yes, this movie must have SOME shortcomings - one or two moments that don't quite work as intended by the creators. But right now, in the afterglow, I can't recall what they were. The film was just too satisfying an experience!
I'm a 57-year-old grandfather who happens to believe that "The Polar Express" is the first, true Christmas classic in almost 60 years. Not since the original Kris Kringle "Miracle" movie of 1947, has any film (to my jaded eye) so transcended our secular, commercial views of the Holiday Season, with such uplifting and fresh reminders of the timeless and true spirit of Christmas.
on December 20, 2004
I had mixed emotions about the prospects of this movie.
I love the book. I never like seeing a book be made into a movie--even when the movies are well done.
Add into the mix my general liking of Forest Gump and CastAway, the two previous Hanks/Zemeckis films (I feel CastAway is the far superior film if anyone's interested).
Temper that general feeling of goodwill with the fact that Tom Hanks's last piece of GREAT acting (in my opinion) was in Joe vs the Volcano (Meg Ryan's as well)--and that CastAway was Zemeckis's last good film.
These ingredients, as well as knowing that this film was to be a guinea pig for a new kind of animation, left me feeling unsettled at best about going to see The Polar Express.
This movie blew me away.
Say what you want about The Passion of the Christ or Fahrenheit 911 (both are great movies in the movie-making sense and should be nominated for all kinds of awards) but this is my movie of the year. It is also the best Christmas movie in quite a while.
The movie version of The Polar Express has a whole lot to see. This is serious eye-candy. That said, the movie stays incredibly faithful to the heart of the book.
The book and the movie are all about the wonder and joy of belief.
I could go on and on about the great job Tom Hanks does, about the awesome animation, but I won't. For as gilded and bedecked with ornaments as this movie is, it all gets stripped down to the ringing of a silver bell.
The sound of belief.
Faith is the evidence of things not yet seen.
This movie is a wonderful hymn to that evidence. An evidence readily found in all hearts brave enough to believe.
I give the Polar Express my highest recommendation.
on March 14, 2012
I agree with the reviewers who say this movie is destined to be an all time Christmas classic. The Polar Express is an excellent movie with a great message, effects and sound. I recommend this movie to everyone. With that said, I believe we're here to review the sale of this particular disc set (The Polar Express Presented in 3-D (2004) for $7.79), not the movie itself. If you're looking to buy The Polar Express in 3D, don't bother buying the disc set that states "Presented in 3D" on the front cover. This is not true 3D. It comes with 4 pair of passive 3D glasses; which will just give you a headache the first two minutes of viewing. I tried using the Active 3D glasses from my Sony Theater system, but they just kept turning off because there was no 3D signal coming from the sync transmitter; an indication this disc is not 3D. Another disappointment was that there were some scenes missing between the two disc included in this set. We viewed both discs and found that each disc contained some scenes the other disc didn't have. For these reasons I am only giving this purchase one star; because I didn't get what I thought I purchased. I blame myself for not reading the reviews before purchasing. This experience is a reminder that "You Only Get What You Pay For". .I should have realized that $7.79 was not going to get me this great movie in 3D.
on September 28, 2011
I enjoyed the book as a kid, and this movie was very well done. Great animation, wonderful wintery setting that makes it feel like Christmas even if you watch it in July, and it's such a fun, exciting adventure to go on. It makes me, personally, feel like a little kid again while watching the children go on this train through a winter wonderland that apparently isn't 'real' in the sense that only the children can 'see' the whole thing. Not that I ever went on a train on Christmas Eve before, but I think you get my drift. All in all, this is sure to be a classic film just like the Rankin Bass TV specials 'Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer' and 'Santa Claus Is Coming To Town'. The reason I gave it 4 stars, however, was due to the Santa Claus scenes in the movie. Now, I'm not against Santa, but in this film, he came across as this god-like figure. Examples: His beard was glowing like maybe an angel's face would - a symbol of holiness?; He had an air of 'all-knowing' and 'understanding' about him that really reminded me of the person of God. Santa, in this movie, was portrayed as this deity being who was worshiped by his imp-sounding elves, who, upon the entry of the 'Big' Man' into the town square, all sang a verse from 'Santa Claus is Coming to Town', which was pretty eerie; it reminded me of some hymnal chant? It was more disturbing than exciting I must say. But besides that, this film is full of cinema magic from the music to the animation to the story, it all makes it feel like Christmas every time you watch it.
on December 3, 2013
What a wierd, lifeless, uncomfortable and depressing movie this is. The whole thing has a feeling of menace that seems to be always lurking just beneath the surface. Tom Hanks annoyingly provides the voice for many of the film's characters. I do like Tom as an actor, but he's just totally wrong for this movie entirely. The Conductor - annoying, over the top and kind of creepy. The little know-it-all kid with glasses - also extremely annoying. This is that "special" kind of character that - if this were any other movie - you know would get his comeuppance before the credits rolled (instead he just gets a little "talking to" from Santa). And speaking of Santa - I'll just put it this way, I woudn't want MY kids sitting in this Santa's lap. The pitch effect used to lower Hanks' voice is just too surreal for words. The Hobo - annoying and kind of dark, but I guess he's supposed to be so we'll let him off the hook. And those menacing elves, you just can't tell if they're going to give you a big christmas hug or jump up and eat your face off. All the scenes in the deserted areas of the north pole with the distant echo-y sounding Christmas music that plays in the background... It's like something out of a horror movie and it's utterly dark and depressing. And who in their right mind would have put those two mentally challenged "engineers" in charge of operating this train?? Laws of physics? Suspension of disbelief? Forget about them completely. The reality train pulled out of the station sometime after last new years. You've heard the saying "check your brain at the door"? Well forget that too. You need to go ahead and send your brain on vacation a good 2 weeks before you even try and watch this thing.